Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 06/29/20: Hours of Recipes, Shakshuka, *Monk* and Two Martinis BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. Frequently, the good people at Food and Wine send me an email packed with recipes, always with a theme. They might be baked pasta or Mediterranean or vegetarian brunch recipes -- the variety is impressive. I don't delete these emails. I always tell myself I'll get to them later and decide which ones to save to my different Pinterest boards. Well, today, I spent hours doing just that and I didn't finish. No problem. I had a ton of fun reading recipes, imagining meals I might prepare, and even pretending I'd be the primary cook for parties featuring food bars -- like a chicken wing bar with a variety of wings prepared a variety of ways: hot wings, Thai green curry wings, Old Bay wings, etc. I've done this with soups before when I cooked for family gatherings back in Maryland and it's a fun way to prepare food.

2. I was happy to expand the number of Greek food, Mediterranean food, and baked pasta recipes I have in my keeping. I'll probably never prepare a majority of them, but I love imaging cooking these foods and eating them. I also picked up some new ideas about another favorite of mine: shakshuka. I'll be forever in our niece Danielle's debt. She introduced me to shakshuka when she prepared it for a family brunch during her Memorial Day visit to Maryland back in 2016. I love cooking it and, even more, I love eating it.

3. Two dry martinis on the rocks (never tried rocks before), each with three green almond stuffed olives, and an episode of Monk combined to provide welcome relief and relaxation this evening after Debbie and I watched two hours of news programming. In the episode, Monk, Sharona, and Benji went on vacation to a beach resort and, wouldn't you know it, Benji witnesses a murder and Monk doggedly solves the mystery of who killed the victim.

He was born in 1966. Today is his birthday. Stu would like you to guess whom he commemorates in today's limerick:

If there’s a river to cross then you span it.
To eat fruit later on then you can it.
But to see boxing fury,
Don’t take it to jury.
Just watch the “baddest man on the planet!”

Monday, June 29, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 06/28/20: New Look Deck, Gibbs' First Party, *Monk* Gets to Me BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. Carol, Paul, and Zoe invited the family over to their back yard to see how they had improved their deck. Paul built a new wooden structure -- I can't remember what it's called -- it's like a rectangular arch -- and they stretched a big triangular piece of fabric over the top of the deck to provide shade. I don't remember what that thing is called either. The new look is handsome and pragmatic.

The Roberts served us my favorite kind of spread: salami, bread that Zoe made, artichoke dip, cheeses, apple slices, dill pickles, pickled beets, pickled asparagus, and other food items that we put on small plates. They also served red and white wine.

2. This afternoon's party was also Gibbs' first trip away from home since we took him into our home. We aren't ready to leave him home alone just yet. He was a champ at today's party. He loved running around in Carol and Paul's big back yard. He didn't freak out in the presence of Sadie, the Roberts' Pomeranian, and he was confident and fearless as he bopped from one person to another, got held, petted, talked to, and praised.

3. Debbie and I returned home and, before long, we resumed our current routine of watching a couple more episodes of Monk. It's an even better show than I remember it being from the few times I watched it when I'd visit Mom. It's smart with terrific acting and, to be honest, every episode seems to touch me with some moment of tenderness. I don't remember having this experience years ago, but it's sure the case now.

Guess what? Today is International Mud Day and Stu wrote a limerick:

You don’t want this stuff on your shirt.
So, on a walk after rain be alert.
In far off Nepal,
This thought started it all.
To celebrate water mixed with dirt.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 06/27/20: I Finished, Pesto and Pasta, *Monk* BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. When I read somewhere that Lynn Shepherd set her novel, Tom-All-Alone's, in about the year 1850 and riffed on characters, settings, and plot details from Bleak House and The Woman in White, I decided to read all three books. Today I finished Shepherd's book and completed reading all three novels.

It turns out that Lynn Shepherd also, anachronistically,  riffed on Jack the Ripper. Introducing a serial murderer into her tale underscored what fueled this entire novel: Lynn Shepherd imagined the worst that might be true about some of the characters in the novels she drew from and delved really deeply into the squalor and depravity of 1850s Victorian London and told a story with scenes depicting a variety of crimes, abuses, and morbid deeds that sickened me.

So, on a visceral level, the novel disturbed me. Intellectually, the novel intrigued me in that Lynn Shepherd out-Dickensed Dickens, especially as she delves deeper than Dickens did into just how debased she imagines Mr. Tulkinghorn to be and she creates a character named Mr. Jarvis who is a perverted version of Dickens' John Jarndyce. So what intrigued me? When I read Bleak House, I, too, imagined Mr. Tulkinghorn capable of bottomless evil. Lynn Shepherd fleshed this out. I also feared, when Dickens first introduced John Jarndyce in Bleak House, that he was going to turn out to be a creepy character. He wasn't in Dickens' book, but Lynn Shepherd imagined a Darth Jarndyce, named him Jarvis, and developed what you might call Jarndyce's evil twin.

I enjoy writing about how I experience books and movies. I do not enjoy making recommendations.  I know that from reading online reviews of Tom-All-Alone's that some readers had a similar experience reading the book that I had. It disturbed them. Others found excitement in what disturbed me and one reviewer even referred to us who were unsettled as "scaredy cats"! Ha! I plead guilty!

So, I'm happy I followed through with reading all three books. I can see myself returning to Bleak House and The Woman in White, but I seriously doubt I'll ever read Tom-All-Alone's again.

2. I made a quick trip to Yoke's for a few items, including walnuts that Debbie needed in order to make a batch of pesto. She chopped up the bunch of arugula Liz gave her and some cilantro (instead of the traditional basil) and food processed it with olive oil, walnuts, grated parmesan cheese, and garlic (I might have left something out). I made us a pot of penne. Our pasta with pesto dinner was superb.

3. Debbie and I enjoyed an uplifting and entertaining close to our evening by watching three episodes from the first season of Monk. Debbie has watched the entire Monk canon, but I only saw episodes on occasion when I visited Mom. Mom and I enjoyed Monk a lot. Tonight was awesome. Watching Tony Shaloub got me interested in watching again the first (I think) two movies I ever saw him in: Big Night and Galaxy Quest. I'm wondering if those movies will have a similar scintillating impact on me in my sixties that they did when I first saw them in my forties. I hope to find out before too long.

Guess whose day it is today? Stu writes a limerick about this mythical character:

Tall Tales are just stories with “more”!
With folks we have come to adore.
The largest of these,
With mighty axe did cut trees.
And whose exploits were never a bore.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 06/26/20: Disturbing Reading, Gibbs Loves Short Grass, Alone with Gibbs BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. It turns out that Lynn Shepherd's novel, Tom-All-Alone's is not only a take off on Bleak House, but it's also a story with grisly murders and other disturbing subject matter. Lynn Shepherd's depiction of the poverty, terrible living conditions, and gin-fueled lewdness in the destitute neighborhoods of 1850s London is far more graphic and detailed than what Dickens described in Bleak House, making certain passages of this book very difficult to endure. I'm eager, all the same, to see how it all turns out. I'm in a place in the story right now where things look dire for Charles Maddox, the book's central character and detective. Fairly soon, I'll know how it all worked out -- and I'll see if the book also borrows from The Woman in White. I am under the impression it will, but I could be wrong.

2. Once again, today -- and soon this won't be news any longer! --, Gibbs showed us how much he loves the back yard. This afternoon, after the lawn guys had finished mowing, it was especially fun to watch Gibbs play in the shorter grass and, with growing independence, explore all areas in the back.

3. In what seemed like a split second late this afternoon, after I made some rice, Debbie fixed salmon burger patties, steamed some cauliflower, and assembled a superb green salad for dinner. We enjoyed our dinner on the deck as the shade grew and watched Gibbs frolic some more in the grass. Debbie took off after dinner to knit with a friend on her deck. Gibbs hasn't spent much time with me alone in the last week, but we got along just fine. He relaxed with me after a while and then, thanks to all of his back yard hopping and sniffing around, he fell into a deep sleep and woke up just before Debbie returned.

Here's a limerick by Stu:

Long ago when Summer was King.
You enjoyed what hot weather would bring.
But now dadgummed Heat,
Is no longer a treat.
Prefer temps more like Autumn and Spring.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 06/25/20: Back to Coal Creek, Pizza on the Deck, Gibbs Update BONUS: A Limerick by Stu

1. I am too content, often, to stay home, mainly because I really enjoy so many of the indoor things I do: watch movies, read books, cook, and so on. I've been lying low, mostly staying home since  March 15th, the day I decided to stay home rather than participate in person in our fantasy baseball league draft.

Being so content and being so comfortable staying indoors, especially when reading long novels, has had one significant drawback: I've been lazy about prying myself away from books, movies, cooking, and puzzles, prying myself out of my chair, and leaving the house to go walking or hiking.


I admitted it.

Today, however, I changed that.

I drove up the North Fork to the Coal Creek trail head and hiked as far as where the trail crosses the bridge and heads on up into the mountains.

It wasn't a long hike. Even though it's an easy grade and largely shaded, I stopped about four times to rest and drink water.

I enjoyed the light mountain air, the calming sounds of the clear running creek pouring over logs fallen in the water, and the varieties of sunlight and shade just as much as sitting at home reading Charles Dickens. That's a good sign, especially for my physical health.

2.  Yes, the Lounge has been open on weekends for a while, but I think it'll be quite a while before I visit. So that we could see Cas and Tracy, Debbie and I invited them over for pizza on the deck this evening. I dropped in at Yoke's and bought an 18 pack of Rolling Rock and ordered a three meat pizza. Cas and Tracy surprised us with a plate of shrimp and a peppery dipping sauce. Our two hours together of getting caught up about local news and views, talking a little baseball, and telling stories as the air cooled and evening set it was really fun.

3. Gibbs update: To my eyes, little Gibbs seems to grow a little larger every day. Today the dog bed Debbie ordered for him arrived and it looks like he's going to find it a comfortable place to rest. It's been elating for me to see Gibbs get more confident in the back yard. For the first few days here, he pretty much only went where Debbie or I went out back. Today, however, he explored the whole of the yard on his own, found places to sniff around, did some running and hopping around, and increased his curiosity, courage, and sense of adventure.

I used to love how Maggie and Charly explored the back yard, how happy it made them to poke around, check out plants, sniff out different scents, and frolic in the grass.

It looks like Gibbs is learning how to do the same.

Here's a limerick from Stu:

Not all see the world in the same way.
Some see dark even on a bright day.
There’s those who can make,
Blue skies for our sake.
And poor souls who see only gray.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 06/24/20: Shelves, *Tom-All-Alone's*, Lentil Soup and Eggplant Sandwich BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. Ever since we bought this house, we've had a bookcase in the basement that could be useful, but didn't stand up securely on its own. Today, Paul came over and secured the shelves by attaching them to a wall in the basement. These shelves will serve as a pantry in our basement and now, instead of books, the shelves hold cans of beans, fish, tomatoes, a jar of peanut butter, and other kitchen staples.

2. I returned to reading Lyn Shepherd's book, Tom-All-Alone's, today. It's picking up momentum as the book's central character, a mid-1800s London detective, is starting to delve into the case Mr. Tulkinghorn hired him to solve -- it involves someone who has been writing brief and vaguely threatening letters.

3. Debbie made a red lentil and sweet potato soup today out of her head. It's delicious, but I didn't eat much of it because we had eggplant and Zoe-made hamburger buns left over from Tuesday, and I made eggplant sandwiches again. I added a little pop to my sandwich today with a couple of pepperoncinis, adding a little heat to the mellower presence of the feta cheese, sauteed thin red onion slice, and Debbie's terrific sandwich sauce.

How many people can say?
They crossed over these bridges each day?
Division and Hill,
They remember it still.
The River weren’t clear it were gray.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 06/23/20: *Big Chill* and *Amy*, Eggplant Sandwich, Tree House Concert BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. Sunday evening, Debbie and I watched about half of The Big Chill and this morning, I watched the rest of the movie by myself. As I watched the movie, I enjoyed it more than ever, largely because I didn't compare it to other movies, like The Return of the Secaucus 7.  Unlike when I first saw this movie in 1984, I didn't expect these characters to be other than what they were. I also paid more attention to where I thought things in their life had chilled, not only in their professions and their relationships away from the reunion, but in relation to one another. Some of the chill between the characters warmed up, especially as they talked and faced up to the alienation that had set in between them and that they felt in their day to day lives, whether in their occupations or their failed love lives or married lives.

Later in the afternoon, I watched Amy, the Academy Award winner in 2016 for Best Documentary Feature. The movie chronicles the personal and performing life of Amy Winehouse and ends with her death in 2011. It portrays her superb talent as a singer, guitar player, and songwriter. (I would have enjoyed more of this.) The movie also chronicles her very public suffering as bulimia, alcohol and drug addiction, her troubled love and sexual, as well as business, relationships with men, and her devotion to and difficulties with her father ravaged her. (If only all the men in her life had been as kind to her and understanding of her as Tony Bennett is when they sing and record "Body and Soul" together.)

I experienced this movie as grueling, very difficult to watch. I admired how it was made, and enjoyed the passages featuring Amy Winehouse performing when she was at her best.  Bearing witness, however, to Amy Winehouse as such a vulnerable and lost soul, a person longing, in my mind, to be relieved of inward emptiness and misery that plagued her from childhood, was painful to watch, especially as she was hounded by photographers and as her fragile life was publicized in tabloid publications, on television, and became material for comedians to make fun of.

I wish I had Donald Hall's 1978  book, Remembering Poets, nearby. My memory is a bit fuzzy, but as I remember, in his chapter on Dylan Thomas, he chastises audiences, especially in the USA, who romanticized Thomas' alcoholism, found his drunken antics entertaining, and helped further the stereotype of the artist as different, more prone to alcoholism and other abuses. Donald Hall accused, as I remember, those who attended Thomas's very popular poetry readings as cheering him on to his death at only thirty-nine years of age.

I thought of Hall's criticism of romanticizing the suffering artist as I watched Amy Winehouse being barraged by photographers and making tabloid television and newspaper headlines, having her excesses be sensationalized and laughed at, as if the public took some sort of glee in watching her disintegrate -- and then became solemn and mournful in the wake of her death.

2. If you were reading this blog back when Debbie and I were living in Maryland, you might remember that we quite regularly ate eggplant sandwiches and loved them. Zoe had made us homemade hamburger buns on Monday and Debbie had found an eggplant at Barney's. So, this evening, I got out the cast iron frying pan and toasted four bun halves in butter and garlic and put them in the oven at 200 degrees to stay warm. I cut a couple of slices of eggplant, salted them, and fried them, along with a slice of red onion and some chopped mushrooms. The key, in my opinion, to making tasty fried eggplant is plenty of olive oil. When the eggplant slices were soft, I took out the buns and we each fixed a sandwich. Debbie fixed a delicious sauce. I put onion, mushrooms, feta cheese, and sauce on my sandwich. Debbie made a terrific cabbage salad. We loved the return of this meal to our lives and talked about other delicious ways to enhance the sandwich, say, with sliced red peppers, fresh basil, and other possibilities.

3. For the eleventh Tuesday in a row, I tuned in to Bill Davie's weekly Tree House concert and fully enjoyed his hour of songs and poetry. Tonight he featured the poems of Richard Hugo. He performed songs from across the span of his many, many years of songwriting, performing, and recording, including one of my favorites that I thought he might have retired: "Faked Awareness Day". He might never perform it again, but I was really happy that he performed it tonight.

Here's a limerick by Stu in honor of International Fairy Day.

Don’t forget this mythical day.
Be wary of their magical way.
With dust made of Pixie,
They ain’t Whistlin’ Dixie.
 Use charms to keep them at bay.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 06/22/20: Gibbs Meets the Vacuum Cleaner, Reset Button, Deck Time BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. We introduced Gibbs to the vacuum cleaner today when I freshened up our living room, kitchen, and Vizio room. He survived, in part, by wisely spending much of my housecleaning time in the back yard.

2. The sprinkling system was scheduled to come on this morning and didn't. The outlet it's plugged into didn't have any juice.  I checked the electricity box in the basement and the power was turned on. I was stumped, but before calling an electrician, I asked Paul if he could take a look at things, that there might be something simple going on that I was missing. There was. I didn't realize the outlet had a reset button that had popped out. Paul spotted it, pushed it in, and solved the problem. I made sure the sprinkling system was set the way I wanted. I had actually learned about reset buttons in outlets three years ago in our kitchen, but I failed to think of it today. Now I'm a changed person. Going forward, I'll always check for a reset button and make sure it's pushed in.

3. We hired Zoe to bake us some hamburger buns and early this evening, while they were on a walk, Paul, Carol, and Zoe delivered the buns to Debbie and me while we were relaxing on the back deck. We had a lot of fun talking about this and that and had some good laughs. After they left, Debbie and I retired to the living room, watched some news programming, and brought our fairly uneventful day to a close.

Here's a limerick by Stu:

Crazy, wacky and lousy name a few.
Awful, stinkin’ and anger used too.
These adjectives a plenty,
Describe 2020.
But, looking back to 2019 who knew?

Monday, June 22, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 06/21/20: Gibbs Update, Years of Limbo, Ideals Grow Cold BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. Gibbs and Debbie are forming a strong bond and it's giving Gibbs a growing sense of security in his new home. While Debbie knits and checks out things online while sitting at her computer on the couch, Gibbs often presses next to her. Gibbs needs a lot of sleep and is very comfortable sleeping next to Debbie.

2. Bridgit, Bill, Diane and I enjoyed a couple of hours or so in a session on Zoom. At one point, conversation came around to the movie Between the Lines. Bill and Diane watched it last night and they found little of redeeming value in the characters. In discussing their perspective, we all talked about how movies change for us over the years as we age. Bill and Diane agreed (I think) that if they had seen Between the Lines when I did, nearly forty years ago, their response to it might very likely have been very different.

I realized, as we talked, that when I saw the movie in 1982 -- and it's still true today -- that I felt a strong connection to the limbo these characters were in as young adults in their late twenties, early thirties. They were casting about in their love lives, sex lives, work lives, everything. The movie's title, Between the Lines, is more than a newspaper reference. I think it's also a metaphor for the in-between stage of life these characters are in -- they are unsure of themselves, caught between adolescence and mature adulthood.

I was living in a similar limbo when I saw the movie. I know, especially when, a few months later, my wife's and my marriage fell apart, that I romanticized the way I was casting about, romanticized the pain I felt. I tried to persuade myself that all of my insecurity, outbursts of passionate soliloquies, both in the classroom and with friends, and carelessness in my relationships with others were signs that I was really alive, that I felt things, that I was struggling, that it was almost noble to not really know what I was doing with my life and to be suffering.

I think I looked to Between the Lines as a confirmation that I wasn't alone in my somewhat rootless ways, that these characters near my age in Boston were also ricocheting between being responsible employees at an independent newspaper that was in limbo, a newspaper caught between the lines of independence and corporate takeover and feeling unmoored in the uncertainty of their social lives and love lives.

In 1982, and in the following years, I was a mess.

These characters were a mess.

I related to them strongly.

That in between time in life was messy for many of us when we were young.  When I worked as a college instructor, I saw that it was messy for most (all?) of my students. Today, I see people in my immediate orbit of life who are in their late twenties and early thirties who are also, if you will, between the lines. Add to this, friends of mine who tell stories of similar struggles with identity, sexuality, sex, relationships, what work to do, where to live, spirituality, and the other demands of life they see in young people they are close to in their families or in their social circles and it becomes pretty clear that casting about as an emerging adult is a fairly common experience.

As I already wrote, when my life was a mess back in the 1980s,  I romanticized the experience of suffering and misery (although I didn't wear Goth clothing). As I've grown older, I've been more critical of the stupid and harmful things I did back then and have felt frequent remorse.

Watching Between the Lines in 2020 doesn't necessarily relieve me of remorse, but I do feel some relief in knowing that what I experienced is common and staying in touch with those messy years helps me be a bit forgiving of myself and a whole lot more understanding of young people today who also cast about, who also often feel confused, overwhelmed, and lost.

3. During our ZOOM conversation about Between the Lines, it was almost inevitable that we would also talk about The Big Chill. All four of us have had different responses to this movie at different times in our lives. Debbie and I watched about half of it tonight. Watching another movie about young-ish adults casting about started to depress Debbie, so we turned it off. I'll pick it up later, on my own, and finish it.

When I watched this movie for the first time in early 1984, I owned a copy of The Return of the Secaucus 7 and had watched it at least ten times. It wasn't fair of me, but I kept comparing the two movies and thought The Big Chill was a lesser movie.

In 1984, I couldn't believe that these upwardly mobile characters had ever been protesters in Ann Arbor about fifteen years earlier. I couldn't believe they once held the ideals they spoke about having held in their college days.

Tonight, however, I realized they might very well have been idealists in college, but that over the years they had experienced a big chill, a cooling off of their idealism, and had decided to live in pursuit of careers, wealth, success, and acquisition. In many ways, despite their affluence, within themselves they were casting about in the course of this movie, much like the financially strapped characters in Between the Lines. Their affluence has not delivered them from the grief of loss, from confusion and disappointment and failure in their love, sex, and married lives, or from having past experiences haunt them. They doubt whether the lives they are living can be fulfilling.

I'll leave it at that until I've watched the last half of the movie and see if these thoughts hold up.

Here's a limerick by Stu:

What’s not to like about rocks?
They’re great unless found in your socks.
You can throw them or stack,
Climb on top with your pack.
Or skip ‘cross a pond on your walks.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 06/20/20: Gibbs, Cornbread Pie, Herman Munster BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. I'm happy to report that Gibbs, our new Malshi puppy, by all appearances, is content to be a member of our family. Today he spent a lot of time with Debbie on the couch, pressing himself close to her and sleeping. When he was awake, he played with toys, hopped around, followed us when we walked to other rooms, and enjoyed his meals. He loves the back yard and, so far, he's done all of his business out there, thanks to Debbie's vigilance and sense of timing. I posted a picture of Gibbs that Debbie took on Friday on Facebook. If you'd like to see it, just scroll down past Stu's limerick to the bottom of this post.

2. Friday morning, I wanted to get preparations underway to make some kind of a pinto bean dinner for Saturday. So, not knowing what I might cook up, I used the slow method and soaked a mess of dry beans for about eight hours and cooked them for a couple of hours before going to bed on Friday night.

Today, I pulled out one of my favorite cookbooks (thank you, Adrienne), Bean by Bean. I had decided by this time that I wanted to cook up some kind of pinto bean/cornbread dish. Fortune was smiling on me. In the cookbook, I found a recipe called, "Cornbread Pie a la Hippie". Never having been much of a hippie, the title didn't make much sense to me, but it didn't need to (!); it was just the sort of recipe I was hoping to find.

For starters, the recipe calls for a juicy bean-vegetable mixture and leaves it up to the cook to figure out what beans, vegetables, and liquid to use. There are no directions. Ah! Perfect! I poured myself a Jameson and ginger and got down to business. I crushed and chopped about four cloves of garlic and tossed them into hot oil in the Dutch oven. Less than a minute passed and I added a chopped onion and some chopped celery and let them cook up until nearly tender. I added two small yams, chopped, some chopped crimini mushrooms, a chopped sweet red pepper, and the remains of an already open bag of frozen corn. I added salt, chili powder, cumin, oregano, and cayenne pepper to this mix and stirred it up. While it slow cooked, I made two cups of hot beef broth using some Better than Bouillon paste and poured it, along with the pinto beans I cooked Friday night, into the pot, brought it to a gentle boil, turned the heat way down, and let it cook slowly for about 30 minutes, unattended.

I slipped away to join Debbie and Christy out back.

When I returned to the kitchen, I combined cornmeal, buttermilk, melted butter, baking powder, baking soda, and a little salt in a bowl and made cornbread batter. I used vegetable oil to grease a baking dish, poured the juicy vegetable-bean mixture into the pan and topped it with the cornbread batter. I popped in the oven, preheated at 400 degrees, for 25 minutes and the dish was ready.

I let it cool for about fifteen minutes, declared it ready, and Debbie and dug in. We loved it. The combination of the textures of the slightly crunchy cornbread and the soft beans and mushrooms combined with the sweet flavors provided by the corn, cornbread, and yams and complemented by the moderate heat of the pepper and the savory flavors of the chili powder, cumin, and oregano all worked together to create a very tasty dinner -- and we have plenty of leftovers.

3. I turned on the Vizio, messed around on YouTube, and accidentally found a documentary about the life and and career of Fred Gwynne entitled, Fred Gwynne: More than a Munster. We watched it. Not once in my entire life had I thought about, let alone looked into, the life and times of Fred Gwynne. I'm really glad I did. He lived a very interesting life, heartbreaking at times, full of a range of artistic endeavors. The documentary was aptly titled -- he was, indeed, much more than Herman Munster!

Here's Stu's limerick for Father's Day:

He left all our lives much too soon.
Looking back on each Father’s Day in June.
All the memories of Dad,
Among the best I have had.
I miss him from here to the moon.

Here's Gibbs:

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 06/19/20: Diane Turns Over Gibbs to Us, Gibbs' New Home, Movie Night BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. Today we went to Diane Trecker's house and our new Maltese/Shih Tzu (or Malshi) puppy, Gibbs, was all ready for us to bring home. Diane has taken superb care of Gibbs and his brothers and sisters. Debbie went with Diane earlier in the week for Gibbs' first visit to the vet. Diane provided us with a bag containing toys, chews, food, a dog training book, and other things and we brought home all of Gibbs' records. Diane conscientiously kept and organized them. In every respect, Diane is a model dog breeder. We are very happy that Gibbs' young life has been so happy and healthy. We look forward to continuing to giving him a good life.

2. Once home, we took Gibbs out back so he could begin to get familiar with the back yard. It was fun to see him begin to learn that he has a vast world to play in, to hop around, sniff around, roll around, and play with toys. We brought Gibbs back inside and he spent a nice stretch of time on my stomach, relaxing and eventually falling asleep. Later, he discovered that he loves sitting next to Debbie on the couch while Debbie knits -- and he slept more. All in all, I'd say his first late afternoon and evening in his new home worked out really well.

3. Debbie and I watched an hour of news programming and then, out of the blue, I put the movie Between the Lines on. Debbie hadn't seen it and, together, we really enjoyed the trip it took us on,  back to, oh, let's say 1975-6. We enjoyed the idealism of the characters who are in their twenties or early thirties and the realization they are coming to that their vigorously researched and well-written and photographed stories in their independent weekly newspaper aren't making much of a difference in a largely indifferent world, a world that is closing in on them daily in a variety of ways.

Here's a limerick by Stu commemorating National Ice Cream Soda Day -- it is also called an Ice Cream Float. 

Today is for ice cream and pop.
Just pick out your flavors and drop.
Try vanilla and Root Beer,
Drink too fast, headache’s near?
For refreshment, this drink’s near the top.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 06/18/20: *Tom All-Alone's*, Mrs. Hitzel is Unimpressed, Preoccupied BONUS A Limerick by Stu

I created this blog on October 1, 2006. Today, I am posting entry number 5,000.

1. After completing a couple of acrostic puzzles, I began reading Lynn Shepherd's detective novel, Tom All-Alone's, published in 2012. It's set in the physical world of Tom All-Alone's, the most impoverished neighborhood of Bleak House. The story occurs in Shepherd's version of London in 1850. Already, the story is dark and grisly. So far, all I know is that the story's central character, Charles Maddox, a detective, has been hired by a villain from Bleak House, Edward Tulkinghorn, to track down someone who has left Tulkington vaguely threatening messages. I'm already trembling a bit just at the prospect of reading another book that, in any way, features Edward Tulkington. In Bleak House, he was one of the most cruel and predatory characters I've encountered in fiction.

2. I had a very quiet day today. One thing I had on my mind was a dream featuring my third grade teacher, Mrs. Hitzel. In the dream, I encountered her and I was a young adult, as many as fifteen years after she was my teacher. I gave her some writing I'd done for school -- these might have been Freshman Comp papers or papers I wrote for literature classes. She told me they weren't worth reading and returned them to me without further comment. I'd given them to her because I thought she'd be proud that I was a college student, working hard to learn how to write. She wasn't impressed.

3. My preoccupation with this dream and some troubling memories of London that surfaced while reading Tom All-Alone's distracted me while doing simple tasks today. While mixing Debbie a whiskey drink, I poured gin in it instead of triple sec and had to dump it and start all over. I had also mistaken a bottle of brandy for the whiskey I was going to pour her. I was sober. I didn't drink any alcohol today, so it was just a matter of trying to function while my mind was traveling far away from tasks at hand. Later, I started making popcorn for Debbie and me and, for no good reason, I turned the burner under the popcorn off. I actually didn't remember doing it and was taken aback when the popcorn wasn't popping and I discovered I'd turned off the heat. Eventually, I succeeded in making some really good popcorn. I also made Debbie a very good drink on my second try. But my mind was on vacation. I was not focused at all on the present moment.

(Sometimes my entries under Three Beautiful Things aren't that beautiful, but are more about wanting a record of things that happened. Entries 2 and 3 are two examples.)

In April of 2019, Stu wrote the following limerick and today he's making it public:

If people don’t learn from the past.
They could sadly repeat those things fast. 
This date marks the end,
Of shame you cannot defend.
Juneteenth’s actions should forever last.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 06/17/20: I'm Wiser, Mavericks and Pirates, Spanish Rice BONUS The Reveal & A Limerick by Stu

1. I finished reading The Woman in White this afternoon. More surprises lay in store as the novel drew to its conclusion. Wilkie Collins had created multiple plot lines in the course of the book's 600+ pages and managed to adroitly tie things together. Throughout the novel, I enjoyed Wilkie Collins' imaginative methods of narration -- letters, a journal, interviews, and straight ahead storytelling --, his detailed development of characters, and his various styles of prose. Each character who contributed to the narration had a distinct voice, a distinct prose style, and employed varying levels of plain speaking and florid language.

In her introduction to The Woman in White, which I read after finishing the book, thank goodness (it gives too much away), novelist Anne Perry writes, "Perhaps The Woman in White is not a great work of literature. We may not be any wiser regarding the human condition after reading it."



I'm wiser after reading it. I came to understand more fully greed, patience, determination, amorality, dedication, self-absorption, neglect and abuse, courage, and many other human qualities. If the human condition is a fallen one, if we live in a postlapsarian world, then I am wiser about the nature of such a world; I also learned from this novel that a fallen world is not a hopeless one, thanks to the  persistence, insistence on principle, and bravery.

Wilkie sums this up in the novel's opening sentence: "This is a story of what a Woman's patience can endure, and what a Man's resolution can achieve."

It sure is.

2. I shifted to baseball after finishing The Woman in White and making a trip to recycle more cardboard at the transfer station.

I watched one of my favorite documentaries, The Battered Bastards of Baseball on Netflix. The movie tells the story of Bing Russell, Kurt Russell's father, deciding, in 1973, to field a single A minor league baseball team in Portland, OR, an independent minor league team, unaffiliated with any major league organization. The team was the Portland Mavericks and, unlike their Pacific Coast League predecessors, the Portland Beavers, the Mavericks become a sensation in Portland and, eventually, a national sensation.

That's all I'll say. Watch it and you'll learn more about the players who played for these battered bastards, learn more about the major/minor league baseball system, and learn how and why Bing Russell's joyous and successful experiment ended.

I also watched, on YouTube, a ninety minute program looking back at the 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates and their unlikely triumph over the Baltimore Orioles in the '71 World Series. I enjoyed the program's many interviews and enjoyed watching the highlights of that 1971 season and the World Series itself.

3. What a great surprise at dinner tonight! Debbie fixed Spanish rice and not only did it bring back very enjoyable hot lunch memories, it was also delicious. We both wondered why we haven't been fixing this simple and very satisfying dish for dinner up until now. Staying home and doing all of our own cooking has been far more pleasing than I could have imagined. The best part of it has been each of us bringing dishes from our earlier days, like refried beans, chicken and noodles, and Spanish rice, into our present life.

Yesterday, in his limerick, Stu left the word rhyming with "Nantucket" and and "in a bucket" blank so readers could make their own guesses.

Today is the reveal: Stu filled in the blank with "truck it", in tribute to our pal Ed who, over the years, has often operated a water truck on work sites to keep down dust. So, here's the limerick again:

There once was a man from Nantucket.
Who brought water to home in a bucket.
Too expensive for plumbing,
Can you see what is coming?
He decided it was best just to truck it!

Stu has a limerick for today -- it commemorates Go Fishing Day:

There’s Bass and there’s Salmon for you.
Maybe Tuna or Marlin that’s blue?
There’s Walleye and Pike,
Or is it Trout that you like?
Even “Noodling” if that’s what you do.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 06/16/20: Lewiston Hill, Admiring Bill Davie, Bubbling BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. I didn't quite finish The Woman in White today. I am very close. In the many pages I read today, all of the plot's hairpin turns, switchbacks, and short straight stretches of respite from the all the story's twists and turns reminded me of traveling on the Lewiston Hill before it was straightened out just over forty years ago. I didn't quite get car sick while reading today, but my eyes grew wide and I turned pages quickly as the story's events lurched from one unexpected occurrence to another. The final chapters I have yet to read promise more surprises.

2. At 7:00 this evening, I settled into an hour of deep enjoyment by tuning into the next of Bill Davie's hour long live Tuesday evening performances. Bill challenged himself tonight by performing some songs he hadn't sung publicly for quite a while, some that moved him to weep while performing them, songs he has not been sure he could perform because of how they move him. Likewise, Bill read some selections from the poetry of Phillip Levine, poems that also had a visible and audible emotional impact on him.

I always admire Bill. Tonight, my admiration grew. He decided not to perform safe songs, but, as he called them, "difficult" songs. It was an emotionally moving and a musically and poetically compelling hour. I have tuned in to all ten of Bill's Tree House Concerts. Each night, including tonight, I secretly wished he'd play his song, "Ravine". Tonight he played it.  It sent me simultaneously deep into thought about accidental angels and called up a batch of very pleasant memories of when Bill introduced this song to audiences in Eugene and western Oregon over twenty-five years ago.

3. The house sure smelled good today. On Monday, I put the carcass of the chicken Debbie cooked on Sunday in a crock pot with water, coarsely chopped onions, celery and celery greens, and some herbs and seasonings and let it all bubble away until late this afternoon. Then I filled three one-quart containers with chicken stock.

Here's another limerick from Stu, inspired by what might be the most famous of all opening lines in limerick land. Stu has left the last rhyming word blank. Feel free to fill in the blank. Tomorrow, Stu will reveal, on this blog, the word he used to round out this limerick. Care to guess his word?

There once was a man from Nantucket.
Who brought water to home in a bucket.
Too expensive for plumbing,
Can you see what is coming?
He decided it was best just to ________it!

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 06/15/20: Noting, Planning, Strolling BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. Back in the good old days when I used to hold a weekly Wednesday night course in Shakespeare at LCC, if/when we studied the play Much Ado About Nothing, I would tell my students that when the play was written, the word "nothing" was pronounced the same as "noting", meaning to observe, notice, or pay special attention to -- it could even mean to spy. If you know the play or have seen the 1993 movie version, you know that much of the play's action centers around characters spying on, noting each other to both comic and tragic effect.

Wilkie Collins divided The Woman in White into three "epochs". Today I finished the second epoch and started the third.

The middle part of the novel, in particular, is all about characters noting.  Characters read others' mail. They eavesdrop on others' conversations.  They spy on each other, sometimes as agents for other characters in the story.  Marian notes all she observes through writing in her journal. One character even exploits a certain situation, finds Marian's journal, and reads it, noting is content with malevolent interest what Marian has herself noted.

What will all this noting come to? More than nothing I imagine!

I'm wondering if Tuesday might be my day to finish this book. If it is, I'll be happy to learn its outcome, but sorry not to be reading it any longer. Wilkie Collins has been a superb companion. 

I see Collins' Moonstone somewhere in my reading future.

2. Debbie and I are thinking about sprucing up the back yard a bit and continued to yak about ways to improve how things look, but in a low maintenance way.

3. I took a beneficial walk today. I strolled over to the Avista building parking lot and dropped off our bill payment in the box outside and I also had a prescription to pick up at Yoke's. I enjoyed the very mild temperature. As I crossed the Hill Street bridge, the sweet perfume of some kind of plant hit me. I don't have any idea where the smell was coming from, but it made me think of how foul and metallic that once heavily polluted gray river smelled when I was a kid.  I loved the new smell that hit me so hard today.

Here's a limerick by Stu:

There are things you receive if you’re driven.
Other blessings are yours ‘cause they’re given.
No matter your past,
Your time here won’t last.
So, today get on out and start livin’!

Monday, June 15, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 06/14/20: Troubling Marriage, Errands, Dinner and a Good Talk BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. I read less today than the last two or three days. What I read of The Woman in White, through Marian Halcombe's remarkably detailed journal entries, is deepening the troubling and chilling portrayal of the marriage of her half-sister, Laura Glyde (Fairlie), to Sir Percival Glyde and Marian Holcombe's efforts to protect Laura.

2. I made a quick trip to the County Transfer Station. Cardboard boxes were piling up in the garage and I tossed them in the recycling bin and I disposed of some garbage. Later, I made a quick trip to Yoke's. The remodeling job is coming along. I am learning anew the changing layout of the store. Yes, the store's rearrangement slowed me down a bit, but I managed to get in and out in pretty good time. That was my goal.

3. I brought home a whole chicken and Debbie fixed a warming, comforting, and delicious pot of chicken and noodles and broccoli. We watched the last half of The Godfather. Then we talked for quite a while about all kinds of things -- books we've read, conversations we've had, movies, experiences we had in Maryland, and some of our thoughts about living now in Kellogg. Like so often happens after we have these evening conversations, I went to bed thinking a lot about how the twenty-two years we've been married have been filled with experiences I never could have imagined would have happened when we joined our lives together. We've learned a lot.

To commemorate National Beer Day in the United Kingdom (June 15), Stu wrote this limerick:

Catnip is great for a kitten.
Time together is great for the smitten.
For a Pirate there’s rum,
Baseball cards have their gum.
And today is for BEER in Great Britain.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 06/13/20: Men, Tuna Salad, *Blazing Saddles* BONUS Limerick by Stu

1. For much of the day, I continued to read The Woman in White. Much of what I read was narrated by Marian Holcombe through her journal. Her entries tremble with fear and repulsion as she observes and learns more about her half-sister Laura's new husband, Sir Percival Glyde and his longtime friend, Count Fasco. My already high regard for Collins as a story teller and a writer of sharp psychological insight grew. I trembled along with Marian Holcombe and shared in her repulsion.

2. To limit our trips to the grocery store, Debbie and I have been stocking up a bit on some canned goods, including about six cans of tuna fish. Late this afternoon, I started to imagine that a tuna salad would be tasty and so I drained a couple of cans, put the tuna in a salad bowl, and chopped up green onion, carrots, sweet peppers, and celery. I added capers and some brine and Debbie added cherry tomatoes and four cloves of pressed garlic. While Debbie dressed the tuna and vegetables with a peerless vinaigrette that she invented on the spot, I chopped a head of romaine lettuce.

Debbie figured over the last several months that the lettuce should be the last ingredient added to any tossed salad. So, once she had mixed up the tuna and vegetables with the vinaigrette she invented in the bottom of the bowl, I added in the lettuce and then Debbie mixed it all up. The result was two-fold: first, no vinaigrette went to the bottom of the bowl -- using her method, the dressing attaches to the lettuce and other ingredients far better than when we used to pour it over the salad as a last step; second, it resulted in the best tuna salad I've ever tasted.

I ate mine in a bowl and Debbie ate hers wrapped in a tortilla.

We loved our dinner.

3. Fixing and eating dinner with Debbie pulled me out of the Vizio room where I've been absorbed in reading The Woman in White for the last few days.

I don't remember why it was on, but a week or so ago, suddenly a thirty year retrospective featuring Mel Brooks and some cast members from Blazing Saddles came on and Debbie and I watched it. I'd never seen Blazing Saddles, although I was familiar with its most famous scenes and these scenes were played in the retrospective. Debbie wasn't sure if she'd ever watched it and she proclaimed that one of these evenings, we ought to put it on.

Tonight we did.

The movie flabbergasted me.

I haven't watched a lot of movies by Mel Brooks over the years. Tonight, I settled in my mind once and for all that Mel Brooks is an absurdist, relentless maker of farce, parodist, and a critic -- a social critic and a film and art critic.

In Blazing Saddles, Mel Brooks attacks social issues and critiques movies and music with vulgarity, exaggeration, spoofs, racial epithets, anachronisms, broad physical scenes of farce, a hurricane of gags, puns, dirty jokes, parody songs, and cultural references to everything from Stephen Foster to Marlene Dietrich to Looney Tunes to movie musicals of the 1930s to Candygrams (to name a few). It's dizzying. It's relentless.

I'm not sure I have the language to express how much I enjoyed the last act of this movie when Mel Brooks demolishes any pretense that what we've been watching is anything but a movie. I'm going to write now as if everyone alive has seen Blazing Saddles, but if you haven't seen it and plan to, skip the next paragraphs.

Brooks plays, at the end of the movie, with the idea that there is a real Rock Ridge and a fake Rock Ridge -- the fake Rock Ridge is a movie set built overnight by Sheriff Bart's friends from the railroad crew. So, just as we have let ourselves be fooled that the "real" Rock Ridge exists, when it's actually just a fake town built on a Blazing Saddles sound stage, so the marauders gathered up to destroy Rock Ridge are fooled by the "fake" town. A fight breaks out in fake Rock Ridge between the townspeople and the marauders. The fighting spills out of the "fake" Rock Ridge, which is a sound stage within a sound stage, and into another Warner Brothers sound stage where a 1930s-style musical is being made and on into the nearby sound stage commissary (is it a "real" commissary?).  If, by some miracle, we had forgotten over the previous eighty minutes or so that we were watching a movie, that experience is demolished at the end of Blazing Saddles by the collision of two make believe movies colliding with each other into a raucous pie fight scene reminiscent to me, at least, of the great mud slide fight scene in McLintock!. 

It's brilliant. It's surreal. It's dada. Brooks' farce goes metaphysical, rendering the very act of accepting illusion as reality, which we all happily do when we watch movies, unstable and easily razed.

Over the last forty-six years since Blazing Saddles was made, I've seen the movie's most famous scenes replayed countless times -- so the campfire scene, the horse knockout gag, the repeated Hedley/Hedy Lamarr joke, and others were of no surprise to me.

But the chaos of the last act.

I had no clue that was coming.

It made the movie for me.

(Just for the record, after Blazing Saddles, we watched an early episode of The Rockford Files, the second half of a documentary examining the history of London that I had started a while back, and a documentary from nearly thirty years ago looking at the museums, memorials, and landmarks of Washington, D. C.)

Here's a limerick by Stu:

Have you ever thought this while alone?
As you watch how the craziness’s grown?
When all’s said and done,
Is “Outer Limits” the one?
Or crossed over into “The Twilight Zone”?

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 06/12/20: Who Can We Trust?, Dock's No-No, Beans for Breakfast

1. Much like in our day to day lives where we regard some of our friends as more reliable narrators of their stories than others, the same is true when reading fiction. We are always experiencing the stories we read from a particular point of view and as we learn more about the narrator and as we assess to what degree the narrator's perspective is congruent (or incongruent) with the story's action and what characters reveal themselves to be, we discover the narrator's degree of reliability.

In other words, narrators in fiction are rarely objective or disinterested. Much more often than not, narrators have some investment, some stake, in relaying events to us readers in the way they want us to experience and understand them. They help form our perceptions. They help form how we experience characters in the story and guide what we think and feel about the story's landscape (or cityscape), atmosphere, tone, and other elements of the story.

In The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins tells the novel's story from multiple points of view, using multiple narrators. I am about 200 pages in (a third of the way) and I've been under the care of three separate narrators so far with more to come.  Inevitably, the result is instability. It's difficult to know how reliable each of these narrators is and it's adding much intrigue and mystery to a story built on intrigue and mystery just by virtue of the, well, mysterious and intriguing things that happen in the novel.

2. Today marked the 50th anniversary of Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher, Dock Ellis, throwing a no-hitter while tripping on LSD against the Padres in San Diego. This anniversary reminded of a perfect day I experienced on September 18, 2014. I took the Metro from Huntington Station in Virginia to the D. C. neighborhood of Foggy Bottom, took a photo stroll, and then popped into the West End Cinema and watched a superb documentary film about Dock Ellis, No-No, A Dockumentary.  It's available on It tells the compelling story of Dock Ellis in a way that travels far beyond the most unusual no-hitter he pitched fifty years ago. I thought about commemorating the anniversary of his no-hitter today by watching the movie on Amazon Prime, but, to be honest, I couldn't put down The Woman in White.

3. I put a layer of the refried beans I made on Thursday, brown rice, and shredded cheese on a warmed tortilla and laid a fried egg on top. I rolled it up and, not only was this a breakfast that left me satisfied for much of the day, it furthered this trip I've been on over the last couple of days, reliving my grad school days in my tiny basement apartment with its wee kitchen where I significantly broadened and deepened my love of cooking.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 06/11/20: *The Woman in White*, Refried Beans, Family Happy Hour(s) BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. Early this afternoon I cracked open mid-19th century novel, The Woman in White by British writer Wilkie Collins.  Uh oh. I can say goodbye for several days now to many other activities I might do because after about thirty pages, I'm seriously hooked. I'm going to have to be stern with myself to break away from reading this story and get out for fresh air and get a few things done around the house.

2. I tore myself away from Wilkie Collins late this afternoon and volunteered to cook dinner.

For a few minutes I was stuck. I wrinkled my brow for a few minutes, freeing my mind to go back to the mid-1980s when I was a grad student living alone in a basement apartment at 361 W. Broadway in Eugene. Back then, my monthly income was meager and I took it upon myself to save money by cooking meatless meals at home and enjoyed trying out different ideas.

Back then, I frequently cooked refried beans, but, for some reason, over the last twenty-five to thirty years, I stopped.


We have a nice stock of canned beans. We have a lot of flour tortillas. We have cheese, leftover rice, and a jar of Diane Trecker's awesome salsa.

I chopped up an onion with four cloves of garlic and got them cooking in butter. Meanwhile, I opened two cans of kidney beans, drained them, poured the beans in a bowl, and mashed them. I drained the beans again and mashed some more and melted a hunk of butter. I poured the melted butter into the mashed beans, added salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, red pepper flakes, and chili powder, and mixed it all up.

I poured the mashed, seasoned, and buttery beans into the cast iron pan with the tender onions and garlic and when the beans' liquid started to bubble, I turned down the heat and let them cook down for a while on a low heat.

Before long, PRESTO!, we had a pan of refried beans and Debbie and I fixed ourselves dinner by putting different combinations of beans and other food items on a warmed up tortilla and wrapping it all up.

Debbie and I agreed: we have a new staple in our kitchen. I let my mind wander back to when I used to soak and cook up big batches of beans in my basement apartment and started many days off by putting a layer of refried beans and cheese on a tortilla and topped the beans and cheese with a fried egg -- a quick, tasty, filling, and protein packed breakfast.

I'll be making more and more refried beans and keep them on hand. It's fun to have them back in my life again.

3. It was kind of a spur of the moment thing. Christy invited Debbie and me to join her and Everett and Carol and Paul in her back yard for a happy couple of hours around 7:30 this evening. We talked about a lot of things. At one point, Debbie disappeared and returned with her guitar. She sang her moving song, "Other Side of Town" for us. It had been many years since I'd heard her sing it. I always loved and admired this song and tonight it sounded better than ever.

Stu wrote this limerick to commemorate Jim Nabors' birthday. He was born on June 12, 1930.

There are people who sure make you smile.
Whose antics you just reconcile.
Like this Filling Station worker,
Sargent Carter thought shirker.
But is best known to be Gomer Pyle.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 06/10/20: A Little Longer Walk, Happy Hour, Stretching the Curry BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. I extended the length of my walk a bit this afternoon. I parked at the hospital, walked to the high school and looped around the back of it, strolled through the breezeway, and then walked the trail, made my way to Cameron and headed west to the four-way stop, and turned north and returned to the Sube. I'm seeing other promising ways to lengthen my walk and, soon, I think I'll feel like hitting the hiking trail again.

2. Christy, Everett, Paul, Debbie, and I enjoyed a happy hour on Christy and Everett's deck around 4:00 or so. I enjoyed mixing myself a dry martnini, up, stirred, with three almond stuffed green olives.

Paul has retired from the teaching at the high school and the school year is over. I enjoyed listening to him talk about being done -- I had wondered if he still had work to do to get cleared out of the high school building. He doesn't. He's finished. Now his changed life gets underway.

3. Back home, I fried a couple of salmon burger patties, fixed a batch of brown rice, and heated up the left over green curry from Monday's dinner. The salmon was a great addition and we enjoyed stretching the curry a bit and getting another meal out of it.

Today, Stu commemorates National Corn on the Cob Day!

This food is enjoyed from your hand.
Needs napkin you must understand.
Can be eaten by row,
Or start up and work low.
Once husked is enjoyed ‘cross the land.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 06/09/20: Bill Davie Live, Evening Talking, Puzzles

1. After taking a week off from his run of Tuesday evening one hour performances live from the upstairs of his home (The Treehouse), Bill Davie was back on last night. His return made me very happy. I thought Bill was buoyant, full of positive energy as he not only played some of my favorite songs of his own ("Skies in Tacoma", "How Deep is Your Well?", "The Years?"), but also performed one of my favorite covers,  Jim Page's "Sign of the Times".

Bill briefly sported and beautifully explained the significance and power of his Fred Babb T-shirt, a paean to the life-giving power of art. (To help preserve the shirt, he stepped off camera and changed out of it.) Bill also read a selection of poems by Mary Oliver whose elegant wisdom was a salve to our troubled souls and clearly urged us to wake up to the beauty of the natural world.

Bill opens his live webcasts by singing, "Tuesday, Tuesday, Tuesday, the day that time forgot." Time might have forgotten this Tuesday, but Bill made it most memorable.

2. After listening to Bill, Debbie and I watched an hour of news programming and then we sat up for nearly three hours talking about a lot of different things and not only was I grateful that we see eye to eye about so much in our lives and in the larger world, but I enjoyed that we didn't complain much. This wasn't a bitch session. We talked calmly about things close to home and in our family and things happening far away from Kellogg. We enjoyed a few cocktails.

3. I took a break today from reading Victorian fiction or watching documentaries. I read a collection of excellent poems Mary Chase wrote and sent me and wrote some of my thoughts about them to her. I also immersed myself in working on a couple of acrostic puzzles. I took one break from this mental workout. It was time to recycle cardboard at the local transfer station and I made a quick trip.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 06/08/20: Books Arrive, Bridgit's Poetry Reading, Green Curry Dinner BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. In her 2012 novel, Tom All-Alone's, named after the impoverished, disease-ridden, filthy neighborhood in Bleak House (1852-53), Lynn Shepherd says she's written a book that occupies the space (not sure what that means yet) between Bleak House and Wilkie Collins' mystery novel, The Woman in White (1859). Today, Shepherd's and Collins' books arrived in the mail from Better World Books. I am eager to embark on reading another thick Victorian novel and then turning to Lynn Shepherd's contemporary work, a much slimmer volume, and find out what tale she tells, set in her version of 1850 London.

2. I mentioned Bridgit Lacy yesterday when writing about a Zoom session I enjoyed with longtime Whitworth friends. Soon after we wrapped up that session, Bridgit jumped over to an online open mic sponsored by a Facebook group, Cultivating Voices. Bridgit's poetry is wry, intelligent, and easy to listen to -- wonderfully accessible. Her poems are tightly crafted and her observations and insights reflect her dry wit.  Bridgit loves the music of language and I had a wonderful time listening to her read her poems. Her reading voice and the tone and lyricism of her poems compliment each other beautifully. I'll go back and listen this reading repeatedly.

I wish I could provide a link to this reading outside of Facebook. I have posted her reading on my Facebook page and if you are a Facebook friend of mine you can find her reading there.

3. I had a great time this afternoon fixing a green curry for Debbie and me. I started out by sauteeing cubed tofu and crushed garlic in sesame and vegetable oil, took out the tofu, and then sauteed an onion with some fresh ginger. I pushed back the onion half-rings and the ginger and heated up a plug of green curry paste.

In a separate bowl, I combined coconut milk, fresh squeezed lime juice, fish sauce, soy sauce, and brown sugar and scooped the green curry paste plug out of the Dutch oven and added it in and mixed it all together.

I added the tofu and garlic back in with the onion and ginger, added a small bag of frozen green beans and poured the curry sauce over the top, and let it cook on a low heat for over forty-five minutes.

I made a batch of brown rice to go in a bowl underneath the green curry sauce and Debbie and I enjoyed our flavorful dinner.

June 9th is National Donald Duck Day and Stu commemorated the occasion with a limerick:

Mark Twain had a fellow named “Huck”!
The Patriots' path changed with a “tuck”!
Fortunes it seems,
Comes from work and held dreams.
Like Walt Disney and his famous Duck.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 06/07/20: A Good Walk, What a World, Zooming with Longtime Friends

1. When it comes to nourishing my mind and spirit, the last several weeks have been some of the best I've every known: reading, watching documentaries, watching fiction films, writing in this blog, cooking, working word puzzles, talking with longtime Whitworth friends on Zoom, tuning in for Bill Davie's weekly concerts, talking with Debbie, messaging online, seeing Christy and Carol when possible, and enjoying some good phone conversations. I've decided to continue to wait out this pandemic by spending most of my time indoors.  I've done my best to make the most of this time.

Absorbing myself in these ways, however, has had a downside. I haven't been getting out and walking, let alone hiking.

Today, I drove up to the hospital, parked the Sube, and walked a loop. I went up the long sidewalk leading to the high school, walked over the Jacobs Creek bridge, walked the length of the trail leading to Riverside, walked up Cameron to the 4 way stop, and then headed back up Jacobs Gulch to the car. It was good twenty minute walk, a good way to get back into it.

It felt great.

2. I returned to the Vizio room. Saturday, I had watched the first four episodes of Bleak House (BBC 2005) and spent four hours this morning and into the early afternoon watching the last four episodes. Maybe I've written this before, but in Bleak House, Dickens creates as comprehensive a view of what people can be and do and have happen to them as I've ever experienced in a single work. Bleak House explores misery, poverty, and disease; it brings human exploitation and unapologetic cruelty and greed to light; it gives the psychological burden of living with secrets a full examination; it exposes hypocrites and fools; and, Bleak House is also populated by some fiction's kindest, most generous, and most compassionate characters as well. Watching the entirety of this mini-series over the weekend boggled my mind. I enjoyed being overwhelmed by the vastness of the story, the brilliance of the acting, and the experience of seeing so much of  the variety of this novel's social world play out so artfully in this television production.

3. Bill, Diane, Colette, Bridgit, Val, and I hopped onto Zoom for the next of our every other Sunday discussions of our lives, the way our college experiences shaped us, how we are doing our best to sort out the upheavals of 2020, and any number of other subjects.

Bill, Colette, Val, Bridgit, and I were at Whitworth together nearly forty years ago when I worked for two school years as a full-time temporary instructor of English. As students at Whitworth who often felt they were outside of the mainstream of student life at the college, my sense listening to Bill, Colette, Val, and Bridgit is that they were very grateful that we all, in one way or another, found each other, especially in English courses and in the basement of Westminster Hall, and were one another's friends and allies.

I got to thinking after today's conversation that over the many years (1977-2014) that I either attended or taught in colleges and a university, I was keenly aware of students seeking allies, seeking other students they could trust, talk openly with, cut loose with, and feel free with.

It's been heartening, in these Zoom conversations, and in other contexts, when Bill, Colette, Bridgit, and Val say that they always felt they could be themselves with me, that they looked to me as an ally.

I felt the same way about them.

I needed allies at Whitworth, too, needed the company of people who were open to listening to me, accepting of the turmoil in my life at that time, and who joined me in listening to music, watching movies, walking downtown, reading, having late night conversations, drinking beer, eating meals, and being good friends, all while maintaining the integrity of our teacher/student relationship.

I'm grateful for who we were to each other nearly forty years ago and love that we continue to talk together, listen, support one another, and keep our friendships strong. And, as a bonus, Diane has joined us. It always feels as if she had been right there with us all along in the basement of Westminster Hall or watching movies at my generic apartment on Colfax Road or heading down to the Magic Lantern to see a film or grabbing a bite to eat at the Knight's Diner.

Let me repeat. I'm very grateful.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 06/06/20: *20 Feet From Stardom*, Books, *Bleak House* 2005 BONUS Limerick by Stu

1.  For about a year, in Eugene, before moving back east, I lived within easy walking distance of a new downtown movie theater, now called the Broadway Metro. When the theater first opened, in May 2013, it screened matinees on week days as well as weekends. I went to several week day matinee screenings. I loved it. It's my favorite time to be in a movie theater. If I could change one thing about Kellogg, this would be it. I'd ask the genie in the bottle to give us a movie theater that showed independent movies in the afternoon (and the evening).

I bring this up because of one of my sweetest memories of watching movies at the Broadway Metro. This morning (I couldn't wait for a matinee), I watched 20 Feet from Stardom, the documentary that tells the story of backup singers in popular music. It's informative, moving, heartbreaking, inspiring, and invigorating. I had let nearly seven years pass since I first saw it in July of 2013 and seeing it again today was almost like seeing it afresh. I won't let another seven years pass before I watch it again.

2. It was a good day for books coming into my world. When today's mail arrived, I got a package from Better World Books. I purchased a used and marked up Penguin edition of Bleak House because I wanted to read the introduction written by J. Hillis Miller, hoping that I was still capable of reading erudite literary analysis (or criticism). I read it. I understood much of it, but not well enough to summarize it intelligently and I've begun to reread it. I can say that what appeals to me about Miller's perspective is that he observes a fundamental instability in the way Dickens wrote Bleak House (two narrators, for example, among other elements). The internal instabilities of the novel, in Miller's view, reflect Dickens' unease with and view of instability in the mid-nineteenth century institutions and day to day life of London and England.

I picked up two books that arrived at the library: William Stafford's volume of selected poems, The Darkness Around Us Is Deep and Jack Gilbert's book of poems, Refusing Heaven. I look forward to reading these books and writing a bit about some of the poems in future days and weeks.

3. As it comes to us who subscribe to BritBox, the 2005 BBC version of Bleak House is presented in eight episodes, each lasting about an hour. I watched the first four episodes late this afternoon and on into the evening. I kept thinking what a daunting project it must have been to pare down this sprawling novel and its huge cast of characters into a mini-series.

This production takes on the complexity of the plot of Bleak House by deftly cutting back and forth between characters and story lines, laying the groundwork for when these apparently unrelated characters and plots begin to intertwine. I have enjoyed how the telling of this story seems to begin at the edges and slowly and inevitably grows more focused with a sense of events closing in on characters like, say, Lady Dedlock and Richard Carstone. I'm enjoying the depiction of all the characters. Charles Dance as the soulless and predatory Mr. Tulkinghorn and Gillian Anderson as the haunted and brittle Lady Dedlock stand out for me, but not as superior to the rest of the cast. Across the board, I experience them all as brilliant. 

Here is Stu's limerick:

It seems many right now are so mad.
Spurred on by events that were bad.
Can’t undo past mistakes,
Or change who got the breaks.
Wish instead of black and white we saw plaid.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 06/05/20: Writing, Asbury Park Again, Quiet Evening BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. I slept in this morning and, once I got going, I spent about four hours or so writing a single blog post. Important parts of my life kept coming to the surface in relation to the television viewing I did. I decided to let it rip and write about as much as I could of the content that rose up out of my memories and my thoughts. The combination of being retired and continuing to stay home during the pandemic affords me the time to write at length when I want to. I haven't taken this much sustained time to read, view, listen, think, and write for years. When I'm asked how I'm getting along since I'm spending so much time indoors, when I'm asked if I'm getting bored or restless, my answer is that I'm doing fine. It's because of the amount of time I have to read, ponder, view, listen, and write.

2. I wanted to let that documentary film, Asbury Park: Riot, Redemption, and Rock 'n' Roll sink into my mind more fully, so I watched it again this afternoon.  It was a good move. I wanted to make sure I had the movie's version of history straight in my head. I also wanted to better understand the alchemy of different musical influences that helped bring both Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and South Side Johnny and the Asbury Jukes into being. Those two bands have given me some of my most intense emotional musical experiences, and, while I can't really explain it, I think I understand better why their sound and what they sing about has been hitting me at a deep spot for over forty years.

3. Debbie and I enjoyed a dinner of leftover chili served over farro with a cabbage salad on the deck until the rain sent us inside. We relaxed with an episode of Law and Order and watched an hour or so of news programming and split a bowl of popcorn. After staying up until 1 a.m. the night before, I welcomed hitting the hay earlier tonight.

Stu wrote a limerick to commemorate the 1944 D-Day invasion:

Some plans undertaken are great.
Stakes on the line that won’t wait.
Price of freedom displayed,
Ultimate sacrifices made.
We should always remember this date.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 06/04/20: Robert Bly Film, The Asbury Park Sound, Revisiting July 1981

1. After spending a couple or three hours completing a stickler of an acrostic puzzle, I retired to the Vizio room and watched the filmmaker Haydn Reiss's retrospective of the life and letters of Robert Bly. The movie's title is A Thousand Years of Joy.

The movie takes us back to Robert Bly's boyhood days on the family farm in Minnesota, how he was, from the beginning, an unusually intelligent and curious kid, drawn to poetry, as evidenced by how, as a teenager, he read and memorized quatrains from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam while plowing  the family's field. One day, deeply absorbed, he drove the tractor into a ditch and turned it over. His brother and father rescued him.

I'd like to think Haydn Reiss included this story in A Thousand Years of Joy, in part, because it serves as a metaphor for Bly's adult life as a poet, prose writer, teacher, publisher, critic, lecturer, and political activist. He spent his life turning things upside down. He turned American poetry on its head by resisting the poetry of academia and exploring the power of deep images, drawing upon poetry from Norway, old Persia, China, Japan, and elsewhere to inspire him.

Later in his life, he turned many ideas of what it means to be male, to be a man, upside down by looking to the mythological patterns and symbols/images in fairy tales and other folk stories and songs from around the world as a means of urging men to discover and claim what is primal, what is original, in a man. He implored men to give up their childish and immature ways of being and did all he could to reacquaint men with initiation rituals and other lost elements of modern life with the hope that more men would simply grow up, become more whole, and experience the totality of being a man, of being a fully dimensional human being.

Twenty-five, thirty years ago, I was wary of Robert Bly. Some of my skepticism about his work, especially with the Men's Movement, wasn't especially generous. In fact, my favorite Bly to read wasn't Robert Bly. It was his former wife, Carol Bly. Today, in preparing to write this blog post, I went online and revisited the Table of Contents of Carol Bly's superb collection of essays, Letters from the Country, a book I gave away years ago and am now going to purchase again. I found a few of her passages online and I loved experiencing her intelligence, clarity, and insight again.

I began to soften toward Robert Bly nearly twenty years ago when I first saw the episode of Bill Moyer's series, The Language of Life, entitled "Love's Confusing Joy". It featured Coleman Barks discussing his devotion to translating the 13th century Sufi poet Rumi. Robert Bly had introduced Barks to Rumi back in 1976 and Robert Bly appeared in this episode, joining Coleman Barks in reading Rumi's poetry. Bly's love for Rumi and his affection for Coleman Barks both softened and moved me. I decided to see about revising some of my resistance to Robert Bly.

By the way, let me interrupt myself. Some time in 1977, '78, or '79, I went to a Robert Bly reading at Gonzaga University. Here's how I remember it: for a while, let's say forty-five minutes, he gave a standard poetry reading. Then he turned the reading upside down. He wanted to convey to us, I think, some of the learning he'd absorbed in his study of Carl Jung. In order to make visible what he understood as the dark and shadowy side of the American male, the darker elements of men hidden behind our masks of politeness and conformity, he put on a Richard M. Nixon mask and acted out the aggression and hunger for domination this mask represented.

I came into that room expecting a polite poetry reading and, instead, Robert Bly spent time scaring me (and other audience members, too), really making me feel rattled.

If I remember correctly, once my nerves settled down, I was elated by Bly's performance that evening. I'd studied Joseph Campbell in a Jan term class I took from Lew Archer (RIP) in 1975 and I'd done some reading of Carl Jung then. About fifteen years later, in my work team teaching philosophy and Freshman composition with Rita Hennessy, I got to dive back into Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung as a way of studying metaphysics. All through those years of following Rita's lead and teaching metaphysics, that night at Gonzaga and Robert Bly's performance played out repeatedly in the theater of my mind. Robert Bly had made an indelible mark on me.

So, today, as I watched A Thousand Years of Joy, my old feelings and suspicions of Robert Bly got turned upside down. Listening to Jane Hirshfield, Louise Erdrich, and others talk about Bly helped me see him in a more generous light, as did seeing the whole of his life of letters, his stout sense of independence, his generosity in working with other poets, his deep friendship with William Stafford, and his consistent love for the power of poetry to shape how we see things, educate our emotions, and bring countless dimensions of human experience vividly alive.

I'm grateful to Bill Davie and Diane Schulstad for giving me both this dvd and the dvd, Every War Has Two Losers that I watched earlier this week.

Both movies awakened old and hibernating feelings I've had about poetry and these poets. They also helped me plow new ground, helped me experience and contemplate these poets in fresh ways.

2. Christy, Debbie, and I yakked for about an hour on the back deck. Afterward, Debbie and Laura Kemp launched into a FaceTime session for a couple of hours.

I retired back to the Vizio room.

I rented a documentary I've had on my watch list for several weeks entitled, Asbury Park: Riot, Redemption, Rock 'N' Roll.

I am going to watch this movie again to get the social and political details straight, but, for now, suffice it to say that until rioting broke out in early July of 1970, rioting triggered by racial division in Asbury Park, the town had a vigorous music scene. Bruce Springsteen honed his talents at The Upstage in Asbury Park, an after hours no booze music club, as did Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes.  In this music scene, black and white musicians performed together, influenced each other, and these musicians blended together varying styles of music. You can hear this blending of soul, blues, rock 'n' roll, and other styles in the sound of both Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band and in Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. In fact, a hybrid tradition that became known as the Jersey Shore Sound or the Asbury Sound emerged.

During the rioting, however, numerous music venues were destroyed. The Upstage was shuttered. Asbury Park fell into a long period of decline. This movie looks at the impact of the riot's destruction and also explores the long, slow renewal of Asbury Park. I was reminded of when I'd visit H St NE in D.C. This district has also experienced revival in the last 10-15 years after decades of ruin following the fires and other devastation in the rioting following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr and decay brought on by the D. C. crack epidemic of the late 1980s and on into the 1990s.

I hadn't paid attention, living out west, to how long lasting the damage in D. C. was and now I know that the story was similar in Asbury Park.

Watching this documentary further deepened my understanding of history as predictive. I don't think the past merely repeats itself, but the past predicts for us what we can expect will happen. Another way of putting this, from my point of view, is that we live in an extended present. I don't see much of our experience divided into past and present, but tend to see that what happened, say, fifty years ago in Asbury Park, never, at a deep level, ended. I think this is true about the tensions and violence that erupted in Asbury Park as well as about the music. The tensions endure, locally and nationally. The music endures, too. The Asbury sound lives on in the artists who originated it and in musicians who, inspired by it, carry it forward.

3. It was getting to be about 10:00 and, normally, after being absorbed in two such riveting films as the one I watched on Robert Bly and the one on Asbury, NJ, I'd be done for the night.

But, I wasn't.

Over the last few days (or weeks), I've been playing a day from the summer of 1981 over and over in my mind.  I was married for the first time. My wife was working as an intern at The Oregonian. She lived in Portland. I was going to summer school in Eugene.  I was naive to the fact that our marriage would soon completely disintegrate; I was also naive to the state of disintegration our marriage was already in. If charged with the offense of willful obliviousness, I plead guilty.

One weekend I traveled to Portland to visit my wife. Many of the details about that weekend are fuzzy for me, but I do know that I had the whole day of Saturday to myself. I'm thinking my wife was working the copy desk at the paper that afternoon and evening. 

I had one of the most glorious, uplifting, stimulating, and joyous days of my life in my oblivion that Saturday. A movie theater -- I think it was the 5th Street Cinema -- was running a film series called "The Overlooked Films Festival".  I went to a double matinee featuring two movies directed by Carol Micklin Silver, Between the Lines and Head Over Heels (later retitled Chilly Scenes of Winter). Both movies featured John Heard. I'd seen him in one movie before. He played the role of Jack Kerouac in Heart Beat.

I loved these two movies and wanted more. I headed out to, I think, the Bagdad Theater in the Hawthorne District and saw an unusual double feature: Tell Me a Riddle and The Return of the Secaucus 7. I'd seen Secaucus 7 at least twice earlier in the year and Lee Grant's Tell Me a Riddle was a great, beautiful, and moving surprise. I saw it again later in the year back in Eugene.



The music soundtrack of Between the Lines features Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes -- in fact, they perform live in the movie. The music comes from Southside Johnny's album Havin' a Party.

Having just watched a documentary on Asbury Park and having, just a couple of days ago, discovered that I could stream Between the Lines by subscribing to the Cohen Media Channel via Amazon Prime, I subscribed, and watched Between the Lines.

I hadn't watched this movie since about 1982 -- when I bought a BetaMax videorecording machine in 1982, Between the Lines was the first movie I rented.

I'll just say that I relished seeing it again. It reminded me how, in my late twenties, I loved movies like this one and Secaucus 7 that were about people around my age trying to make their way in the world without giving up their idealism -- Between the Lines is about an alternative weekly newspaper about to be bought out by a corporate media company. I also enjoyed, back in 1981-2, entering into the uncertainties, insecurities, and anxieties the characters in these movies experienced in their relationships and in their sexual encounters. I don't feel the same way about these things nearly forty years later, but tonight I enjoyed that I haven't totally lost touch with that oblivious young guy whose life was about to be turned upside down and who had such a passion for independent films and stories about his peers back in those days.

Earlier in the day, two dvds I ordered arrived in the mail -- two movies from early in John Heard's career: Cutter's Way and the aforementioned Chilly Scenes of Winter.

I have discovered access to streaming Tell Me a Riddle. 

If I could only find a library copy or an affordable dvd copy to purchase of The Return of the Secaucus 7, or, if one of the movie streaming services decides to run it, I could relive that day of movies back in July, 1981. 

I'm holding out hope.

Yes, my life, unbeknownst to me, was on the verge of radical heartbreak and disenchantment on that day in July of 1981, but I like the idea of reliving that day through watching these four movies in a single day. 

I welcome getting familiar, at least temporarily, with that young version of myself who was so naively happy that day, untouched by his failures as a young husband and the dissolution and disillusion that was only a few months away.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 06/03/20: Monthly Blood Draw, Loved Cooking Dinner, Fired Up by Music BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1.In support of my candidacy for a kidney transplant, I stopped in for a quick visit at the Shoshone Medical Center this afternoon. I carried my little white box with a blood draw kit inside. Brandy drew a vial of blood from my left arm and it goes to a lab in Spokane. It's not tested. It's on hand in case an organ that looks like a match for me pops up. I do this blood draw once a month. It's easy. My feeling of relief when finished is out of proportion to how simple and painless and pleasant this visit turns out to be, every time.

2. I also made a quick trip to the liquor store where, among other libations, I purchased, for the first time since moving back to Kellogg, a bottle of Jameson's Irish Whiskey and a bottle of ginger ale. Later, I started a cooking project and, to add to its pleasure, I poured myself a whiskey ginger and got down to the business of making a pot of black bean chili.

The recipe I used called for carrots and potatoes and I said, "No way. Debbie and I love sweet potatoes." I had just purchased a couple so I poured some cans of black beans, a couple cups of water, a bay leaf, and two chopped sweet potatoes into the Dutch oven and let them simmer for a while.

In a skillet, I cooked up chopped garlic, onion, celery, and miniature orange sweet peppers and seasoned it all with coriander, cumin, oregano, chili powder, and red pepper flakes. I added in some Triple Sec and honey. Once cooked, I added this mixture into the Dutch oven along with a can of diced tomatoes and let it cook very slowly. I'm not sure how long it simmered, but when Debbie finished her FaceTime session on the deck, I boiled a batch of Mrs. Miller's Old Fashioned Kluski Egg Noodles and served the black bean chili over the noodles. We loved it.

This dinner was another attempt of mine to fix something like my hot lunch favorite, Witches Brew. Fixing this meal tonight also grew out of talking with Debbie about wanting to make something akin to Skyline Chili (the Cincinnati treat!) -- but we'll wait on that for when we have ground beef in the house and I'll serve that batch of chili over spaghetti, not egg noodles. (By the way, one of my regrets in life? During a week long visit to Cincinnati in 2005, we stayed just blocks away from Skyline Chili on Ludlow Ave. and I didn't eat there.)

3. I was fired up late this afternoon. I was fired up while cooking dinner, really happy to be making some (quasi) Witches Brew. I loved the switch from one favorite, George Dickel Rye Whiskey, to Jameson, another favorite.  I hadn't sipped on a Jameson/ginger for months. Peak pleasure.  I upped my fired upness with music: first, while cooking, I played Pink Floyd's album Wish You Were Here and then put on one of my favorite Pandora stations, Edgar Winter, and listened to songs ranging from "Radar Love" to "Midnight Rider" and, of course, "Free Ride"!

In today's limerick, Stu pays homage to some nicknames that were well-known at one time in Kellogg. If you were around here back in the day, I hope you'll remember them:

Nicknames are used now and back when.
Like “Jake” is used time and again.
Perhaps, “Facts”, can apply,
Policeman labeled “One-Eye”!
Or one fellow who bowled a THREE-TEN!

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 06/02/20: Poetry and Being Quiet, Corruption, Hep B Vax BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. Late this afternoon, on a day I spent thinking a lot about the grace of being quiet and of silence while there's so much sound and fury in cities, towns, and, for me, especially online -- in both my Facebook and my Twitter feed --, I turned again to the poets William Stafford and Robert Bly. On the dvd Bill and Diane sent me, featuring the short film, Every War Has Two Losers, there's a second feature. It's an hour long. It's called A Literary Friendship. It features Stafford and Bly reading a few of their poems and talking about their lives, their thinking, and their writing -- why they write and how they go about it.

I don't know exactly in what year(s) this project was filmed. Stafford died on August 28, 1993. That's the only time marker I have. I bring this up because everything they said about poetry and its place in the world addressed the very same kind of fury and agitation we all know is taking place right now.

Maybe because lately I've been contemplating even more than usual the virtues of being quiet, of silence, it was inevitable that as I listened to Bly and Stafford read their roughly thirty year old (or more) poems, that I would hear almost all of them inviting readers into stillness, the stillness of nature and of one's own inward life.

In his poem, "On the Oregon Coast", dedicated to William Stafford, Robert Bly depicts the vastness and fury of the ocean. The ocean becomes a metaphor, pointing our attention beyond itself to giving us a concrete experience with fury, and how, in the midst of turmoil (and tumultuous times), one feels small. It's hard to read fury or understand it. It's overwhelming. We can do something, though. Bly suggests the following in the poem's third and final verse:

Remembering the fury, it is up to us, even
Though we feel small compared to the loose
Ocean, to keep sailing and not land,
And figure out what to say to our children.

Bly's poem does not imagine us paddling in the disorderly, or, as he puts it, "the loose" ocean, frantically trying to row our way back to land. He imagines us sailing. To me, it's a calm, even quiet, image of persistence. Sailing is not ignoring. It's a duty. It's "up to us". We sail in the fury. We sail "though we feel small". Our purpose is to grow wiser in our sailing, to "figure out what to say to our children".

Later I listened to a TEDx talk on YouTube given by Coleman Barks. In just twenty minutes, Barks summed up much of what I've heard him say in other presentations about the Sufi poet Rumi and his relationship to Rumi. I loved hearing Coleman Barks again, loved traveling back to the years at LCC when I taught World Lit and the poems of Rumi were (for me) the ecstatic core of the course. Listening to Coleman Barks -- well, I sat here and did not try to escape the fury and unrest and confusion of the last week, of the last few months. I felt small. I kept sailing. I was home alone. (Debbie was visiting a friend.) I was quiet. I cannot quell our nation's agitation nor can I quiet the agitation of those near me. I can quiet my own agitation, though, and can hope that in this quiet there is some measure of grace.

If you have any interest in experiencing some of what I did today, here are some links:

The film, A Literary Friendship is on YouTube, here.
YouTube also carries the William Stafford documentary, Every War Has Two Losers, here.
Robert Bly's poem, "On the Oregon Coast" is here.
And, the Coleman Barks TEDx talk is here.

Feeling small became a focus of mine today. Rumi wrote this short poem about feeling small. It's a Coleman Barks translation.

This Great Love Inside Me

I am so small I can barely be seen.
How is this great love inside me?

Look at your eyes. They are small,
but they see enormous things.

2. My late afternoon foray into the worlds of William Stafford, Robert Bly, Coleman Barks, and Rumi were a welcome shift from how spent the rest of my day. I finished reading All the President's Men and, in doing so, finished swimming in the troubled and furious waters of the Nixon Administration from about June, 1972 through about November of 1973 or so. As I thought about this book while reading it and when finished, I kept coming back to the idea that laws and regulations form the basis of a social contract between all of us. For this contract to work, the parties living and working under the rule of law must, for lack of a better word, cooperate with the purposes of the laws -- or, if the law is unjust, work to change the law. The chief threat to the upholding of the law in All the President's Men was power -- the efforts made on Richard Nixon's behalf to win the presidency and to hold on to the power of the office.

This social contract becomes fragile when it's ignored, scoffed at, regarded as naive, seen as an impediment, and cynically exploited. Although the book All the President's Men never discusses political science or theory, never examines the nature of the law and the social contract, to me, the primary thrust of the book was dramatizing what happens when the law is disregarded, broken, and the social contract erodes.

3. Political corruption, fury, and calm and ecstatic poetry didn't define the whole of my day. There's also that matter of protecting myself from Hepatitis B, especially if I go on dialysis or go through a kidney transplant. Today I went to the clinic up on McKinley and was injected with Hepatitis shot number two of three. My last shot of this course will happen on, or soon after, August 30th.

It's fun to remember places we could dine in Kellogg many years ago and Stu commemorates some of those places in this limerick:

Lots places to grub from the past.
Like the “Fish Feed” on Friday’s din’t last.
Pik Kwik’s counter, The Boat,
Corner Drug, get a float!
Miner’s Hat had sit down or leave fast.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 06/01/20: Remembering William Stafford, Reading History, Not Saying Much BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. Once I finished writing in my blog this morning, I watched the half hour documentary featuring William Stafford, Every War Has Two Losers. It's one of two documentaries on poets by Haydn Reiss that Bill Davie and Diane Schulstad sent me as gifts, knowing my love of documentaries and of poets. The second dvd features Robert Bly.

Stafford dedicated his life to pacifism in a variety of ways as a poet, teacher, family man, and a conscientious objector to World War II. He performed alternative service in Civilian Public Service camps from 1942-46 in Illinois, Arkansas, and California, working in forests, building roads, and laboring in other ways.

The film examines the connection between William Stafford's quiet pacifism and his poetry and features readings by Robert Bly, Alice Walker, Maxine Hong Kingston, Naomi Shihab Nye, Coleman Barks, and others. I particularly enjoyed Coleman Barks, not only his reading, but the way he spoke of Stafford as writing in the tradition of Zen poetry, as a mystery poet. Over the years, I've admired the spareness and simplicity of William Stafford's poems, but had never thought of his work in the way Coleman Barks described.  Over the years, I've enjoyed Coleman Barks talking about mystery poems, especially the work of Rumi.

I no longer own any of Stafford's books of poetry. It's time to order some from the library and enjoy his poetry again with this fine film in mind, to read Stafford anew, and think about him as a spiritual descendant of worldwide mystic traditions.

2. I pondered Every War Has Two Losers for a while and then gave over to many hours reading All the President's Men and am close to finished. Maybe it's because I'm 66 years old and don't have the oomph I used to, but again and again, as I read this book, I'm impressed with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's dogged pursuit of learning as much as they can about the Nixon Administration and the Committee to Re-Elect. They worked long hours. They knocked on doors. They worked the phones. They faced rejection, anger, scalding public criticism (especially from Ron Ziegler), and experienced long periods of stalemate, of being stuck, of running into dead ends. Yes, each reporter took an occasional vacation, but, most of their days were occupied with slogging. They didn't give up, even though they experienced regular discouragement and powerful push back. 

In the course of reading All the President's Men, my admiration for the movie's screenplay and its production has grown. I'm particularly impressed with how the screenwriters compressed several events into single ones and translated other events from the book into more cinematic scenes by changing their location or improvising on what the book says happened. Inevitably, the book's story and movie's story overlap, but I love how the screenwriters adapted this book into an independent work of art with pacing, superb cinematography, narrative structure, and devotion to the visual details of Washington, D.C. and the D.C. suburbs that is an intelligent, captivating, and authentic work of historical fiction. I might have to watch the movie again for the 400th time soon after I finish this book.

3. It might seem, because I don't write political or social commentary in this blog, that I am living with my head in the sand as our country contends with the pandemic and as chaos erupts in cities across the U.S.A. I'm paying attention. I'm reading. I'm listening. I tend toward taking small bites of these stories. I come to understand events much better looking back on them rather than while they are happening, so I am wary of much of what I read or see reported as it happens.

Mostly, I'm quiet.

I find that I'm so uncertain about what's happening with the pandemic and in the streets of places I love -- Eugene, Portland, Spokane, New York, Washington D.C., Seattle, and others -- that  were I to say more than I do, I wouldn't really know what I was talking about.

Here at home, I'm more willing to sort things out by talking a bit.

Debbie and I discuss things. I listen. I wrestle within myself. I feel what I feel.

Before going to bed tonight, Debbie and I talked until about midnight.

It helped me sleep.

To commemorate the release of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967, Stu gives us this limerick:

An album this day first appears.
Released in “this” country to cheers.
First came to U K,
And after that day.
The world knew the name “Billy Shears”!