Monday, August 31, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 08/30/20: Gotta Have Breakfast!, ZOOM, Unwinding BONUS A Limerick by Stu

Sunday jazz: I read that Columbia University's student-run FM station WKCR was playing a Charlie Parker retrospective to commemorate his 100th birthday, so I tuned in and filled the Vizio room with jazz played at the speed of Bebop.

1.  To my way of thinking, one of the great unwritten, mutually understood principles in Kellogg, Idaho is that a great party at night is best followed up with a hearty breakfast the following morning.

I was the happy host for this morning's breakfast. Everyone arrived at my house at 8 a.m., so I got up around 7:15 and got a mess of fried potatoes going. Soon the fellas arrived and they brought with them bread, eggs, orange juice, sausage, and bacon.

I got right down to business. I brewed cups of coffee for Ed and Don. I finished frying the potatoes and put them in the oven to stay warm. I got bacon and sausage going on the stove and started making toast, warming it in the oven, also. Once the meat was cooked, I put it in the dish with the potatoes in the oven to stay warm warm and fried us each a couple of eggs.

We all picked up where we left off the night before, yakkin', telling stories, laughing, bringing each other up to date on our lives these days, and, before long, we headed out on the back deck and enjoyed our breakfast.

We left the deck and came back in the house to escape the sun and, before long, we all said goodbye to each other and brought our awesome weekend of eating, drinking, yakkin', and entertaining each other to an end.

2. My scintillating weekend enjoying friends I've known since the Fall of Rome continued this afternoon online. Bill, Diane, Val, and I jumped on the ZOOM machine for a couple of hours of stimulating conversation. This was Val's birthday weekend. Bill, Diane, and Val wore party hats for the occasion and Bill and Diane joyfully blasted their Happy Birthday noise makers. The best I could do was raise my short pour of single malt scotch in celebration. Val's husband, Mike, was preparing her a gourmet birthday dinner, she had friends visiting, and Val visited us in the Zoom Room for about an hour before it was time for her to put her day into Happy Birthday overdrive.

We had great conversation about movies, old friends, marriage, family, loss, and other things. We are all eager to listen to one another's experiences and how we have come to understand them and what we are experiencing in the present. Val signed off and Bill, Diane, and I talked at some length about our experiences in high school and college, especially with literature and, specifically, poetry. I had fun recalling my experiences at North Idaho College that sparked my fire for poetry and other literature, enjoyed learning what Bill and Diane experienced as students, and marveled at how, for all three of us, certain teachers have had such a lasting impact, how they helped us not only love poems and stories, but set in motion a love that has lasted our entire adult lives.

3. Needless to say, after spending so much time in so much conversation, when I left the ZOOM conversation, I was worn out in the sweetest way. Fortunately, I had left over rice and curry from earlier in the week, so fixing dinner was a breeze. After dinner, I took a coma nap and after doing this and that around the house, went to bed and listened to Fresh Air broadcasts, fell asleep, had some dreams narrated by Terry Gross, was awakened by some of the talking, and finally took the earbuds out and fell into a sweet sleep for the night.

Here's a limerick by Stu:

You can think of days skipping a stone.
‘Cross the water before you were grown.
And remember party’s and games,
And, all teacher’s names.
But, where the heck are your keys and your phone?

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 08/29/20: Bon Voyage!, Great News!, Party on the Deck! BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. Methodically, without rushing, Debbie made sure she had what she needed to fly to New York this morning and we and Gibbs piled into the Sube and bolted over to Spokane International Airport. Debbie sent me pictures of Gibbs in his crate under the seat in front of her, of Gibbs strolling at the SeaTac Airport, and of Gibbs starting to acclimate to his new home for the next few months with Adrienne, Josh, Jack, and Ellie. While I had full confidence that Debbie and Gibbs would arrive safely, I was relieved when Debbie let me know my confidence was well placed.

2. On the way to the airport, I heard my cell phone chime with a notification. I wondered if possibly it was Terry Turner. Terry had told me earlier in the week that he would be coming through Kellogg over the weekend. I wasn't sure if he'd arrive on Saturday or Sunday. At the airport, Debbie, Gibbs (sort of), and I bade one another farewell and I drove down to a less crowded area in front of the terminal and checked my messages.

Sure enough! Terry would be arriving in Kellogg in the early afternoon and I also had a message from Don Knott telling me that he would get in touch with me in the afternoon after playing golf in the morning. I sensed a party was beginning to take shape. I arrived back in Kellogg, informed Ed that Terry would be at my place and told Don to be sure to tell Jake.

I arrived home about two and half hours before Terry arrived and this gave me plenty of time to tidy up the house, clean some surfaces, and have the place looking pretty good for visitors.

3. A party, indeed, took shape - in fact, a great party. Terry arrived. He got situated and he pulled a couple cans of Sunriver Brewing's superb Pale Ale, Rippin, out of his cooler and we sat on the back deck and savored this very tasty beer. I made a couple of snack plates. Terry added some snacks he was traveling with. Before long, we needed another beer and I got to drink a can of Buoy Beer Company's Czech Pilsner. (Buoy Beer Co. is out of Astoria, Oregon.)

Well, if you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I love drinking beer, but I've not consumed any Oregon craft beers for several months. Drinking the Rippin and the Buoy Czech Pilsner awakened me to how much I've missed great craft beer and I was one happy lad.

Ed arrived and I had one Rolling Rock left in the fridge and he enjoyed it. Then he left for a while to go check in on Nancy.

Don arrived, too.  He brought a six pack of ale brewed at Ellensburg's Iron Horse Brewing -- the very popular and very tasty Irish Death. 

In his trailer, Terry had steaks and some potatoes to grill. Originally, we was going to fire up his grill outside his trailer in front of Christy and Everett's house, but, instead, Christy invited him to use her grill. Before we knew it, Terry came through the gate between our yard and Christy's with a plate full of perfectly grilled rib eye and T-bone steaks and a batch of grill fried potatoes. Mine was one of the best steaks I've ever eaten.

But we weren't done. The party grew. Christy poured herself a cocktail at her house and joined the rest of us on the deck.

Not only that, Terry broke out a bottle of The Balvenie Doublewood Single Malt Scotch Whisky, aged 12 years.

With Christy giving our party a new jolt of energy and with three of us sipping this complex and uber delicious scotch, our party soared into the stratosphere of stories, laughter, good cheer, and intoxication. Terry, Don, Ed, and I graduated from the KHS Class of 72 and have been friends since before Moses, and Christy, who graduated in 1973, knows everyone we know and had no problem fitting right in with and contributing to all the yakkin' that whirled around the table.

It's kind of mind boggling.

I woke up this morning knowing I'd be driving Debbie to the airport.

I had no idea that a joyous party with great food, drink, and Kellogg camaraderie was going to break out on the back deck.

It was awesome.

An awesome spontaneous afternoon and evening of eating, drinking, and being happy!

Here's a limerick by Stu:

Does is it matter to you what you drive?
Just to get there from here and survive?
Or would you prefer a big truck,
That would never get stuck?
Or maybe dream car, so you feel alive?

Three Beautiful Things 08/28/20: Onions and More, Medieval Turmoil, Last Night BONUS A Limerick by Stu

Friday's jazz: I requested the Amazon Echo to shuffle songs by Bud Powell.

1. Ah! Billy Collins featured the towering saxophone playing of the 6'5" Dexter Gordon to open and close today's poetry broadcast. Billy Collins returned to the onion theme and read Pablo Neruda's "Ode the Onion" and then turned to his own poetry and read "In the Evening", "Theme", and "Morning".

2. I returned to The Pillars of the Earth this afternoon and enjoyed the way the story is getting more and more complicated, thanks to a bishop who enjoys power a little too much, a cathedral that needs to be rebuilt, the banishing of Tom Builder's wife from the monastery, and the promise that conflicts between and within different characters are going to continue to grow.

3. Debbie spent much of the day getting ready to fly to New York with Gibbs on Saturday morning. Christy came over and enjoyed a cocktail with Debbie and, after she went home, Debbie pulled me away from The Pillars of the Earth and I joined her on the deck for some low key yakkin'. We moved the party indoors when it got chilly, but I crapped out a little early, wanting to sleep well before heading to Spokane in the morning.

Here's a limerick by Stu:

There's truly just one at the Top.
Had a hit urging you to "Don't Stop!
With high voice and clever feet,
He "Thrilled" us all with his "Beat!"
Give applause to the true "King of Pop"!

Michael Jackson born on August 29, 1958

Friday, August 28, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 08/27/20: Prof Bebop, Deck Party, *Harold and Maude* (Again!) BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. On his broadcast today, Billy Collins put on his cool, beatnik-y shades, playing the role of Professor Bebop,  continued his praise of what he considers the finest jazz album ever (just edging out Miles Davis' Kind of Blue), The Quintet: Jazz at Massey Hall. By the end of the broadcast, he played us a cut featuring Charlie Parker playing at the speed of bebop. Sandwiched in between his mini-lectures on bebop, Billy Collins read two onion poems, "Valentine" by Carole Ann Duffy and "Onions" by William Matthews and concluded with a couple of his own poems, "Drawing Class" and "Bereft".

2. I popped into Yoke's and bought an armload of snack food and replenished our liquor supply at the liquor store in preparation for a cocktail party on our back deck, an informal farewell to Debbie. Christy, Everett, Carol, Paul, and neighbor Jane lounged with Debbie and me and we enjoyed a few drinks and munched on cheese, crackers, salami, smoked sausage, cherry tomatoes with Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, chips and salsa, pickled asparagus and green tomatoes, and black olives. Jane had to have her beloved very old giant of a German shepherd euthanized yesterday and we talked about Griz. Dr. Cook made a house call to ease Griz out of this world and release him from his suffering and we talked about how much we appreciate Dr. Cook's sensitivity and his love for the animals he works with. Many other topics swirled around the deck. It was a splendid party full of good cheer, good stories, sadness, laughter, and, above all, good will. Cool mountain air pushed out the heat of the day, making it very pleasant to be outside.

3. Chronology, thanks to the the Ouzo I was sipping out of a tiny jar, is a little fuzzy for me, but at some point I initiated a discussion with Debbie about Cat Stevens, wondering what she thought of his music and songwriting. When I got a little chilly and came into the house, I had a what the heck moment: I decided to watch Harold and Maude again. Debbie joined me. Tonight, I was especially keen on enjoying the way Cat Stevens' songs enter the movie. The timing of when they come in is impeccable. The lyrics fit perfectly with both the moments of the movie they accompany and the overall arc of the movie. The more I watch Harold and Maude, the more I marvel at its perfect structure, at how superbly it's put together. Ha! I've watched Harold and Maude three times in the last week and, in addition to having a renewed love for its construction, I am also admiring more and more the work of Vivian Pickles. She plays Harold's mother and beautifully establishes a delicate balance in her relationship with Harold: she is, depending on the moment, indifferent, outraged, and amused by Harold's suicide tableaux and, at times, especially when Harold's three different dates come to the house, seems to be in on Harold's antics, flirting with being his co-conspirator. (At least that's how I have come to see it...I know I might be all wet!)

Here's a limerick by Stu:

You're embarrassed if folks see you stumble.
When you're cut off in traffic you grumble.
But there's only one word,
For a game that's absurd.
And for golf, that word would be humble.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 08/26/20: Deep Into Keats, Jazz and Poetry, Yellow Curry BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. It's such a densely packed presentation that I'll take an hour sometime and listen to Helen Vendler's lecture on Keats' "To Autumn" again. Helen Vendler not only explores different structures at work in the poem (very illuminating), she takes us into Keats' mind, into his other odes, into the debt he owed to other poets, especially Milton and Spenser, and into her study of other writings he left behind, including drafts of "To Autumn". In her lecture, Helen Vendler illuminates certain things that Keats assumed we'd know about when reading his poem, including the topography of an English farm and the Greek and Roman myths that inform his work. Helen Vendler's knowledge is encyclopedic, her sensitivity to the many movements in Keats' ode is exquisite, her ear for echoes between Keats poems astonishing, and her understanding of how John Keats translated the workings of his mind into tropes, figures, images, and poetic structure is remarkable. (This video is not posted on YouTube, but if you enter Helen Vendler Keats To Autumn in your favorite search engine, look for a URL that begins

2. In his poetry broadcast today, Billy Collins introduced us to the legendary live 1953 concert of The Quintet at Massey Hall in Toronto. The quintet featured Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet), Charlie Parker (sax), Charles Mingus (bass), Bud Powell (piano), and Max Roach (drums). These five giants of jazz never performed together again, but fortunately this performance was recorded and the album is readily available for our listening pleasure. On the poetry front, Billy Collins read two poems by Raymond Carver ("Happiness" and "Cobweb"), two of his own poems ("And His Sextet" and "My Life"), and closed by reading Ada Limon's poem published in 2018, "A New National Anthem".

3. When Debbie made green tomato curry the other night, I made a big pot of brown rice and we had about two quarts left over. Tonight, Debbie asked me to make a Thai curry, not only so we could eat some of this rice, but because she was hungry for it. She specifically requested that the curry include potatoes.

No problem.

I heated up a two tablespoon plug of yellow curry paste. I chopped up an onion, a couple of potatoes, a zucchini, and a piece of fresh ginger and I got out a bag of green beans. I mixed coconut milk, soy sauce, fish sauce, and brown sugar in a bowl and poured it over the paste and the vegetables in the Dutch oven and stirred it up. I then added fresh basil and cilantro to the curry.

I slow cooked the curry sauce on the stove top until the onions and potatoes were soft.

It worked. We had a great dinner.

Here's a limerick by Stu. It's National Tarzan Day!

Created by Edgar back when.
Had a yell which caused fear among men.
Could use vines in the trees,
To cruise the jungle with ease.
And believed Lady Jane was a TEN!

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 08/25/20: Helen Vendler on Keats, Clams and Noodles, Bill Davie and Gene Hackman BONUS Stu's Limerick

1. I belong to a Billy Collins Facebook group. Recently, a member of that group posted a link to a video of Harvard professor and highly esteem poetry scholar Helen Vendler giving an hour long lecture on John Keats' ode, "To Autumn" -- the very same ode Billy Collins discussed last Friday in the broadcast that has disappeared from the World Wide Web -- no one knows what happened. She gave this lecture in 1980.

If Billy Collins' ten to fifteen minute discussion of "To Autumn" cracked open the door of the poem for me, Vendler's lecture blew the door wide open -- and I've only listened to about twenty minutes of it so far. I'll just say that, so far, Vendler's emphasis is on the various means Keats structures or organizes the poem and that these means of organization are inseparable from the the ideas about autumn (and beyond) that Keats explores through the arrangement of the poem's stanzas and its images.

Next up: finish listening to Helen Vendler's lecture and, on down the road, listen to other lectures available on the World Wide Web she's given -- I'm most interested in what she has to say about Wallace Stevens. 

I also listened to the Billy Collins Poetry Broadcast today. Billy further introduced us to the jazz of Art Pepper. He read some Ron Padgett poems and then read two of his own poems, both satirizing Wordsworth and others: "Lines Composed Over Three Thousand Miles from Tintern Abbey" and "Lines Written at Flying Point Beach".

2. I was locked into listening to Helen Vendler, but happily took off my headphones when Debbie told me she'd fixed us some dinner. She combined noodles, clams, diced tomatoes, garlic, fresh basil, and red pepper flakes and topped this dish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. It was an extraordinary meal.

3. Bill Davie's Tree House Concert tonight was exceptional. Bill kept telling us he felt weird, but what I experienced was straight up Bill Davie honesty as he performed his songs with verve and read several of his poems.  His voice broke from time to time as the words he wrote and the memories his poems brought up for him moved him. Jeff Steve and I talked on the phone after the concert and agreed that it was an awesome concert and that we both admired Bill's emotional authenticity and his prolific artistry.

Jeff and I finished our conversation and I joined Debbie so we could watch Gene Hackman starring in Francis Ford Coppola's brilliant movie, The Conversation. I've watched this movie now at least a dozen times and I've always zeroed in on Gene Hackman's work bringing the damaged character Harry Caul to life. Debbie was attuned to Harry Caul's character, too, and she also watched the movie as a crime story, drawing upon her vast experience watching crime shows, especially over the last 10-15 years. Debbie's questions and comments after the movie about the movie's central crime enlarged my experience with this movie and got me thinking about aspects of it that I hadn't given much thought before. I enjoyed puzzling over her questions and comments a lot -- and am ready, some day, to watch this movie again for about the 800th time!

Here's a limerick by Stu:

So, what do you know about horses?
Many colors according to sources.
Buckskins, pintos and grays,
Roans, palominos and bays.
Do they still get along? But of courses.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 08/24/20: Poor Kitty, Green Tomato Curry, Repeated Movie Viewings BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. It was a pleasure to watch today's Billy Collins Poetry Broadcast. Last Friday, in a broadcast which mysteriously disappeared from Facebook, Billy Collins presented a short seminar on the ode with special emphasis on Keats' ode, "To Autumn". Billy Collins was still in the mood for odes when today's broadcast opened and after we listened to a few minutes of Art Pepper, he read a great poem by the 18th century poet Thomas Gray entitled simply "Ode", but with the lengthy subtitle, "On the Death of a Favourite Cat Drowned in a Tub of Goldfishes" (sometimes the title and subtitle are put together to form a long title).  It's a witty poem that treats the sad drowning of a beloved cat as a  tragic moment in a Homeric epic with a solemn moral attached to it. Billy Collins followed up this poem with another ode written by Kenneth Koch (of the 20th century) called, "To My Twenties".

Billy Collins closed the broadcasts with two splendid poems from his book, Picnic, Lightning: "Moon" and "Passengers".

2. I guess I'd always thought that cooking with green tomatoes only happened when a gardener surrendered to the elements and decided that there were a bunch of tomatoes that were never going to ripen. Now, I think about green tomatoes differently. You see, Debbie harvested a bunch of green tomatoes, not out of dismay, not out of impatience, but because she wanted to prepare a batch of green tomato curry and can it.

The curry I've been preparing and we've been eating over the last several years has been exclusively Thai curry. Debbie's green tomato curry is not -- it's a Middle Eastern curry. She used curry powder (my Thai curry is made from curry paste). It's not a coconut milk curry. This curry has a sweetness underlying it, thanks to the tomatoes and the brown sugar, but it's also earthy, thanks to the cumin and curry powder. It's not a mouth burning curry (thank goodness), but it has a little heat.

In short, it's awesome. I could imagine adding small bits of boiled potatoes to this curry; I'd like to try it with sliced apples and sprinkle cinnamon on the apples. Debbie's green tomato curry opened up many possibilities. Tonight, we simply served it over brown rice and we both loved it and are very happy to have another new meal we can draw upon for dinner.

Oh! One more thing. We ate this curry without meat, but I can imagine it tasting very good with chicken, beef, shrimp, or lamb -- and, possibly other meats.

3. Before watching some news programming this evening, Debbie and I watched the last hour of
All the President's Men.

The movie finished and Debbie said, "I love that movie! I could watch it every day. I wonder what it is about certain movies that make them ones you can watch over and over and over again."

I responded that I couldn't really say what it was, but Debbie's comment moved me to start listing movies I can watch repeatedly and enjoy more and more with each viewing. In no particular order, here is a partial list of such movies for me:

The Conversation
The Godfather
Godfather II
Apocalypse Now
Breaker Morant
Harold and Maude
All the President's Men
Much Ado About Nothing (Kenneth Branagh)
Henry V (Kenneth Branagh)
The Big Lebowski
Stop Making Sense
The Last Waltz
The Band's Visit
Pieces of April
The Station Agent
Into the Wild
The Lavender Hill Mob
My Dinner with Andre
The Stunt Man
McCabe and Mrs. Miller

That's enough for now. I'm sure there are many more. Making this list off the top of my head was fun.

Here's a limerick by Stu:

Hurray for the folks who’ve retired.
Going to work is no longer required.
Can take a trip, golf or read,
Help out folks in need.
Hope they enjoy whatever’s desired.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 08/23/20: Cocoon, Family Dinner, Minimalist Soundtrack BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. I went into the cocoon of the Vizio room today and relaxed, stayed cool, napped off and on, and accomplished very little.

2.  I roused myself late in the afternoon, got cleaned up, and made a quick trip to Yoke's to pick up a couple bottles of wine for tonight's family dinner.

The dinner was a relaxing get together with superb food. Carol made a creamy pesto dip and brought homemade bread for an appetizer. Debbie brought a bowl of the green tomato pickles she recently made. Christy fixed a really delicious ham and served it with cheesy scalloped potatoes.  Debbie made a crisp, smartly dressed green salad. I had been concerned right up until dinner time that it be too hot outside to enjoy eating in Christy and Everett's back yard, but I didn't need to be worried. We arrived at around 6:00 and already the cooler North Idaho air was taking over and it was, to my relief, very comfortable.

I was thinking how wonderful this dinner was and suddenly Paul slipped into the she shed and brought out a chocolate zucchini cake that Carol had baked, not just for dinner, but to celebrate Christy and Everett's 23rd wedding anniversary. The cake was perfect, a great way to top off our meal.

3. Back home, Debbie and I fell into conversation again about All the President's Men. Suddenly, Debbie said, "Will you put it on again?" I didn't need any persuading! The movie got underway and we commented occasionally on aspects of its making we admired, including the minimalist music soundtrack. I don't think either of us thought we'd make it to the end -- and we didn't. Who knows? Maybe we'll finish watching it on Monday. Honestly, we just cannot seem to watch it enough!

Here's a limerick by Stu:

The world's goin' to heck people say.
The worst ever in history's today!
C'mon give it a rest,
Today might not be the best.
But there's no Aliens or Zombies in play!

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 08/22/20: Fire in the Cathedral, Gordon Willis, Cassidy/Sundance BONUS A Limerick by Stu

Saturday music: Cat Stevens: Tea for the Tillerman and Teaser and the Firecat

1. After a morning of blogging and getting my fantasy baseball lineups situated, I jumped back in the time machine and returned to medieval England and plunged back into The Pillars of the Earth. In my reading/listening right now, all the action centers around the fire that nearly destroyed Kingsbridge Cathedral and its aftermath.

2. We watched the last hour of All the President's Men this evening and mostly my mind was on two things. First, my admiration for the acting in this movie grows every time I watch it. Whether it's Jason Robarts or Jane Alexander or Dustin Hoffman or Robert Redford or Hal Holbrook or Robert Walden, to name a few, this movie features one solid, often brilliant, piece of character acting after another. Sally Aiken. Jack Warden. Martin Balsam. Lindsay Crouse. Solid. Solid. Solid.

Secondly, I relished Gordon Willis' cinematography, especially having just watched Godfather II. Willis was the Director of Photography in all the Godfather movies (and a string of Woody Allen's movies -- Annie Hall, Interiors, Manhattan, and others).  Willis is a genius at filming in low light environments, of darkening a room or an environment and dotting or streaking it with light, of filming faces partially in shadow and partially illuminated. His photography is helping us experience what's happening inside the characters he photographs -- as Michael Corleone's soul shrinks, as his criminality and killing drains him of vitality, Willis shoots his face in more and more shadow and the room at the boathouse grows darker and darker, as if the Michael's callousness is projected into the very physical spaces he occupies.

Characters in All the President's Men, like Deep Throat and Hugh Sloan, are caught in morally ambiguous situations. If you remember the conversations in the parking garage between Woodward and Deep Throat, you might remember how Hal Holbrook's face is mostly in shadow, often barely lit only by the cigarette he's smoking. It's stunning camera work, both in its physical effect and its deepening of how the movie characterizes Deep Throat. Likewise, when Woodward and Bernstein make their last, late night visit to Hugh Sloan, Willis conveys the conflict Sloan feels within himself to bring what he knows to light but to keep what he knows hidden, keep it in the dark, in the contrast between light and shadow on the actor Stephen Collins' face.

I'll mention one other scene. It's in Bernstein's apartment. Woodward just learned from Deep Throat that the reporters' lives might be in danger. Woodward comes into the apartment, turns Bernstein's stereo on really loud, and they communicate at Bernstein's desk by typing to each other. The picture of Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford, side by side, illuminated in a dark apartment by the desk lamps, eagerly and anxiously typing out messages to each other is arresting, and, I'd have to say, seeing it all these years after the movie was released, knowing what titanic careers Hoffman and Redford have had, it's an iconic image, not only of the characters Woodward and Bernstein, but of these two actors working side by side.

3. We decided to give Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid a try and, after about an hour, I crapped out and went to bed. I hadn't seen this movie since it came out. I watched it at the Rena Theater one Sunday afternoon with some of the guys. I loved it as a high school sophomore. As I went to bed, I wondered if possibly I had, for lack of a better phrase, outgrown this movie. The stuff I thought was so funny back in 1969-70 just didn't register tonight and the bicycle riding scene didn't seem as charming as it did 50 years ago. Maybe I was just tired and, if I return to it earlier in the day, better rested, maybe it'll work better for me. We'll see.

Here's a limerick by Stu:

Remembering back to your first.
Was it cool or a thing that you cursed?
Did it provide you some fun,
Get you home when you’re done?
Or leave memories that just are the worst? (First car)

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 08/21/20: Billy Collins Teaches Keats, Fun Cooking, Deck Talk BONUS A Limerick by Stu

I returned to some morning jazz on this Friday morning: Paul Desmond and Gerry Mulligan, Two of a Mind.

1. I missed Thursday's Billy Collins Poetry Broadcast while enjoying the garden lunch party with Kenton and Gerri over at Carol and Paul's.

So, late this morning, I watched the replay. First, I completed my homework assignment and read John Keats' ode, "To Autumn" and I listened to Ben Whishaw read the poem on YouTube.

Aside from having read quite a bit of William Wordsworth, I haven't spent much time with the Romantic poets of the late 18th and early 19th century.  Billy Collins is a scholar of the Romantic period and I was fired up to submit myself to his explication of this poem.

Billy Collins started his broadcast by reading his poem, "Vinyl". He wrote it as a contribution to an anthology honoring Gordon Lightfoot, entitled 50+ Poems to Gordon Lightfoot.

Then our Keats seminar got underway. Billy Collins explained what makes the ode a unique genre of poetry and dipped into some parts of other odes by Percy Bysshe Shelley and Kenneth Koch. Once he had constructed this framework, he read "To Autumn" and gave a short and illuminating lecture on the poem. The poem is divided into three stanzas. The first praises autumn's specific marvels: apples, hazelnuts, flowers, a bee's hive and other specific things. The second stanza personifies autumn as a woman. The third stanza turns to the music of autumn, responding to the stanza's opening question, "Where are the songs of Autumn?".

Whenever I experience some connection between how Billy Collins teaches a poem and my long ago attempts to do the same in the courses I once taught, it thrills me, makes me very happy. In today's lesson, Billy Collins gave much emphasis to the music in "To Autumn", the music created by the poem's vowels. As the pattern of vowel sounds change, so does the tone and temper of the ode. I used to love reading poems or lines of Shakespeare to my students and eliminate the consonants. To me, much of the emotional content of a poem is in the vowel sounds -- whether it's the tripping and merry sounds of short vowels or the grievous moans of long vowel sounds, especially long o's, to name a couple examples.

It's a happy coincidence that in the last couple of weeks, Billy Collins has given us short lessons on two poets whom I need the most help with: Emily Dickinson and John Keats.

The world of poetry, my enjoyment of it and my understanding, keeps expanding thanks to this broadcast.

By the way, during Friday's broadcast, Billy Collins took us for a short trip into the work of Seamus Heaney because Joe Biden had concluded his speech at the convention Thursday night with a quotation from Heaney's play, Cure at Troy: "Make hope and history rhyme."

2. Debbie asked me to fix dinner tonight, a great pleasure for me. She described what she would like and so I complied. I minced a couple of cloves of garlic, chopped up white onion, and chopped up a stalk of celery. While these ingredients were sauteing, I thawed out some ground beef, added it to the onions, celery, and garlic, cooked it all until the ground beef was browned, and then added a can of diced tomatoes and a can of pinto beans along with oregano, pepper, cumin, and red pepper flakes. While this mess simmered away, I made a pot of brown rice. We put rice in a bowl and covered the rice with the beans, tomatoes, and ground beef mixture. It turned out to be exactly what Debbie was hungry for. I loved this dinner. It was a success.

3. Debbie and I went over to Christy and Everett's after dinner to review what had been an eventful day. A family friend I've known for as long as I've had memory, Corrine Turnbow, died earlier this week and her daughter Kellie and son Bob hosted a drop in get together at Kellie's home in Wallace.

There's a common phrase being used during this pandemic: "with an abundance of caution".

If you've been reading this blog over the last few months, you've probably picked up that I am part of the "with an abundance of caution" crowd. It was out of my sense of caution that I decided to stay home today and not join the get together at Kellie's. Christy and Carol went and Christy reviewed what happened at the get together when Debbie and I came over.

The conversation moved in many other directions, and, at a certain point, for no good reason, I returned to our house.

I sat down. I'd had the Cat Stevens' songs from Harold and Maude going through my head all day long. I decided it was a message.

I watched Harold and Maude (yet) again! Debbie returned from Christy's. The movie was about 15 minutes from the end and she joined me to watch it conclude. I loved seeing it again as much (or more) than ever.

It was getting late -- close to midnight. I watched the trailer for Being There, directed by Hal Ashby, the director of Harold and Maude. I can hardly wait to watch it again.

I guess we weren't quite ready to call it a night.

Debbie said, "Let's watch All the President's Men."

Great idea! It's been about a month since we last watched it for the 900th time!

We didn't make it through the entire movie, but watching what we did was like having a good friend return for a visit after a short period of separation.

Here's a limerick by Stu:

What might be your favorite color?
Do you prefer it be bright or choose duller?
Do you wear it with pride,
Both in and outside?
Or keep it locked up in your skuller?

Friday, August 21, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 08/20/20: Kenton and Gerri in Kellogg, Vigorous Conversation, Ed's Porch BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. Kenton Bird and Gerri Sayler took a day trip up to Kenton's old Kellogg stomping grounds today. As part of their visit, they visited chez Christy for a tour of her gardens and a peek at her she shed and then hopped over to chez Carol and Paul for more garden touring. Before long, Christy, Carol, Paul, Debbie, Kenton, Gerri, and I joined in Carol and Paul's patio area for a delicious cold lunch: green salad, pasta salad, ciabatta bread, and slices of watermelon -- my favorite summer foods.

2. We launched into some wide-ranging conversation. I especially enjoyed having a chance to talk with Gerri about the expansion of my world of poetry lately, especially via the Billy Collins Poetry Broadcast and the New Yorker poetry podcast. Gerri also had questions about teaching and I can't remember what I used to do as a teacher, so I remained quiet during this discussion and enjoyed all that Debbie and Christy had to say -- and enjoyed how much Gerri appreciated their ideas and advice. Kenton and I talked a bit about Episcopalian matters in Moscow. Kenton is St. Mark's Senior Warden. He also is part of a group called Theology on Tap and I enjoyed hearing about how they've been meeting virtually and have been discussing Jim Wallis' book, America's Original Sin. After lunch, Kenton and Gerri headed to the Trail of the CdA's and rode their bicycles on a stretch of the trail from Cataldo to Dudley.

3. I'd have thought that after that invigorating lunch discussion, I'd be ready to hunker down in the Vizio room and be done with conversation for the day.

But, no!

Ed called me. He invited me out to Kingston for some Brown Sugar Bourbon and to shoot the breeze for a while. I arrived around six o'clock. We talked about all sorts of things for a couple of hours. I cut myself off of the bourbon after a couple of drinks and was in good shape to drive back to Kellogg. For no particular reason, I drove back to Kellogg on the "old road"; I saw a little bit of Pinehurst, drove through Smelterville, and came into Kellogg on McKinley Ave and cruised the gut, checking out how things looked uptown.

I ended my outing by doing something I only do about twice a year: I went to McDonald's and ordered a quarter pounder with no cheese and a large order of fries. Accompanied by one of those mini Coca Colas we keep on hand at home, the burger and those salty fries put a nice exclamation point on the day's activities before Debbie and I joined forces in the living room and watched some news programming before I hit the sack.

Here's a limerick by Stu:

Think of how hot it has been.
Then go back to your travels with kin.
In a wagon that’s packed,
No belts or air were a fact.
If you could, would you do THAT again?

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 08/19/20: Medieval Mayhem, Corleone Saga, L-I-V-E Live! BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. Billy Collins took the day off today. I spent nearly the whole day with ear buds jacked into my cell phone and listened to The Pillars of the Earth and its many acts of violence and depravity and the efforts of Tom Builder's family to survive, not only the mayhem, but their poverty and starvation.

2.  When the new programming we watched this evening ended, out of the blue, I turned on Godfather II. Debbie and I picked it up about an hour from the end and marveled at its superb movie making.

3. Even though by now it was about 11:15 or 11:30, I was enjoying the way the evening was cooling down and didn't feel a strong urge to go to bed.

In one of our Zoom talks a while back, Bill, Diane, Colette, and I reminisced joyfully about all the times we've seen the movie Harold and Maude. I know at one point, in about 1985, back when I used to keep track of such things, I'd seen this movie 30-40 times. I had it recorded on videotape, I used to have get togethers at my apartments in Spokane and Eugene to watch it with others, and I used to show it to students in a course I taught at Whitworth called The Family in American Drama.

When I flipped on Harold and Maude this morning, it had been several years since I'd seen it and I wondered how it would look to me 35-40 years after I was so in love with it as a youngster in my late 20s and early 30s.

To my delight, the movie was as fresh, funny, moving, odd, invigorating, and entertaining as ever.

Several times, both while watching Godfather II and Harold and Maude I just found it difficult to wrap my head around the fact that both movies are nearly fifty years old.

Maybe it's because I'm so familiar with them and can't see them as a person living in 2020, but both movies impressed me as never seeming old, both seemed as contemporary and alive to this moment in time has any recently made movie I've seen.

And, lastly, I'll just say that watching Harold and Maude brought back a storehouse of memories I thoroughly enjoyed. It was a movie around which I experienced countless times of fellowship and enjoyment with a wide variety of people over the years and those many times of togetherness played out in my mind tonight right alongside the movie.

It's National Lemonade Day and Stu pays tribute in a limerick:

One could let the world know with a bellow
Or could sip on a porch and stay mellow.
Sold by kids in a stand,
Never salty nor bland.
Today's for that drink that is yellow.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 08/19/20: My Enlarging World, Audiobook Pleasure, Tree House Concert BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. While writing on Monday, I was so caught up writing about Naya singing and my latest kidney news, I forgot to mention that reliable source of pleasure I so look forward to every weekday afternoon. I'll keep it short. On both Monday and today, I tuned into the Billy Collins Poetry Broadcast. Over the last two days, he read poems by Thomas Lux, Ron Koertge, Gerald Dawes, William Matthews as well as poems from his volume, Picnic, Lightning.  If the need many of us, including Billy Collins, have to stay home much of the time ever comes to an end, I hope Billy Collins will continue to broadcast these twenty to thirty minute weekday plunges into poetry. For me, their value, their beauty ought not to be attached to pandemic relief. Hearing new poetry, entering back into poems I already am familiar with, having my world grow larger with each listening, and enjoying the deft, casual intelligence and wry humor of Billy Collins enlarges my mind, heart, and soul, whether I am confining myself to quarters or not.

2. I think it's going to take me several weeks to finish reading Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth. I might work through it more briskly if I weren't listening to John Lee read it to me. But, I've decided a couple of things. First, I'm going to devote many hours to this story. Second, I'm not going to increase, using the audible controls, the speed of John Lee's reading. I'm going to continue to move leisurely through this book's stories of political intrigue in the medieval church and the realm of England and the struggles imposed on the characters by the social and economic stratification of the world they occupy.

3. I poured one of those little bottles, like are served on airplane flights, of Jameson's Caskmates IPA Edition Irish Whiskey into a small glass and sipped it tonight while enjoying another of Bill Davie's Tuesday evening Tree House Concerts. As always, Bill played and sang superbly, performing songs he's composed recently as well as ones that he wrote 30-35 years ago. These older songs prompt me to think back to the 1990s when Bill and I resumed contact with one another and I saw him quite often as he used to swing through Eugene and other places in western Oregon to perform and he often stayed at my house and twice performed house concerts in my Eugene home. So, while I very much enjoy being in the present moment, listening to Bill perform, some of my best memories of living in Eugene and spending time with friends centered around Bill's performances. In addition, Bill and I had fun doing other stuff in Eugene -- going to a play, going out to movies, walking around town, seeing mutual friends in Eugene, meeting up in Deadwood, and yakkin' about all kinds of things.

Tonight, I enjoyed the poems Bill read, about five of his own and about five by Jim Dodge.  I also enjoyed every song Bill performed. Because Sunday was the anniversary of Mom's passing away and of his wife's Diane's father passing away, several years earlier, he sang two moving songs in their memory, to honor them: "Raise Your Heart" and "Father to Father".  They were perfect. He ended the concert with one of my favorite of Bill's covers: Ian Anderson/Jethro Tull's song, "Life Is a Long Song".

Here's a limerick by Stu:

It’s not that we have to agree.
Watch same things both online and TV.
But, it appears now the news,
Gives facts AND their views.
So, you’ll know just how it should be.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 08/17/20: Inactive Again, Blood Draw Walk, Star Spangled Banner BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. As I expected I would this week, today Sheri called. She's a transplant nurse coordinator and, back in 2018, the program assigned her my case. She called to follow up on my decision Sunday to decline transplant surgery at this time. Utmost on her mind, I'd say, was whether I would, more than likely, decline future offers. If I would, she recommended I return to being listed as inactive (there's no penalty for this - I continue to accrue time and I keep my place on the transplant list). I understood her concern thoroughly. Until I'm ready to accept a kidney, she doesn't want to see nurse coordinators like herself spending time tracking me down with an offer only to be turned down. I agreed with her. I am now on the inactive list -- where I've been before.

So here's my simple plan. I see Dr. Bieber, my nephrologist, on Sept. 16th when I'll have blood work done. I'll find out then if my condition is still stable. I won't know much for certain until then (no problem), but I can say that I'm not experiencing any symptoms of kidney disease: no water retention, no metallic taste in my mouth, no fatigue, none of the signs I've been told to look for. My blood pressure was solid today. I'm eating a mostly vegetarian diet. I'm taking pretty good care of myself.  I will consult with Dr. Bieber about staying on the inactive list. If he recommends that I accept the next offer, should it come, I'll ask Sheri to activate my listing again.

I am due for my annual kidney listing exam at Sacred Heart in November. Sheri suggested that I could put this off, but I told her I want to meet these appointments. I don't know if I made it as clear to Sheri as I feel it, but I enjoy these all day exams and the consultations that follow. I enjoy talking with the professionals assigned to my case: the social worker, financial person, dietician, the transplant surgeon, the transplant program nephrologists, and the others. If I am still on the inactive list in November, I will welcome further consultation with these people to further determine if they think what I'm doing is wise.

Believe me, when I talk with these people, I'm all ears. I'm not stubborn. My decision to not have transplant surgery right now has to do with the fact that I am getting along very well with my limited kidney function. I'm also concerned with the continued growth of Covid-19 cases in this area where I live and the number of people who don't protect others by covering their faces or keeping distance from one another.  My response to living where a number of people do not protect others is rational and matter of fact. It's not fearful, not angry, not judgmental, not self-righteous. I lie low. I spend as little time as possible in places (like the grocery store) where I know people aren't protecting each other. If I had transplant surgery, and if Covid cases were still occurring, my rational vigilance would increase. Not my fear. I would continue to make a rational assessment of the world I live in and how to best live in it. It does no good to wish things were different or to complain. I have to deal with things as they are.

2. Sheri called in the afternoon. This morning, I didn't know that I would be going on the inactive list, so I did what I do once every month when I'm on the active list. I walked to the Shoshone Medical Center for a blood draw to be sent to the lab in Spokane. When I finished, I walked over to the trail leading to the high school and walked it to the school and then back home again.

3. If you watched the National Anthem being sung at the National Democratic Convention today, you might remember the first voice you heard and the first face you saw. Her name is Naya. Naya's mother is Josh's sister. Josh is our daughter Adrienne's husband. She has a solo moment again toward the end of the video. If you didn't hear this performance of the Star Spangled Banner, or if you'd like to hear it again, now that you know a little more about Naya, click here to enjoy it (I hope it stays online for a long time!). (Oh! And, if you click on this link, hang in there for about 30 seconds while an ad plays...) 

Today is National Bad Poetry Day. Here is Stu's limerick commemorating this occasion:

Today celebrates those who can’t.
Write out lines that are witty.
Or maybe with meaning,
How about a rhyme?
Seems that their poems just STINK!

Monday, August 17, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 08/16/20: Declining a Kidney, Superb ZOOM Talk, Remembering Mom BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. Yesterday, here on my blog, I wrote about my plans if I were offered a kidney. I've been listed since 2015 and, up to this point, no offers. That changed this afternoon. A transplant coordinator from Sacred Heart called and told me my name had come up and she offered me an organ.

I declined.

My decision was in keeping with the last conversation I had with my nephrologist. We agreed that as long as my health is so stable and I am feeling so good, that I should feel free to turn down an organ, if offered. My concern, in part, had to do with exchanging how good I'm feeling for the rigors of the transplant surgery. He agreed. I also have a second rational concern. Since the surgery would mean all but eliminating my immune system (so that it won't reject a new organ) and since the coronavirus continues to spread, we never really know who might have the virus, and, since, by and large, people are inconsistent about protecting one another, I am hoping I can wait to have this surgery until such time, if it comes, that there is more widespread immunity. I might not, in the long run, have that luxury, but I decided that today I did have the luxury of saying "no" to the hospital's offer.

2. When the call came in, I was involved in a Zoom call with Bill and Diane;  Val had just signed off and had been with us for the previous two hours. We all were students, in our youth, at Christian colleges/universities (Diane went to PLU, the rest of us to Whitworth). We have a lot on our minds about how we were raised as Christians and about our experiences at Whitworth and PLU.  Today, because she's reading works by Elaine Pagels, Diane wondered how each of us, having graduated from college decades ago, are, in our adulthood, thinking about some of the central tenets we were taught growing up: the fall from grace in the Garden of Eden, the existence of Satan, the concept of original sin, and our experiences over the years coming to grips with the person and teachings of Jesus. We all had a lot to say. Diane added an historical and political dimension to our discussion because Elaine Pagels is a religious historian. Diane also talked about her own experience with the church and so did Bill, Val, and I, with emphasis on what we've come to see as having lasting value and what we haven't.  It was a superb conversation, full of intelligence, deep feeling, close listening, and, above all, for me, enjoyment.

3. Today marked the third anniversary of Mom's death. Lately, I've been listening to and reading writers like Natasha Tretheway, Charles Wright, Maxine Scates, and others investigate the complicated ways we all experience loss and how we grieve. I often hear Mom's voice as I make my way through each day. More often than not, she is telling me "what I'd better do". When I finished my conversation with the woman from Sacred Heart, I sat down and I could hear Mom say, "Now, Bill, you better have that surgery done". In deciding not to accept the kidney, I had to have a conversation within myself with Mom as well as review the discussions I've had with my doctors and with Debbie. Christy posted on Facebook that she could hear Mom telling her why her hosta leaves had gone brown, why her hydrangea isn't blooming, and how to pinch her petunias. I read what Christy wrote and I could hear Mom say, "Now, Christy, you'd better" as a prelude to her gardening advice.

I was happy to see pictures on Facebook today of Carol and Christy getting together this morning to survey Carol's gardens and to raise a toast to Mom. Mostly, today, I thought about how Christy, Carol, Debbie, Paul, Everett, Zoe, and others, and I were at Mom's side for most of the hours she was awake while at the nursing home. Whether it was holding her hand, singing songs for her, taking her out in the gardens in her wheelchair, combing her hair, talking about things, encouraging her to eat, or being with her as she slept, we all devoted ourselves to keeping Mom company, and not letting her be alone during the day. It's this way that we all cooperated with each other, wrote to each other what we experienced when we were with Mom, gave each other time away when needed, and did all we could to make Mom's last months and weeks as comfortable as possible that I think about most often and remember most vividly.

Here's a limerick by Stu:

We're not going to talk about heat.
Instead maybe plan a retreat.
With ocean, lake or a pool,
River also sounds cool.
Add your personal touch to complete.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 08/15/20: Debbie to NY, More Natasha Trethewey, The Johnniez BONUS A Limerick by Stu

Saturday jazz: I introduced myself to sax player Gerry Mulligan.

1. Ever since Debbie returned to Kellogg in March, we have known that at some point she would probably go back to New York again to help Adrienne and Josh with their children. Both parents are working and Jack's school starts soon and is not open five days a week.  Ellie needs care during the day. Josh's sister and mother have been great about helping out and now the time has arrived for Debbie to live with Adrienne, Josh, Jack, and Ellie again for an undetermined amount of time.

Debbie and Gibbs will fly to New York in two weeks.

Just for the record, I am 100% in support of Debbie returning to New York.

We really don't have much to work out regarding Debbie leaving Kellogg. Debbie will be leaving her gardening projects behind, but she'll give me instructions regarding how I can complete those projects and harvest the herbs, tomatoes, and squash. I will most likely remain on the active kidney transplant list while she's away, but unless I experience a drastic change in my condition, if I am offered an organ, I'll turn it down, both because my condition is stable and because a transplant would leave me much more vulnerable to all infections, including the coronavirus. As with all things pandemic related, I'm making decisions based on rationality, not fear, and, to me, it would be a rational move, if I can, to delay such a surgery. My hope is that the I don't have to make this decision soon, especially while Debbie is gone.

2. Having listened to the Fresh Air Natasha Trethewey interview on Friday, today I went to the archives of The New Yorker  poetry podcast and listened to the June 2019 episode featuring Natasha Trethewey.

The podcast opened with Natasha Trethewey reading a poem by Charles Wright, "Toadstools". In it, Wright draws a surprising and illuminating connection between forest toadstools and grief. Natasha Trethewey took us listeners deep into the poem, helping us see this startling connection and the poem's stirring insight into Charles Wright's revelations about the nature of grief and how his insights emerge from his meditation upon toadstools. The poem first appeared in The New Yorker on May 3, 2010. The poem so moved Natasha Trethewey that she cut it out of the magazine and pinned it to the wall above her desk. I loved listening to her bear witness to the power of this poem and to her sensitive ways of understanding the complicated experience of grief.

Natasha Trethewey then read her poem, "Repentance". When a poet writes a poem that is launched by exploring the details of a painting, it's called an ekphrastic poem. "Repentance" opens with a description of Vermeer's painting "Maid Asleep". It then moves to a scene from Natasha Trethewey's life involving a quarrel she had with her intoxicated father. As she talked about her poem, she and host Kevin Young discussed the wounds of racism in ways I cannot sufficiently summarize.

Suffice it to say that I have learned more about Natasha Trethewey's poetry and its many ways of working out the complexities of grief, violence, racism, and other dimensions of the American experience, both in history and in the present, both through characters of her creation and through her own painful experiences -- including the murder of her mother. After listening to the podcast, I went online and found two more poems of hers that she and Kevin Young discussed and I found them riveting, especially after listening to this podcast: "Imperatives for Carrying on in the Aftermath" and "Articulation". "Articulation" is another ekphrastic poem that opens with her description of Miguel Cabrera's portrait of St. Gertrude.

3. So much seriousness on my mind -- Debbie leaving soon, poetry, and reading the review in the latest issue of The New Yorker of Isabel Wilkerson's new book, Caste.

I seek out serious things, enjoy learning more, digging into it all; all the seriousness gets counterbalanced a bit by my daily experience following the fortunes of my fantasy baseball teams.

At the end of the day on Saturday, my head to head team, the Kellogg Johnniez trailed Gaylord's YellaDawgs by 13 points. I'm not hopeful about making up those 13 points on Sunday. One of the Johnniez's best hitters, DJ LeMahieu went on the injured list and another great hitter on the Johnniez, Javier Baez, is mired in a slump and won't play on Sunday. So, I got out the duct tape and bailing wire and patched together the best lineup I could and would consider it a stunning upset if the Kellogg Jonniez make up those 13 points and end up triumphant over the formidable YellaDawgs.

The Johnniez will have a new head to head opponent on Monday.

Here's a limerick by Stu:

It's fun to go out and catch "fishies"!
Anything to avoid doing "dishies"!
Might choose golfing or reading,
Or building cars to go speeding?
What would YOU do, if you got your "wishies"?

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 08/14/20: Walking with Natasha Tretheway, Prof. Billy Collins Again, Intro to Cointreau BONUS A Limerick by Stu

Friday's jazz featured Art Blakey and, later in the day, the cool sounds of Art Pepper. In the early evening, I listened to Paul Simon's 1983 album, Hearts and Bones and relived some pleasures I hadn't experienced for several years.

1. Natasha Trethewey served as the United States Poet Laureate from 2012-14. Today, as I prepared to walk to the high school and back, I discovered that Terry Gross interviewed Natasha Tretheway on Fresh Air a couple of weeks ago and so, as I walked, I listened to them talk about Tretheway's newly published memoir, Memorial Drive. Natasha Tretheway's stepfather murdered her mother in 1985. Natasha Trethewey was nineteen years old. After many years of trying to forget what happened, she has now written this book about the murder and the interview was harrowing to listen to, even as Natasha Tretheway answered Terry Gross's questions with elegance and great dignity.

By the way, one of the episodes of The New Yorker  poetry podcast features Natasha Tretheway. Before too long, I will listen to her read two poems and have conversation with the host, Kevin Young.

2. On Thursday, Billy Collins promised that he would read and discuss, on Friday, a couple of poems by Emily Dickinson.

Wow! Did he ever!

First he read and discussed, "The brain is wider than the sky", followed by "Some keep the Sabbath going to Church". Billy Collins explained the poetic structure Emily Dickinson consistently employed, praised her deft use of language, both concrete and abstract, and dove into her what these two poems reveal about the workings of Emily Dickinson's independent and brilliant ways of thinking, both theologically and philosophically.

I sat here with Billy Collins talking live on my lap, broadcast over the internet on my modest Samsung tablet and marveled not only at his enthusiasm for Emily Dickinson's poetry, but at how, in twenty minutes, in the most matter of fact, calm, and accessible way, he taught me more about Emily Dickinson than I had really ever understood in my entire life. As Billy Collins told us, her poems require a little work. Her poems are unique. They are not a part of any tradition. She created her own poetics in a voice, with syntax, and with an economy that, to me, is both unprecedented and inimitable.

Next move? Buy the Modern Library Classic edition of The Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson with its introduction written by Billy Collins and dive into the even deeper end of the pool.

Oh! One other thing. Billy Collins ended the broadcast with a reading of his poem, "Design".

3. While Liz and Debbie enjoyed an hour of knitting and yakking on the back deck, I slipped over to the liquor store to replenish our supply of bourbon. We were also nearly out of triple sec. I began mixing cocktails with triple sec back in November and have, without giving it much thought, been buying the very inexpensive Arrow brand triple sec. It's worked fine. But, today I decided that I'd shell out an extra twenty bucks and buy a fifth of orange liqueur from a higher shelf. I brought home a fifth of Cointreau.

Back home, I poured myself a tiny bit in a shot glass. The taste of a fresh orange burst on my tongue. Immediately, I comprehended the superiority of this triple sec over the other I'd been buying and could hardly wait for Debbie to try it.

Debbie's response? "Oh no! This is baaaad!" -- which, of course, meant it's awesome.

Debbie soon learned that her current favorite cocktail, a blend of Maker's Mark, triple sec, fresh squeezed lemon juice, and orange bitters is now an even more enjoyable drink with Cointreau. I'm thinking it might be time, before too long, to buy some tequila and make a margarita and see what tasty impact this Cointreau will have.

When we went next door to visit with Christy and Everett, I poured myself a couple ounces of Ouzo. Debbie took over her sidecar like cocktail and we had a great time recapping the week's activities and news until the night air became cold enough that we decided to go back into our respective homes.

Here's a limerick by Stu:

There’s things you must do that are shoulds.
Other stuff you let slide that are coulds.
So, to choose what you might do,
And bring the world into view.
It’s tough to beat time in the woods.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 08/13/20: Prof. Collins, If Only I Had. . , Teaching Styles BONUS: A Limerick by Stu

Thursday jazz: more of the stellar sounds of Dexter Gordon.

1. Over at the Billy Collins Poetry Broadcast today, Billy Collins gave his persona as a poet a rest for most of the half hour. Billy Collins is an Emeritus Distinguished Professor of English at the City University of New York's Lehman College. Today he acted as our professor and talked about his high regard for Emily Dickinson, assuring us that although he wrote a poem about undressing her, she is much more to him than the fanciful subject of a single fanciful, playful fantasy. To assure us of his Emily Dickinson cred, he calmly and reverently read from an introduction he wrote for the Modern Library Classic's edition of The Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson and he told us about lectures he has given about her poetry around the world, including a talk in Rome when he was introduced to the audience by an Italian astronaut speaking live from the International Space Station, with the blue marble of earth visible over the astronaut's shoulder. Billy Collins was blown away by the introduction, but gathered himself and delivered his lecture.

Toward the end of the half hour, he read one poem from his book, The Art of Drowning, "Philosophy".  He introduced it calmly, professorially with a brief tutorial on philosophy and the genre of topographical poetry.

For Friday, August 14, Billy Collins' plan is to look closely at two Emily Dickinson poems. I look forward to both his reading of the poems and his explications.

2. Until today, my head to head team, the Kellogg Johnniez, has performed pretty well in one of the fantasy baseball leagues I participate in. Today, though, I could have benched Chris Paddack. He is on my team, a pitcher for the Padres, and was facing the Dodgers tonight. I didn't bench him, though. He got routed and racked up a lot of negative points, costing me dearly in my match this week against Gaylord's YellaDawgs. The Johnniez are not insurmountably behind going into the weekend, but the odds of the Johnniez winning this week's matchup are not very good. No problem. I'm having a blast!

3. Having Billy Collins turn his poetry broadcast into a 20 minute seminar on Emily Dickinson got me thinking about the contrast between Billy Collins' relaxed, low key, confident, and wry style of teaching and presenting himself in these broadcasts and how I used to do things in the classroom.  As a teacher, I was rarely relaxed (I was animated, too much nervous energy), rarely low key, was always fueled by varying levels of lack of confidence, and I don't think I was particularly wry. I am so much quieter now than when I was younger. I'm much less pumped up, much less stoked by adrenaline. I wonder, from time to time, if I were to return to the classroom (very unlikely), would I be able to pattern myself a bit after Billy Collins and settle down, work with my students with a calmer manner, or was I just cut out to be demonstrative and animated as a teacher? Today, I thought, for a little while, that it would be fun to find out -- until I realized how out of practice I am and how odd it feels to even think of myself as having been a teacher.

So I dropped that subject.

Today is National Kool-Aid Day and Stu marks the occasion in this limerick:

How much of this stuff didja drink?
Mixed with sugar, pitcher filled in the sink.
Lime, Grape or Strawberry,
Lemonade or Black Cherry?
Glass of that and you’d feel in the “pink”!

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 08/12/20: A Ride with Ed, As Sexy As It Gets, Enjoying my Mind BONUS A Limerick by Stu

Wednesday's jazz: I instructed Alexa to shuffle music by Dexter Gordon. And, so she did.

1. I might not have the details perfectly in order as I write the following, but I'll be in the ball park.

Near the road from Wallace to Burke and near another road from Wallace that climbs Dobson Pass, there are two repositories -- I know the one near Burke is under construction and I'm not sure if the other one is still being built or if it's completed. As part of the clean up of the Silver Valley's Coeur d'Alene River basin, mine waste and other materials from numerous worked out mining sites are being transported to one of these two huge repositories cut out of the hillside so that the waste material can be located in one these areas. Later these repositories will be capped. (If anyone reading this would like to help me with ways to explain this better, please let me know.)

This morning, around 9:30, Ed called me and wondered if I'd like to go on a ride to see the Nine Mile repository and then crawl in his pickup on up to Sunset (a.k.a. Grouse) Peak where the county's emergency service cell towers sit, enjoy the view, and experience some of the nearly impassible roads that Ed used have to navigate when he delivered gravel to the cell towers and performed other driving jobs in the general vicinity of East and West Nine Mile Creek.

I happily accepted Ed's offer and we spent the rest of the morning not only looking, from across a draw, at the work going on at the Nine Mile repository, but creeping up a rocky and rutty narrow road (a.k. a. "goat trail") up to the cell towers where we had a spectacular view of the rugged terrain of our county and beyond.

It was a fascinating and enlightening ride. Ed introduced me to work activity and other aspects of life in Shoshone County that I'd never thought about before and took me on roads I had little way of knowing even existed.

2. Back home, I tuned in to today's Billy Collins poetry broadcast. He opened with a George Bilgere poem that is, for those of us who are a little fussy about language use, a very funny poem -- it's a straightforward, accessible fantasy in which Bilgere imagines a father's four-year-old son in possession of an adult's language and, even in his precociousness, the boy uses a word that so offends the father that he threatens his son with serious consequences if he ever uses that word again.

Want to read this short poem? Just scroll down a ways, past Stu's limerick, and you'll find it.

Billy Collins riffed for a while on Keats and Shelly as a way of preparing to read Galway Kinnell's delightful poem, "Oatmeal", in which he imagines the speaker of his poem being joined for conversation by John Keats as he enjoys his morning oatmeal while Keats eats spoonfuls of porridge. Billy Collins read this poem because years ago it moved him to write a poem of his own describing an imagined encounter with a poet of the past. In "Taking Off Emily Dickinson's Clothes", the speaker of Billy Collins' poem doesn't share a bowl of either Ralston Wheat Cereal or Maypo with Emily Dickinson -- no, the speaker slowly, button by button, hook by hook, clip by clip, strap by strap undresses the Belle of Amherst as the poem reaches, inhalation by inhalation and sigh by sigh, its long desired climax.   

Billy Collins closed his broadcast with his poem, "Pinup", by taking us into a car mechanic's shop where the poem's speaker is entranced by the calendar on the wall where he sees the drawing of March's fantasy model unable to be decorous while walking her dog, leash in hand, while with the other hand she holds her hat to her head, and her short skirt billows up around her waist.

Billy Collins closed with a deadpan quip: "That's about as sexy as it gets around the Billy Collins Poetry Broadcast." 

3. Later, after I let the Billy Collins broadcast sink in, I returned to the episode of the New Yorker podcast I listened to while falling asleep last night and, fully awake, listened to Peter Balakian and Kevin Young's discussion of Theodore Roethke's "In a Dark Time" followed by their exploration of Balakian's superb still life poem, "Eggplant".

After dinner, I was poking around on the World Wide Web and I discovered a podcast called Poem Talk. It's produced at the the Univ. of Pennsylvania, hosted by Al Filreis. (I'd never heard of him.) Each episode features Filreis and three other intellectuals spending about an hour discussing a single poem in the most intellectual ways imaginable, at least for me. In the episode I listened to, the four discussed Robert Frost's famous "Mending Wall".  I could not, even if I were to go back to graduate school and seep myself for a hundred years in all the critical theory I missed the first time around, keep up in a conversation with Filreis and his guests. I enjoyed listening to them. I did my best to take in what they were saying, was stimulated by their ruminations, but couldn't tell you in any cogent way what they had to say.

It's no problem.

I have my own ways of diving into poetry. These ways were appropriate for teaching introductory courses to undergraduates. But, for some reason, the ways of thinking, reading, writing, and speaking articulated by Filreis and his guests,  just doesn't jive with how my mind works, for better or for worse, and helps explain why I spent my invigorating and most enjoyable career teaching at Lane Community College, not at a university or college that would have required me to have completed my doctoral degree and be conversant with the kind of critical theoretical concepts and language these thinkers engaged in.

When I was younger, had I listened to this podcast, I would have felt a combination of inferiority and resentment. I felt neither tonight. My mind cannot be what it isn't and right now, especially as I've spent so much time exercising my mind as I've been mostly staying home since March, I enjoy how my mind works. Mostly, this enjoyment is private, but last night I talked with Debbie about my mind's limitations and all that I've been enjoying reading, watching, and listening to over the last 4-5 months here at home. I'm also grateful for being able to talk about poetry and movies and books with Diane, Bill, Colette, Bridgit, and Val, and listen to what they're thinking, when we have our ZOOM chats every other Sunday. Lastly, I enjoy the interactions I have with friends growing out of things I write here -- I've loved the email exchanges I've had about poetry and other such things with Dan, Deborah, MaryKay, Bill,Kathleen, and others.

I'm grateful that all of us can stimulate and invigorate each other as people who are intelligent in a general way, who exchange our insights with language that is familiar to us. In other words, I might once have dreamed of entering the intellectual stratosphere, of being as intellectually talented and equipped as others I taught with, took courses from, and engaged through reading. Instead, I steered the life of my mind in other directions, down paths more in keeping with how my mind works, and it's been deeply gratifying.  I have bade feeling inferior so long and said goodbye to the resentments of my younger days.

Here's a limerick by Stu:

Let us travel down memory lane.
Castor Oil is hard to explain.
Black and White on TV,
Just three channels to see.
And no computers meant only your brain.

Father’s Day

My four-year-old son walked up to me
in his pajamas and said, “Father,
I would like to personally thank you
for bringing me into this world, a world which,
despite its moments of darkness and confusion,
is a place of immense wonder, where beauty
and joy are just around the corner. Being alive
has been extremely impactful for me.”

And I looked at him and said, “Son,
if I ever hear you say ‘impactful’ again
in any context whatsoever,
you can kiss your late night chocolate milk
and tater tots goodbye.”

Which is called “tough love”.

George Bilgere

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 08/11/20: Audible, Great Poetry Day, Heroic Bill Davie BONUS A Limerick by Stu

Tuesday jazz: more KEWU.

1. A while back, Debbie started a subscription to Until today, I hadn't done anything with this subscription, but decided that I might enjoy listening to John Lee read The Pillars of the Earth while I read along. I was right. Twice today, once in the afternoon and again before I went to sleep tonight, I read and listened. It slows me down a bit. That's good. It's also fun and interesting to hear the different voices John Lee created for the different characters in the book.

2. I enjoyed a couple of poetry experiences today. I tuned into the Billy Collins broadcast at 2:30 (it's available on his Billy Collins Facebook page). He began by reading a slightly revised version of a new poem he read on Monday, "Beauty".  After that, Billy Collins talked about how sometimes he writes a poem that has traces of another poet's work inside his own. He calls these "shadow poems". He read a terrific dancing naked carpe diem poem by William Carlos William, "Danse Russe" and followed it with his poem, "Center" and explained how the shadow of "Danse Russe" is present in "Center".  No doubt about it: the Williams poem was present. He closed his broadcast with two more of his poems, "Medium" and "Driving Myself to a Poetry Reading".

Around 11:30 or so tonight, I was having trouble falling asleep. I had fixed a yellow curry with chickpeas, diced tomatoes, and white onions served over white rice, but it was almost 8:30 before I dined and I think a mild protest (a peaceful protest; no riots) was taking place inside me.

Using my Podbean app, I accessed the list of available poetry podcast from The New Yorker. A while back, a poet I'm unfamiliar with, Peter Balakian, was Kevin Young's guest and he read Theodore Roethke's "In a Dark Time", discussed it with Kevin Young, and then read and discussed his poem, "Eggplant". The podcast relaxed me. I fell into a state of simultaneous waking and dreaming, awake enough to relish Peter Balakian's reading of "In a Dark Time", but I drifted in and out of the discussion of the poem.

I'm going to digress for a second. I have loved Theodore Roethke's poetry for just shy of fifty years, but most of my reading of his poetry has been on my own. A few of his poems were a part of the syllabus of two or three courses I took at NIC and Whitworth, but I've never studied his poetry in any detail under expert instruction.

I've mentioned before that listening to these podcasts from The New Yorker is a welcome intensely cerebral undertaking and, before I drifted to sleep, my body rippled with excitement as Peter Balakian and Kevin Young discussed Roethke's overall contributions to poetry of the USA and as they dove deeper than I had ever been into "In a Dark Time". I didn't fall asleep out of boredom, but because of contentment. I will go back and listen to this discussion again during the day, while awake, and, then, I will listen to Peter Balakian read his own poem, "Eggplant" (how I have I missed this poem?) and to the ensuing discussion. Peter Balakian is Armenian and my sense from what little I heard as he read the poem and talked about it is that the poem's subject is a means by which Balakian explores a fragment of his heritage. If I'm wrong, I'll correct myself in a future blog post.

3. Bill Davie was heroic tonight as he pushed himself through fatigue and pain to perform an hour of masterful songs and as he, once again, read from his own poetry. Bill has MS and suggested from the beginning that because the summer months are the most painful for him, he wasn't sure he'd be able to perform and read for an hour. But he did and he did so brilliantly. It was a great night to be in the company of longtime Whitworth friends. Bridgit, Colette, Val, and Jeff Steve all were in attendance and, during certain songs, I let myself believe that we were back at the HUB on campus or downtown at Henny's, Phil Eaton's former restaurant across from the Opera House, listening to Bill play in the heydays of all of our younger days.

Here's a limerick by Stu:

If you think you know what’s to come.
You’ve planned it all out and then some.
But like baking a pie,
Things can just go awry.
What you pull out may not be a plum!

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 08/10/20: Ah! Yes! George Bilgere!, The Future, Popcorn and a Nightcap BONUS A Limerick by Stu

Lately, I've been tuning into KEWU, the jazz station at Eastern Washington University.

1. Let's face it. Since I retired as an English instructor and until Bill Davie started reading poems during his Tuesday evening concerts and until I started watching the Billy Collins broadcast last month, I'd allowed many poets and their work to slip out of my mind. Today, after he read his own short unpublished poem, "Beauty" and read a few epigrammatic morsels from Don Paterson's The Book of Shadows, Billy Collins read two poems by George Bilgere's collection The Blood Pages.

When I taught poetry, it discouraged me when students talked about deciphering poems, as if their task were to translate poems out of a coded, secret language into everyday speech. I also chuckled to myself when students said this, imagining students ordering decoder rings (could those be ordered from the back of breakfast cereal boxes?) and using them to understand the readings I assigned. 

So, I did my level best to assign poets like Mary Oliver, Naomi Shahib Nye, Ai, James Wright, Billy Collins and many others whom I considered accessible poets, poets who did not, to paraphrase Alice McDermott, leave anyone behind.

Today, Billy Collins read two poems by George Bilgere, whose work had slipped my mind, even though he writes an epitome of the kind of accessible poetry I most enjoy, often exploring life's common details and often reflecting back on a childhood of tricycles, pancakes, brokenness, and the fierce devotion of a single mother raising two daughters and a son on her own.

If you'd like to read my favorite George Bilgere poem, scroll down past Stu's limerick and you'll find "The Table".

Today Billy Collins introduced me to a couple of superb George Bilgere poems, "The Forge" and "Pancake Dilemma".

He ended the broadcast with two of his own poems, "The End of the World" and "The Dead". He signed off as we listened to a cut from Dexter Gordon and his office lights dimmed. This closing piece was a perfect complement to the Coleman Hawkins version of "Body and Soul" that Billy Collins played as the broadcast opened, as he popped into view and took his seat behind his version of the resolute desk.

2. Every once in a while, Debbie and I have to snap out of the easy relaxation that comes with sticking close to home, being entertained by Gibbs, and reading, working puzzles, and keeping in touch with friends and family one way or another and we must talk about the future, what the next few months might look like. I'm not ready to go public with our discussion, but if the next few months seemed at all kind of foggy to me, today some light broke through and I have a better sense of what the fall will look like around the old homestead here in Kellogg. It's all good.

3. Debbie and I watched some news programming this evening. Afterward, sensing a need to lighten things up a bit, I asked Debbie if she might like some popcorn. Her response was an enthusiastic "YES" and suddenly Debbie was more animated and full of vigor than she'd been all day. I popped us each a bowl. As we ate our last kernels, Debbie wondered if we had any ice cream left. I laughed. "Of course!" Debbie continued, "Maybe someone could make one of those drinks . . . " This could only mean one thing: an ice cream Brandy Alexander to cap off our night. I sprang into action, made us each a drink, and we ended the evening feeling a little euphoric and a lot contented.

Here's a limerick by Stu:

They're up there, some evidence shows.
Must be faster than light I suppose.
Come from behind the wild blue.
Seen by more than a few.
Simply known as those pesky UFO's!

The Table

I'm helping my brother-in-law
Knock apart an old table
By the tool shed, a table they've loaded
With planting pots and fertilizer bags
For years, until a decade outside
In wind and rain has done it in,
And suddenly, as in a myth
Or fairytale when the son
Recognizes his lost father under the rags
Of an old beggar, I realize
It's the kitchen table of our childhood,
Where my mother and my two sisters and I
Regathered and regrouped inside
A new house in a new state
After the divorce, where at the end

Of every day
We talked about our day,
Practicing our first fictions
Over pork chops and mashed potatoes
When mom had a job, or fish sticks
Or fried Spam, or chicken pot pies
When she didn't.
Where we dyed
Our Easter eggs, and played through
Rainy days of Scrabble.
Where I sweated over algebra
And German verbs, and our mother
Would drink a bottle of wine
And lay her head down and weep
Over everything, terrifying us
Into fits of good behavior,
Of cleaning and vacuuming, until
She snapped out of it,
As if nothing had happened
And made it up to us
By doing something crazy,
Like making pancakes for supper.

The table where my uncle
Got me drunk for the first time
And where I sat down for dinner
For the last time with my grandmother.
The table where my sister
Announced she was pregnant.
Where I said that, on the whole, Canada
Looked a lot better than Vietnam.
Where the four of us warmed ourselves
At the fire of family talk.

Plain brown table of a thousand meals.
I'm starting to sweat now, the hammer
Overmatched by iron-grained walnut
Bolted at the joists. It takes a wrench
And crowbar to finally break it down
To a splintered skeleton, to the wreckage
Of an old table, built
When things were meant to last,
Like a hardcover book, or a cathedral,
Or a family. We stack up what's left
For firewood, and call it a day.

George Bilgere

Monday, August 10, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 08/09/20: Hike, PGA, Family Dinner BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. My hike today on the Wellness Trail above the Shoshone Medical Center went very well. The air was cool so I didn't get heated up, my legs felt good, and, even though I stopped to rest at both benches, I wasn't gasping for air. I was mildly winded. In addition, I am really happy with how comfortable my hiking shoes feel.

2. For the early part of the afternoon, I was busy. Debbie and I worked together to get things ready for hosting family dinner tonight. By the middle of the afternoon, I'd done my part with food prep, had completed some shopping at Yoke's and the liquor store, and helped get the deck properly furnished to host everyone.

Once I had completed my contributions, I had time to settle in and watch the PGA Golf Championship, this season's first major. As I tuned in, the leaderboard was a log jam. Few players faded and we golf fans had the pleasure of seeing superb players play superb golf, meaning that every shot's importance became dramatically magnified.

Collin Morikawa struck the tournament's two most thrilling and gutsy shots on holes number 14 and 16. Morikawa, 23 years old, was playing in only his second ever major. He has only been playing on the PGA tour since June of 2019, but, before today, had already won two tournaments. On the 14th hole, he hit a perplexing and disappointing second shot from the fairway that fell short of the 14th green. I'll admit it. I wondered if the pressure of being tied for the lead in this major tournament was starting to close his throat and tighten his grip on his clubs a bit. Morikawa surveyed his third shot from below the green and executed a perfect chip shot, holing it for a birdie. It was as cool and gutsy a shot as I'd seen all day from anyone. Suddenly, he and Paul Casey were in a tie for the tournament lead.

Then Morikawa, as they say, doubled down.

Today, the 16th hole played at 294 yards, a very short par 4, especially for the bombers of professional golf. But, thanks to the bunkers and cypress trees guarding this green and the thick grass just off the putting surface, and, I might add, thanks to the winds and the increasingly cooler and damper temperatures of the marine environment of this course tucked, as it is, into the southwest corner of San Francisco, it was a daring decision to go ahead and try to drive this green from the tee.

Morikawa decided to go for it.

He hit a majestic drive that bounced just in front of the green and rolled to within seven feet of the pin.

He calmly sized up his eagle putt, sank it, and leapt two strokes ahead of the field. He parred the last two holes, playing them confidently and intelligently, and won the tournament's coveted Wanamaker Trophy.

For many years in the late 1990s through his 2008 victory at the U. S. Open, Tiger Woods dominated the men's professional golf tour. In the last several years, a group of thrilling young players have emerged, players such as Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, and Brooks Koepka, to name a few. None of them has, as of yet, asserted sustained dominance. In fact, Jordan Spieth's game has slipped a bit, McIlroy hasn't won a major in six years, and, today, Brook Koepka lost his chance to win his third PGA Championship in a row by shooting a mediocre round of 74.

My point? Sustained superiority is very difficult to achieve in golf.

I'm not party to this way of thinking, but there are those who are always looking for the next dominate player to emerge, the next Jack Nicklaus or the next Tiger Woods.

I wouldn't doubt, because he's young, charismatic, and fearless, that some are wondering if Collin Morikawa will be the next dominant player.

I doubt it. My guess is that he's going to have a splendid career and face the same kinds of up and downs that the other younger players have gone through -- and there's nothing at all wrong with that.

I love that no player is dominant right now. I love that in this tournament just completed, that a scintillating mix of players of all ages finished in the top ten. Paul Casey at 43 had a great shot at winning. Dustin Johnson, 36, finished tied with Casey in second place. Justin Rose, 40, finished tied for fourth. But several players in their mid-twenties also competed very strongly, among them Bryson DeChambeau, Cameron Champ, Scottie Scheffler, and Xander Schauffele, as did the 21 year old Matthew Wolff.

I love watching players of all ages play strong golf in these tournaments, love that there's great suspense regarding who will triumph, and love that the future of professional golf, both men's and women's, looks so strong, looks so promising.

3. I took a whole chicken out of our freezer Saturday to thaw and didn't expect it to be thawed out on Sunday.

I was right.

At around 7:30 this morning, I unwrapped the not quite thawed chicken, seasoned it, put it in the crockpot with water and a coarsely chopped white onion, and got it started to both thaw and cook.

Early in the afternoon, I removed the cooked chicken, took the meat off the bones, disposed of the bones, returned the meat to the crockpot, and set the stage for Debbie to make a superb batch of chicken and noodles.

We served the chicken and noodles with a fresh, beautifully dressed green salad. Paul, Carol, Christy, Debbie, and I enjoyed cocktails to start. I was ready to mix a lot of different drinks and enjoyed making a couple of dry martinis for Carol and Paul, a bourbon and coke for Christy, and a mixture of rye, triple sec, sweet vermouth, and bitters for Debbie. I drank an ounce or two of Ouzo.

After dinner, I went to the blender and mixed ice cream, milk, creme de cacao and brandy and served up not very boozy Brandy Alexanders.

Our conversation over dinner and afterward was really wide-ranging, touching on everything from episodes of The Twilight Zone, Russia, books and movies, family news, and many points in between.

It was a great chance to discuss our questions, insights, stories, and updates.

We had a great time!

Here's a limerick by Stu:

No doubt there’s green mountains ‘round there.
With water as clean as the air.
It’s hard now to think,
That they both used to stink!
And those mountains were brown and quite bare.