Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/19/2021: Walking Uptown, Debbie's Blissful 2IPA, Rice Snack

 1. If being short of breath in Pendleton had to do with being in really lousy shape, I continued today in my determination to improve my conditioning by walking to the Avista drop box and feeding it my bill and then walking to uptown Kellogg by way of the Trail of CdA's tributary that branches off the main trail and goes up behind the old YMCA building. I walked up the short street/alley that divides the Y from the Elks and, as I hoped I would, saw Cas's truck in front of the Inland Lounge.  He was getting chores done. 

I dropped in for a couple glasses of ice water and we had a good time talking about all kinds of stuff. It was the longest conversation we'd had in months and we covered a lot of ground.

I then walked east on McKinley and headed down Depot Hill on to Riverside and walked the route I used to take when I came home from Sunnyside Elementary back in 1962-1966.

This was a great walk. I breathed a lot of fresh air, racked up over two miles, and was moving for nearly 45 minutes. Slowly, I am building back some of the strength I lost over the winter.

2. Around 6:15, Debbie called me. It was an awesome call because she wanted me to know that she'd just enjoyed a 16 oz can of Kane Brewing Company's Eastern Sky Imperial IPA. I knew what she meant when she described the bliss of drinking an Imperial IPA that is about as perfect in the moment as a beer can be. Her experience made me think of all the Imperial IPAs I loved when we lived in Maryland and our nearly weekly Sunday trips to DC Brau to enjoy 12 oz pours of On the Wings of Armageddon. Unless things have changed in the Silver Valley breweries, no one brews an Imperial IPA here, but if I head to CdA, Post Falls, Sandpoint, Spokane, Pend Oreille, or other places not too far away, I can find some damn fine Imperial IPAs to enjoy on tap. Gotta be careful, though. Imperial IPAs can get me buzzing more than I want if I get carried away -- but I've never needed to be carried away!

3.  I should always have rice made and available in the fridge. As a snack before bed tonight, I put cold jasmine rice in a bowl and covered it with cinnamon, honey, and almond milk. I'd never combined these ingredients before. I loved it.  I see a lot of potential for further experimentation with nuts, raisins, other spices and other ingredients. 

Monday, April 19, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/18/2021: Back to the Wellness Trail, Steamed Spaghetti Squash, Superb Family Dinner

 1. A brief reminder: in Pendleton last week, while on an easy walk with Colette, I grew concerned that I was experiencing an unusual shortness of breath. Every kidney doctor I've seen since Jan. of 2005 asks me, as part of my regular check ups, whether I am experiencing shortness of breath. It can be a symptom of kidney failure. 

Today, I hiked the wellness trail above the hospital as a way to test my lung capacity and, I hoped, to assure myself that what I experienced in Pendleton was temporary and a result of not being properly hydrated.

Before hiking, I drank water at home and I took water on the trail.

Yes, I needed to rest on the two benches strategically placed on the trail, but I expected that.

When I reached the picnic table at the end of the wellness trail, I was upright and breathing about as hard as I usually do on this hike.  I talked for a minute or two with the sweethearts who were lying on the table, soaking up the sunlight and blissing out on the beauty of the day.

I felt more than fine. I felt really good. I enjoyed my walk back down the trail and my confidence grew that I'm doing all right and am committed to keeping the sodium down and water consumption up. 

2. Christy planned tonight's family dinner. She copied a recipe for steamed spaghetti squash for me to follow and it was simple to make. Once I cut the two squash in half, lengthwise, I salted and peppered them and drizzled them with a blend of olive oil and honey. I roasted them, two halves at a time, for about 35-40 minutes, let them cool, scraped the flesh out with a fork, and added a mixture of vinegar, honey, and olive oil to the spaghetti looking squash. I topped the dish with toasted almonds. 

3.  Christy assigned us each a recipe from Alex Guarnaschelli's book, Cook with Me. For a cocktail, I followed Alex Guarnaschelli's recipe for making Manhattans.  Christy prepared baked chicken thighs with a slow-cooked barbecue sauce that was packed with flavors and Carol made a Waldorf salad with a vinaigrette, not a mayonnaise-based dressing. I contributed the steamed spaghetti squash. We also drank from a bottle of Rose wine.  Our family dinners are always really good, but I thought this one was one of those especially delicious meals where every dish was brilliant on its own and they each complimented one another perfectly.

Christy also baked cherry almond cookies out of Cook With Me and served them with a cherry almond after dinner drink mixed with half and half.

We spent the evening in continual conversation, too. Among other things, Carol reported on her outing the past couple of days and nights with April and Kellee. This led us to a discussion of other people's families, who's related to whom, some of their family stories, and some surprises about what has happened in the past. It was a great time all the way around and left me eager to find out what Carol will plan for dinner next Sunday. 

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/17/2021: A Good Walk, Help With the Sube, Simple Dinner

 1. I hoped this evening when I went for a walk up on the trail to the high school that I wouldn't easily start to get winded like I did when walking with Colette after lunch on Wednesday.

I didn't.

I walked up the short hill of the trail and, yes, I was a little short of breath, but that's always true. 

I thought more about things this past week in Pendleton and I'm wondering now if I'd become dehydrated. While away on my trip, I ate all restaurant food and, as Christy pointed out to me, that means more sodium. I drank water with my meals, but when I'm at home I drink water through the day. I was pretty well hydrated on my walk today and I moved so much better. 

I'll test this out some more by staying hydrated and walking. 

I also looked up when my regular appointment with Dr. Bieber happens.

It's on May 5th, just two weeks away. 

I had thought it was three or four weeks away.

Unless something weird happens, I'm confident that seeing him on May 5th is soon enough.

But, if anything goes sideways, I'll contact his office.

2. After I dropped Ed off in Kingston on Friday, I began to hear a rubbing/scraping sound. I thought it was coming from the area of the driver's side tire.

The noise came and went.

I put the car in the garage and this morning I drove down to get Luna some medicine at the vet.

The medicine wasn't ready. On the way back home, I popped over to Yoke's and the sound returned.

Off and on. 

It came and went. 

I pulled into Silver Valley Tires.

The place was a madhouse, really busy, but Jeremy told me he could have the car looked at in the afternoon. He'd call me when there was an opening.

A little later, I returned to the vet (now the medicine was ready) and when I came back to the car I saw black plastic something or other hanging down from underneath the Sube.

Ah! No big deal.

And, in fact, when I got the Sube in at Silver Valley Tire, all the guy who fixed it had to do was put the Sube up on the rack and secure that piece of plastic back in place with zip ties.

No charge.

No problem.

3.  I fixed a pot of jasmine rice tonight. I mixed some rice with chopped, unseasoned zucchini, and once the zucchini pieces were tender I cracked an egg over it all, let the egg cook, and put it in a bowl, seasoned with a splash of soy sauce and a small pour of teriyaki sauce. It's a simple dinner, but one of my favorites. 

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/16/2021: Farewell, Easy Drive, Back Home

 1. After another fine breakfast at Traditions, Ed, Mike, and I checked out of our rooms. Ed and I said farewell to Mike after we looked back on what an easy, relaxing time we'd together since Wednesday. Our current plan is to resume our previous tradition of coming back to Pendleton in November, spend a couple of nights, and enjoy some meals, some beers, some driving around, and some time on the casino floor.

2.  The drive back to the Silver Valley was uneventful in most light traffic and on a day when, as our driver, I could see for miles and miles and miles. Ed and I recounted the fun times we'd had, talked about future plans, and found a bunch of other things to yak about.

3. I returned home and everything was in place. Christy, Carol, and Paul had agreed to look after and feed Luna and Copper and they were as content as ever when I walked in the door.

I turned on my MacBook Air and the operating system was haywire and I spent several hours on the phone with three different service advisors, all of whom were eager to help me, and finally the last person I worked with fashioned a solution. 

Once my computer was running again, I fixed myself a bowl of salmon and couscous and then I spent a couple of hours both getting my computer set up and getting caught up on emails, fantasy baseball, and other things. 

I loved my time away. I also found it very comforting to be back home, grateful that I had cleaned the place up, happy to spend time with Luna and Copper, and eager to return to do some cooking in the kitchen again. 

Three Beautiful Things 04/15/2021: Breakfast at Traditions, Drive to Meacham, Celebrative Steak Dinner

 1. Today was our one full day in the Pendleton area and we tried to make the most of it. We started out with breakfast in the Traditions restaurant -- I especially enjoyed having a biscuit with my bacon, eggs, and hash browns. I like eating pieces of bacon on top of the biscuit halves. Once again, everything was easy. Ed and Mike went their own ways after breakfast and I returned to my room to clean up.

2. Around 12 noon, we all piled into Mike's Camry and headed east from Pendleton. Last November, Ed and Mike had found a two lane back road that wound around in the countryside for a while and soon reached a stunning vista where we could look out over the local valley for miles and miles, admiring the combination of farmland and mountains covered with snow. 

After this drive, we headed to Meacham, OR, a tiny town on the old Oregon Trail. Our attraction to Meacham is the Oregon Trail Store and Deli, a rural joint without a shred of fancy. I think a couple owns it. Mostly we have dealt with the friendly husband, a welcoming middle aged guy with a lively sense of humor.  The owner has had a bunch of menus printed up that feature dishes made from road kill, so he gave us each one before he brought out his real menu. We each had a beer and when Ed saw on the menu that the joint made home made French fries, he ordered a batch which we shared -- and which were great. 

3. Back at the casino, we again went our separate ways and reconvened for the steak dinner we enjoy every time we visit Wildhorse at the casino's steak house, the Plateau. Each of us ordered a Pendleton Whiskey Steak, a 14 oz New York strip crusted with pepper (I love pepper-crusted steak) and lightly touched with a Pendleton Whiskey demi-glace. I hadn't eaten a steak in a restaurant since the last time I was at the Plateau, in November, 2019, and I savored every bite of this dinner -- and not just the steak. For my two complements I ordered melt in your mouth wild mushrooms and crispy Brussels sprouts delicately sweetened with local honey. My gin martini to start was perfect and I enjoyed a glass of a red blend wine with my meal. 

We had two events to celebrate at dinner. First, Mike recently had his 67th birthday. Second, Ed hit three jackpots in the last two days worth, before taxes, around 7500 dollars. It's the most astounding haul any one of us has ever made in the many years we've been making these trips to Pendleton -- or in the old days when we used to go to casinos in Newport and Grand Ronde, OR. 

Three Beautiful Things 04/14/2021:Back to the Nook, Easy Times with Longtime Friends, Lunch with Colette

 1. I leaped into the Sube, with all its new belts and new battery and new tires and and other new stuff and cruised out to Kingston and picked up Ed. We hit the road and, as we had decided ahead of time, we stopped at the Breakfast Nook in Coeur d'Alene for our morning meal. I didn't keep close track of what's been happening at the Breakfast Nook, but it sure looked to me like the place had been spiffed up since my last visit in early 2020. 

I ordered a chicken fried steak and it was tender, perfectly breaded, and delicious. I always enjoy the Breakfast Nook's hash browns. I like the way they're grated, wide and long, and they always come out of the kitchen perfectly crispy on top and are never dry. It was really fun to eat here again and I'm looking forward to possibly renewing a former tradition when I'd worship at St. Luke's and go to the Breakfast Nook afterward for a midday breakfast.

2. Ed and I arrived at the Wildhorse Casino not long after Mike got there. We each had rooms reserved, checked in, put our things away, and then met in Ed's room to celebrate being together again by sipping on some Black Velvet Toasted Caramel Whiskey. We immediately fell into a first-rate bull session and got our short vacation off to a perfect start. 

We reunited for another excellent session later that night. We met at the Wildhorse Sports Bar for some beer and onion rings and continued our long tradition of story telling, kidding around, talking about serious matters, and superb and easy conversation. 

3. I left the casino around 2:30 in the afternoon to meet Colette at the Oregon Grain Growers Brand Distillery. Because a few years ago Colette moved to Walla Walla, she and I have been able to meet up when the guys and I have our getaways in Pendleton.

We met at a table outdoors. Colette gave me books she thought I'd enjoy, a wonderful gift.  We immediately launched into a bazillion things to talk about, ranging from family, work, and graduate school to Debbie living in New York, the challenges of parenthood, and movies -- and more. We split a superb kale and pear salad and a small pizza, the Marilyn Monroe which combines white citrus cheese, Mozzarella cheese, artichokes, and artfully placed chocolate kiss looking dabs of ricotta cheese. The food was superb and enhanced our fascinating conversation.

At some point in our time together, our server told us that another party had reserved out table and would be arriving shortly. No problem. We settled up and headed toward an asphalt trail above the Umatilla River and started to take a walk.

We hadn't walked long and I started to feel winded. This happens to me sometimes if I try to walk after I've eaten. I asked Colette if we could stop for a while and sit. We did. As we continued to talk, I was suddenly feeling fatigued, certain that the warmer weather and having been driving for several hours combined to wear me out a bit. 

Later on -- maybe that night, maybe the next day, I noticed that I was a bit short of breath just walking around -- like when walking around in the casino. 

I had also been noticing that I had a little more build up of water retention in my lower legs and I wondered if I might be carrying some water weight in my midsection. I feel bigger than I think I should. 

I'm making note of these things here in my blog because if they are signs of my kidney disease having worsened a bit, I want to remember where I was, what I was doing, and what the signs were when I noticed it.

I have an appointment scheduled in May with my kidney doctor, but I'm going to call his office on Monday and see if we should meet earlier. In the meantime, I plan on doing some walking, seeing if this short-windedness continues, monitoring my lower legs and ankles, and continuing to drink plenty of water. 

Again, I'm writing about this change I perceived so I have a record of when it started happening. At the moment, I'm not alarmed, but I also don't want to act like everything's going along as usual if it's not. This kidney disease is tricky business for me because I have known about it for about sixteen years and haven't, as of yet, experienced symptoms -- but I've listened to my doctors tell me what to look for. I might be experiencing some of them. 

Three Beautiful Things 04/13/2021: Outing with Stu, Sube Ready to Go, Bill Remembers His Father

 1. I returned the rental car to Enterprise, filled up with gas, in unharmed condition, and soon after finishing by business, Stu picked me up. We went to an old favorite breakfast spot for us Kellogg guys, Nosworthy's and, for the first time in many many months, I ordered an omelette. This one was sausage and Swiss cheese. We had fun talking about the Zag/Baylor game. Stu unfolded his analysis of how the game might have gone differently had the officials been calling the three seconds in the key violation and had a a few key calls at critical junctures gone Gonzaga's way. Of course, we'll never know, but it was fascinating to think about what might have been.

Stu and I then hit the road to Bayview where Stu took a few minutes to pull the protective tarp back on his boat and just made sure things were looking all right. They were. We climbed in the boat for a short while and imagined other Kellogg friends of ours hopping in the boat later this summer for a ride. It's been several years, but in the past we've had some fun times, with Stu as our boat host, going out on both Lake Cd'A and Pend Oreille Lake. 

2. After our visit it Bayview, Stu drove me to the car shop and I picked up the Sube with the major maintenance job all finished. The Sube seems to be in pretty good shape right now. I'm hoping to get a few more years of use out of this good old car.

3. Yesterday, I tried to declutter the house and today I focused on vacuuming, sweeping, mopping, and on cleaning surfaces, especially in the kitchen.

When tonight's Tree House Concert got underway, I wasn't quite done with cleaning, so I did not pour myself my usual cocktail but listened to Bill Davie perform while drinking water so I could finish my chores. 

Bill's father passed away many years ago and today would have been his birthday. Bill learned to play guitar and sing from his father and often pays homage to him when performing these concerts. Tonight, Bill paid tribute to his father all evening, performing his two songs written to/for his father and by reading Donald Hall's poem, "The Day I Was Older". Bill wrote a song (and performed it last week) by the same title. Both works reflect on the experience of living past the age of their fathers when they died. 

Tonight's concert was especially powerful, shot through with Bill's sadness and gratitude for his father whom he misses dearly and for whom he is daily thankful. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/12/2021: Sube to the Shop, Rent a RAV 4, Spiffing Up the House

Note: In the past, when my mental and physical health were not very good, if I disappeared from by blog or from Facebook, concerned friends messaged me to make sure I was all right, a gesture I deeply appreciated.

I am leaving town Wednesday morning and returning Friday on a trip to Pendleton and I'm not taking my computer. I'll resume posting either on Friday or Saturday when I get back. 

1.  I got up early this morning and catapulted over the 4th of July Pass in the Sube and dropped it off at the shop for a major maintenance job. No repairs -- just the replacement of aged parts. 

2. A really friendly tech-in-training from the shop gave me a lift down to Enterprise and I rented a Toyota RAV 4 and drove it back to Kellogg. I parked it in the driveway and didn't drive it again all day. I return it on Tuesday morning.

3. I decided to divide spiffing up the house into two parts: today I put things away, got piles of papers and things off of the kitchen table. Tomorrow, when I return home with the Sube, I'll work on trying to make my living rug and floors look better. 

And I'll pack. 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/11/2021: Hideki Matsuyama Wins!, Money and Video Rentals, Take Out Family Dinner

1.  For those players chasing Hideki Matsuyama in the final round of the Masters today, a tall order lay before them. The course was windy and the greens quick. If Matsuyama shot even par on Sunday, the players right behind him would have to shoot 68 in order to tie him and go even lower to win the tournament outright.

If I remember correctly, when Matsuyama birdied 8 and 9, he was five strokes ahead at the turn and it looked like the back nine would be a coronation.

But, it was as if Lee Corso was on hand, issuing his signature warning: "Not so fast my friend."

Matsuyama's playing partner, Xander Schauffele, drained a birdie putt on 12 and Matsuyama bogeyed the hole. Then Schauffele birdied the next three holes, closing the gap between him and Matsuyama to two strokes with three holes to play.

On the 16th hole, Schauffele hit what he later said felt like a perfect 8 iron off the tee, but as his shot soared toward the green, a gust of wind buffeted it, it fell short of the green, and rolled into the hole's water hazard. Schauffele ended up with an ugly triple bogey and Matsuyama was once again comfortably ahead of the field.

Matsuyama had enough of a cushion that he could safely bogey 17 and 18 and still win the Masters by a single stroke over the astonishing 24 year old newcomer, Will Zalatoris, playing in his first Masters and leaving a memorable impression with his spirited, powerful, and deft play in all four rounds. 

Until today, no Japanese player had won one of the men's four major golf tournaments. Golf is an uber popular sport in Japan and, according to what I've read, Hideki Matsuyama's victory inspired jubilation across the country. Hideki Matsuyama said he hoped his success would inspire other Japanese golfers to follow his success with major victories of their own. 

2. I didn't watch the last couple of hours of the Masters very  closely because I was on a Zoom call with Bill and Diane. We kicked off our conversation with a discussion of money and how our own attitudes about and toward money had been affected by our parents, to be specific, and our families, to be more general. This topic is especially urgent to Diane right now because she is beginning to plan for retirement and she and Bill are making some improvements in their home. 

My life has slowed down considerably since moving to Kellogg and, it's turned out, at least for now, that retirement (combined with lying low for so much of the pandemic) has been much less financially stressful for me than my years working were. I don't care to get into the details right now. I realize the stress could return. But, since my life has been less financially demanding in the last four years or so, I've been more relaxed.  In one respect, I'm lucky. I have very few material desires -- I just don't spend much money on myself. Sometimes I wonder if I'm just being self-denying, but I'm not. I like taking trips on occasion. I like spending some money when I go other places. But, when I'm just here at home, most of what I do doesn't involve much money.

Our conversation shifted, after a while, to movies and the availability of movies in the age of streaming and dvd mail services. I expressed how much I miss video rental stores -- like Eugene's Flicks n Pics and Hollywood Video -- how I miss being able to go a short ways from home and would often find that these places had just the international, classic, current, or 10-20 year old movie I was looking for. We agreed that we sorely miss browsing titles in video stores. Browsing is often a fruitless and frustrating undertaking online, but was absorbing and often very fruitful in the video rental stores.

We became so absorbed in talking about movies that we watched a trailer of Last Orders and delighted in watching Ray Walston sing a number in Damn Yankees.

We covered a lot of ground and had a lot of fun together.

3. Christy and Riley have undertaken the task of in-home dog and dog owner training. The woman Christy and Riley work with is very busy on Sundays and today she couldn't come to Christy's house until after 5:30.

We decided a week ago that since Christy wasn't positive when Natalie would arrive, we would have take out pizza for tonight's family dinner.

So, from the new Domino's in town, Carol ordered a thin and crispy sausage and pepperoni, a Brooklyn style cheese, and a hand-thrown ham and pineapple pizza, three different styles of pizza with three different kinds of sauce, a parmesan garlic, a hearty marinara, and, I think, an Alfredo sauce.

It was really fun sampling these different styles of pizza and it made for a relaxing dinner.

We talked about a lot of stuff including family history, where people lived and live in Montgomery Gulch, the history of some other families in Kellogg, and got caught up on some of the events happening around town the last week or so. 

As much as I enjoy preparing food for family dinners and dining on the creations of Christy, Carol, and Paul, it was a fun departure this evening to let Domino's do the cooking and to gobble up slices of pizza. 

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/10/2021: Matsuyama's Torrid Back Nine, Steak Soup, Dark and Sweet Comedy

 1. When a player catches fire and plays extraordinary golf on a testy golf course like Augusta National, it electrifies me. Today, returning to the course after a rain delay of just over an hour, Hideki Matsuyama completed his back nine in an astonishing 30 strokes, with four birdies and an eagle. His torrid streak catapulted him to a four stroke lead. It will be dramatic on Sunday to see how Matsuyama performs with this lead and, should he stagger at all, whether the four players challenging him four, five, or six strokes behind can overtake him. 

I have no prediction. My sense of history tells me that, at Augusta, it's very difficult to shoot a low score one day and repeat it the next. So, let's say Matsuyama shoots even par today. That would mean his challengers right behind him would have to shoot a 68 just to tie him, a formidable challenge. But, should Matsuyama shoot a round over par, it would open the way for a chaotic and exciting second nine at the Masters. 

I'm rooting for everyone. In other words, I'm rooting for drama.

2. I got to thinking around dinner time.

I had another petite sirloin in the fridge. It wouldn't take long to thaw out a quart of chicken stock. I had a nice supply of vegetables on hand and a steak soup started to take shape in my mind. 

So, I chopped up an onion and minced both a plug of ginger and a couple cloves of garlic. I heated olive oil and simultaneously browned bits of steak and sautéed the onion, ginger, and garlic and soon added chopped celery to the pot. I had put a mostly frozen quart of stock in another pot and when it was fully thawed, I added a couple of chopped carrots and some chopped baby potatoes. Before long, I poured the stock over the steak, onion, garlic, ginger, and celery and added some frozen corn and frozen green beans to the soup. 

I brought the soup to a boil, turned it way down, and let it simmer until the potatoes, carrots, onion, and celery were tender. As a last move, I seasoned the soup with a few splashes of Bragg Liquid Aminos.

It worked.

3. When Jessica Walter died last month, her obituaries piqued my curiosity about the show Arrested Development. Walter plays Lucille Bluth, the matriarch of the terribly broken Bluth family. So, I tuned into the series' pilot episode on Netflix. 

I don't know that I'll ever return to this show. Yes, if I'm in the mood for outrageous characters and situations and for some grotesque satire, I could see returning to it, curious to see just how shattered this family becomes -- and, to see if, as the show develops, the writers develop some more tender plot lines, if they explore the genuine suffering that underlies the screwed up nature of the Bluth family.

But, I'd be surprised if I do return to this show unless my current mood changes.

I'm much more in the mood for sweet, but not saccharine stories. I will keep watching episodes of Midnight Diner. If I'd been able to stream it, today I would have watched the 1996 Japanese movie, Shall We Dance?. I ordered a used copy of it from a guy selling off his dvd collection to finance his retirement and it will arrive in a couple of weeks. If I could have streamed it, I also would have watched Shower, another Japanese movie from 1999 about a successful business man who has to step out of his life in the world of commerce and pay new attention to his elderly father and mentally challenged younger brother. 

These were among the many movies I watched at the Bijou Art Cinema in Eugene and I've been in the mood to relive the experience of seeing these and many others.

It's just a matter of finding them. 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/10/2021: Musgrove's No-No, Love on *Midnight Diner*, Startling Leftovers

 1.  I had a lot of fun watching the Masters during the day. The course played a bit softer today, was more forgiving, and the day ended with about a dozen, maybe more, players positioned behind leader Justin Rose with a chance to win the tournament.

As fun as it was to watch golf and exchange witty text message commentary with Byrdman and T2, the highlight of my day on the field of play came in Major League Baseball.

Not only did Joe Musgrove pitch the first franchise no-hitter in San Diego Padres team history, but Joe Musgrove is on both of my rosters in the two fantasy baseball leagues I participate in.

In the head-to-head league, I'm still behind my opponent by a few points, but Musgrove's no-hitter gave me a huge boost and we go into the weekend essentially tied. It was thrilling to make up so much ground.

2. I don't know what the opposite of binge watching is, but I've been not binge watching the series on Netflix called Midnight Diner for a couple of months now. These episodes are so beautiful to me that I don't want to finish watching them. So, in order to slow down the inevitable end of the series being over, I only watch one or two episodes at a time and sometimes go weeks between viewings.

Tonight I watched the bittersweet episode that ended the second season. It involved an eight year separation between two lovers and the haunting fact that the woman didn't know why the man suddenly disappeared. He appears in her life again. She has since married a dumplings maker and the reappearance of her lover complicates her life suddenly with a difficult dilemma.

The third season opened with a moving story about a widow who was once a famous pop singer in Japan and how her life intersects with a woman hospitalized with cancer. I can't say any more. If you ever watch this story, I'd hate for you to know in advance what happens.

3.  I've got to remember that the combination of cumin, cinnamon, onions, garlic, dice tomatoes, zucchini, and beans over jasmine rice is not only really delicious when freshly prepared, but might even taste better after sitting in the fridge for a couple of days. I ate my leftovers for dinner. The flavors had aged. I didn't expect this dinner to be so delicious -- a very welcome pleasure. 

Friday, April 9, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/08/2021: Azaleas and an Ace, Chicken Stock, Steak and Eggs Dinner

 1.  The golf course at Augusta National looks benign enough, constructed on a former nursery, flush with flowering magnolias, azaleas, and dogwood, thick with loblolly pines, and carpeted with closely cut grass. But when this course is dry and the winds kick up a bit, all of this natural beauty beguiles golfers, challenges their ball striking and, more than anything, tests their nerves.

I tuned in to today's first round of the Masters at Augusta National. The greens were firm. The winds were fickle. The course bedeviled most of the field. I saw a variety of shots coming into the greens land on the putting surface and sometimes bound off the back, sometimes trickle. Holding shots was challenging, as was nestling shots close to the pins.

After the round, Gary Woodland said he felt like he'd been in a boxing match with Mike Tyson. Sergio Garcia also felt like he'd been in the ring, as well, but with Evander Hollyfield. For many of the players, it was an exhausting grind.

But, Justin Rose, remarkably, went on a torrid scoring streak. He hit his second shot into the par 5 8th and missed the green to the left. His ball struck one of the grass mounds protecting the green and, improbably, luckily, ricocheted onto the green, ten feet from the pin and Rose sank the putt for an eagle.

After this eagle, Rose then went on a tear, birdieing seven of his round's last ten holes and fired a 65 to take a four stroke lead. 

The other player who had a memorable moment in the sun was Tommy Fleetwood. He blasted his tee shot on the 16th hole straight into the hole for an ace.

2. I put the chicken carcass from Sunday's family dinner into the slow cooker today with water, onion, celery, and seasonings and started making a batch of chicken stock. I wanted to add more green to the stock. I needed a few things at Yoke's so I made a quick trip to the store, bought some parsley for the stock, and picked up a few other things, including two petit sirloin steaks in a single package. Back home, I tossed the parsley into the crock pot and returned to watching golf, the house filling up with great aromas as the stock bubbled away.

3. Late in the afternoon, I suddenly had a bright idea! I realized I had what I needed to fix myself a great breakfast for dinner. I fried a couple of strips of bacon and, in time, added a small mass of chopped Yukon gold baby potatoes to the cast iron pan. As the potatoes were nearly done cooking, I seasoned one of my petit sirloins, fixed it as close to medium rare as I could, and, while it cooked, I fried a couple of eggs.

I couldn't remember the last time I had a steak and egg breakfast with bacon and fried potatoes. I wish I'd had bread on hand to also have some toast, but it didn't matter much. 

I loved this dinner and look forward to fixing myself another one in the near future -- possibly with some variations. 

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/07/2021: A Good Walk, Old River Road, Foam and Food

1. I drove up to the trailhead across the road from the Snake Pit and enjoyed walking for about a half an hour, just up the trail to the bridge and a ways beyond and back again. I racked up about 3000 steps, covering about a mile and a half. My legs felt a bit stronger. I hope my wind is improving, too.

2. Soon after I finished walking, Byrdman cruised into the trailhead parking lot and we headed upriver. We drove on Old River Road about as far as Steamboat Creek. Byrdman drove for a short ways on the Steamboat Creek Road, but it's a shaded road and the snow and ice haven't thawed off of it yet. Neither of us wanted to deal with this road in this condition. Byrdman found a good spot where he could turn around and we headed back down Old River Road.

3. We pulled into the parking lot of our destination, the Country Lane River Resort. Byrdman and I had visited the resort soon after Amy, LE, and Josh bought it and started running it and we wanted to see how the place was progressing physically and we knew, in our ongoing roam for foam, that recently the resort had put Radio Brewing's Silver Mountain IPA on tap.

We arrived and strolled right in and Amy was doing some cleaning in the kitchen. I, for one, didn't quite put it together that the resort was closed. I think Amy told us that they were open from Thurs. to Sunday until returning to seven days in May, and, to be honest, at that moment, I thought today was Thursday.

Well, with neither one of us realizing that we had walked into a bar that was closed, Byrdman and I each ordered a Silver Mountain IPA and Amy called Josh out to serve us.

Josh served us our beers and he and Byrdman and I entered into a long and most enjoyable session of yakking. 

At some point, I asked if I could order something to eat and Josh told me that the the stove was shut down because the resort was actually closed.

Then I got it. 

This bar is not actually open. We are getting special treatment. 

Gratitude swelled inside me. 

Josh was serving us, talking to us, without a hint of being put out -- and, he didn't have to. After all, by rights, the bar was closed. 

Then, out of the blue, Josh said, "You know, I could fire things up and cook you guys some French fries."

I was blown away and accepted his offer.

Then his offer grew.

"I could make you some steak fingers or chicken tenders if you like" -- and later he added a brat to what he'd be willing to cook.

This was turning into an awesome early afternoon.

The steak fingers and fries I ordered was just what I needed to go with the beer I'd been drinking. 

Josh and Byrdman and I yakked about the developments at the resort and Amy, LE, and Josh's plans for the future.  Josh told us about building he had done on high end houses at Black Rock and Gozzer Ranch for Edwards Smith Construction and showed us pictures of his work.

It was all fascinating and the food hit the spot and it didn't seem like Josh was impatient for us to leave.

But, soon the time to go arrived and Byrdman and I thanked Josh repeatedly for serving us, cooking for us, and we exchanged a warm farewell with LE who was doing resort business on her phone on the porch near where we were parked.

As we left, I felt just a twinge of embarrassment that it took me so long to realize that we had walked into the Country Lane River Resort bar when it was actually closed. I think I was oblivious to it being closed because I hadn't seen a "closed" sign and the door into the building was unlocked. 

But, beyond that twinge, I was stoked that Josh had taken it upon himself to wait on us, cook us food, and join us in awesome conversation.

In other words, as we left, I was pretty much blown away -- and so Byrdman and I added another awesome outing to our growing list of road trips, to our ongoing passion to roam for foam. 

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/06/2021: Remembering the 46 Defense, More Cumin and Cinnamon, Tree House Concert #47

1. Over the years, I've watched at least one documentary (maybe more) and read articles about the 1985 Chicago Bears' smothering, paralyzing, impenetrable, fast, powerful, and discombobulating defense, known as the 46 defense.

What stands out to me are comments made by players who faced the Bears in 1985 (and in the 01/26/86 Super Bowl). I'm paraphrasing, but players said that they could watch film of the 1985 Bears, arrive at an intellectual understanding of schemes and tactics of the 46 defense, but they couldn't do anything to prepare for what they actually experienced, physically and mentally, in the face of the speed, tenacity, aggression, power, pressure, and dominance of the Bears' defense in 1985 once they faced in on the gridiron. 

I meant to write yesterday that I thought the Baylor defense against Gonzaga Monday night was similar to the 1985 Bears' 46 defense. My guess is that the Gonzaga players had watched plenty of film, studied tendencies, and, in their minds, knew what to expect from Baylor's defense. But like the Chicago Bears' opponents in 1985, the Gonzaga players had never, in real time, faced a defense as tenacious, quick, intelligent, strong, and, I'd add, hungry as Baylor's.

As I wrote yesterday, the Zags shrank under Baylor's defensive pressure and did not perform physical tasks such as making crisp passes, purposeful cuts, and shooting with confidence in the ways they had against other opponents. Baylor slowed them down. The Zags were sluggish. 

In writing this, my intention is to praise Baylor, not make excuses for Gonzaga. 

That Baylor defense, combined with their remarkable production on offense, especially from long range, made them them, possibly by far, the superior team in the 2021 NCAA national basketball tournament. 

2. I decided to take the idea of seasoning a whole chicken with a combination of cinnamon and cumin and apply it to another very simple dish. Debbie made different variations of this dish when she was teaching and living in Eugene and introduced me to it when she returned to Kellogg.

All this dish requires is cooking up some chopped onion and garlic, adding a vegetable, such as zucchini or green beans or spinach, if you'd like, adding a can of crushed or diced tomatoes and a can of beans. Debbie always used garbanzo beans, but today I mistakenly grabbed a can of white beans off the basement shelves and decided to live with my error.

So, I sprinkled cumin and cinnamon on the onions and garlic while I cooked them until tender. I added chopped zucchini to the onions and garlic and, when it was tender, I added the tomatoes and beans and seasoned the whole thing with some oregano.

I had leftover jasmine rice from last night and warmed in up and ate poured the tomato/bean mixture over the rice.

I enjoyed the flavors created by seasoning this meal with cumin and cinnamon a lot and look forward to other experiments with these seasonings and other ones I might not normally think to use in making certain meals. And my bean mistake turned out just fine -- yes, garbanzo beans would probably have been better, but the white beans worked. 

3. As he does from time to time, Bill Davie invited a second performer to join him in giving Tree House Concert #47. Tonight's guest was Neal Woodall, and thanks to the magic of electronic transmission, Neal played and sang from his home in Brownsville, Texas. Neal Woodall and Bill go back over forty years as friends and musicians. Neal was a part of the Seattle/Tacoma acoustic music world for many, many years and tonight many other musicians from that world were in the virtual audience, including Percy Hilo, Heidi Mueller, Larry Murante, Janis Carper, Kat Eggleston and, I'm sure, others I have forgotten.

Both Bill and Neal were exquisite. I'm not sure, but it seemed that having a longtime friend and colleague like Neal on hand inspired Bill to reach back into the early days of his songwriting and he played some gems from 30-40 years ago like "Sacred Ground", "The Mud Song" (correct title?), and his really early song about thinkin' and drinkin' (unsure of the title). Neal played several tightly composed and beautifully performed original songs and paid tribute to other songwriters like T. R. Ritchie, Chuck Pyle, and Bill Staines and played superb covers of their songs. For one song, about an alien spider that bit him, Neal's wife (I think), Alice joined him and that was a delight.

It's remarkable how the written comments during a virtual concert give us who are in the audience a genuine sense of togetherness, excitement, and appreciation. We learn this and that about each other, get to chuckle at one another's wit, and can enjoy feeling connected, even though we are all in our own places, many miles away from each other and, in many cases, strangers to one another. 

Tonight's audience was especially appreciative and expressive, adding to my enjoyment of this superb Tree House Concert. 

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/05/2021: Baylor Dominated the Mental Game, A Farewell Toast, Easter Leftovers

 1. I tried and tried this season to imagine what might happen if Baylor and Gonzaga ever played each other in a basketball game. Every time I did so, I tried to think of ways Gonzaga could possibly keep the aggressive Baylor Bears off the boards, how they could stop the Bears from scoring, whether from distance, mid-range, or at the tin, and how they could run their offense effectively with the quick, tenacious Baylor Bears in their collective grill all game long, cutting off passing lanes, disrupting offensive sets, and making it difficult to get the ball inside. 

In my imagination, I had a hard time seeing Gonzaga capable of corralling Baylor, but, as a Zags fan, I wanted to hold out hope that my imagination was too limited, that I was just anticipating a Zags' defeat so it would be easier to see it happen when it did, so I tried to think of this game in terms of what problems Gonzaga might present for Baylor.

Once this game was no longer playing out in my mind, but was actually occurring on the maple, I quickly learned that Gonzaga was outmatched, outmanned, out everything in every facet of the game. Gonzaga presented no problems for Baylor. 

Baylor's quick, strong, tenacious, unrelenting defense rattled the Zags. They looked to me like they were suddenly in a dimension of playing basketball that was alien to them. Baylor didn't pressure the Zags in the full court, but once Gonzaga crossed the timeline and tried to get into their offense, Baylor aggressively contested everything they did, rocketed them out of any sense of comfort, and just plain disoriented and dominated the Bulldogs. While disorientation is a mental experience, it also evidenced itself in the Gonzaga's physical play. Their ball handling suffered, their passes were not crisp (were even wild sometimes), and. their shooting was tentative, especially early on. The mental disruption translated into physical sluggishness. 

If you've ever doubted the body-mind connection, this game could help you remove your doubt. Baylor owned Gonzaga mentally, confused and overwhelmed them, and the Zags' bodies showed it. The Baylor pressure on both ends of the floor shrank the Zags while Baylor's bodies seemed to grow quicker, more athletic, and more muscular as their confidence grew and they established their superiority. 

The Baylor offense was aggressive, versatile, and unrelenting. Gonzaga couldn't stop Baylor from scoring from beyond the three point line -- at one point Baylor had outscored Gonzaga 30-3 from three point land. Baylor's players also made determined drives to the basket, shot well from mid-range, and, when they did miss, more often than not got rebounds on offense and put up second and third chance shots and scored. 

Baylor creamed Gonzaga in this championship game: 86-70.

This game had no suspense. From the get go, when Baylor raced immediately to a 9-0 lead, when Gonzaga didn't score their first point until nearly four minutes had passed, it was clear that Baylor was a superior basketball team, that Gonzaga was stunned by how strong, quick, tenacious, and proficient the Bears were, and that Baylor would win this game handily -- which they did.

2. I was less disappointed by this game being a blow out than I was really impressed with Baylor's performance. As I've written before, I love college basketball as a sport more than I am a fan of any one team and I marveled at everything Baylor did tonight. 

So, as the team received its trophy and as CBS showed its annual "One Shining Moment" video, I poured myself a rum and coke. I toasted Baylor. I wished Gonzaga had not been so discombobulated tonight.  I thought back on how much fun I've had watching games this season, not really wanting to let go of watching college basketball. The college season provides about five months of deep pleasure for me. I look forward to having it back in November. 

3. I had some leftover Persian Roasted Chicken and leftover roasted potatoes and yams with roasting juice and I heated it all up and ate it over a bowl of jasmine rice. It was a delicious and satisfying pre-game meal. 

Monday, April 5, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/04/2021: Morning King of Glory Muffins, Persian Roast Chicken, Easter Dinner and Hoops

1. I made a couple of quick trips to Yoke's today. I thought I had everything I needed to bake and cook my contributions to family/Easter dinner, but it turned out I didn't. It's the first time I've gone to the grocery store twice in one day for about a century, it seems.

I made cornbread in muffin cups last night and this morning I started my day baking Morning Glory muffins, which, in honor of Easter, I called Morning King of Glory muffins (that made Carol, Paul, and Christy laugh -- as I hoped it would). 

The recipe I used for these muffins calls for a ton of ingredients: pineapple, grated apple, applesauce, grated zucchini, nuts, sugar, all-purpose and whole wheat flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, grated carrots, eggs, coconut, and vanilla (I might have missed something). 

I had decided that since I was using my new jumbo muffin pan and my new jumbo aluminum foil baking cups, that one of these muffins for each of us after dinner would make a really good dessert. (I was right.)

2. If I remember correctly, when I decided I wanted to roast a chicken for Easter dinner, I did some kind of search at the website The Spruce Eats where I found a recipe called "Persian Roast Chicken".  

I really liked the looks of this recipe and decided to go for it. 

It was simple. 

I sliced an onion and put the slices on the bottom of the Dutch oven.

Once I cleaned and patted the chicken dry, I crushed some saffron threads into warm water, and set it aside.

I then juiced a couple of lemons and a couple or three clementines into three tablespoons of olive oil.

I stuffed the lemon rinds into the chicken's cavity.

I took a minute, then, to salt the chicken,  drizzle olive oil over it, and then evenly spread ground cumin and ground cinnamon on it. With that done, I combined the saffron water with the olive oil and citrus juice mixture and poured it over the chicken

I put the chicken in a 450 degree oven for ten minutes.

I took it out, lowered the temperature to 425 degrees and put a mixture of baby red, gold, and purple potatoes around the chicken along with some chopped up yam.

I returned the chicken to the oven, took its temperature from time to time, and when it was roasted, removed it from the Dutch oven, put the potatoes and onions and the liquid I had poured over the chicken in a bowl with a lid, wrapped the chicken in foil, and let it sit in the Dutch oven until Paul carved it for dinner over at his and Carol's house. 

I loved how this chicken smelled as it roasted, loved having the aromas of cumin, cinnamon, and lemon fill the house. My hope was that if this chicken tasted as good as it smelled while roasting, we were in for a pretty good dinner.

3. As I finished preparing my dinner offerings and got myself cleaned up for dinner, I kept a close eye on the first half of the NCAA championship game between Stanford and Arizona, two teams I enjoy a lot. I knew I'd only watch this game until half time. In the action I got to see, Arizona fell behind early, picked up their signature defensive pressure, made a comeback, but then Stanford went on a run and pulled ahead by seven at half-time. 

I hated to leave the game, but I value family dinner more than televised basketball and was happy to pack up and head to Paul and Carol's.

I was in charge of cocktails and had decided that simple drinks made from gin would be a good drink to pair with the meal I'd planned.

Christy ordered a gin and tonic and Carol, Paul, and I each had a martini -- up, dry, and stirred with two almond stuffed green olives. 

I think I made the right call for what to drink before dinner.

Carol set out delicious food to nibble on during our cocktail half an hour: she made deviled eggs, an Easter tradition, and set out nuts and olives. Perfect.

We've been abundantly cautious at our family dinners and have covered our faces and kept distance from each other while eating in Carol and Paul's living room.

But, we are all fully vaccinated now. Earlier in the week, I texted Christy and Carol the question of whether we might return to the dining table for dinner. We all agreed that we should do that.

So we did. Carol set a handsome table. We went back to passing food to each other. We were also back to being in closer proximity to each other as we talked and ate our dinner. 

The safer arrangement had worked beautifully for me for all the months we ate in the living room and I was very happy, too, to be back at the dining table. 

Our dinner was a great success. Christy assembled a crisp and fresh green salad and made a creamy and delicious dressing called Spring Goddess. Carol roasted a cauliflower, adding sweetness to our main course. The chicken was moist and lemony. Those great Middle Eastern flavors of cumin and cinnamon added welcome and enticing layers of flavor. I was particularly happy that my idea to roast some potatoes and then cover them and the onions with the liquid from the roasting pan worked so well. That liquid had similar flavor to the chicken, only multiplied, and enhanced our enjoyment of the potatoes and the onions. We were all happy with the cornbread, too. We had left over Rose (rozay) and Petit Syrah wine from last week, perfect wines for this dinner.

The Morning King of Glory muffins provided more than a chuckle. Loaded with all those fruits and vegetables and nuts and spices, these muffins capped off our dinner perfectly.

Christy kept track of the basketball game on her phone and we learned that Stanford defeated Arizona, 54-53. 

I knew that as soon as I arrived home, I'd go online and find out who had the last possession in this squeaker.

Arizona did.

That last possession, which lasted about seven seconds, was a classic case of the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object.

Something had to give.

Arizona's coach Adia Barnes had decided that her unstoppable force, Aari McDonald, was going to take the last shot no matter what. Barnes' thinking was that Aari McDonald had shouldered the Wildcats all year long and there was no way on this final possession that the Wildcats were going to look to anyone else for a game winning shot.

Stanford knew this and created an immovable object, a wall of three defenders near the free throw line, determined not let McDonald get into the paint.

If you watch these last seven seconds, you'll see McDonald dart forward, backward, laterally, looking for a crack in this wall to get into the paint and she (nor could any mortal) can't do it.

That left her one option.

She stepped back and flung a long shot toward the hoop. It had a chance, but ricocheted off the back iron and the immovable object prevailed over the unstoppable force. 

McDonald's shot was, in part, a desperate heave, but from a distance I've seen her score from countless times over the last couple of seasons. 

It was a crushing, heartbreaking end for Arizona. Coach Barnes signaled her players to gather around Aari McDonald and they joined together in a circle of consolation around her.

I liked that both teams went for broke in those last seven seconds. 

Coach Barnes essentially decided that come hell or high water, Aari McDonald would decide the outcome of this game. 

On the defensive side, Coach VanderVeer also decided that come hell or high water, Stanford was going to defend Aari McDonald with three players, not caring that this left two Arizona players open somewhere.

Both coaches employed a risky strategy and, at the end of this particular game, Stanford's risk was successful. Arizona's wasn't. 

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/03/2021: Baking, Buzzer Beater, Vizio Advantage

 1. As the Baylor/Houston game this afternoon grew more and more unenjoyable, I retired to the kitchen and spiffed it up and then, so that I would use up the last of my 2.5" baking cups, I baked a batch of cornbread in muffin cups. I think I'll bring them to our Easter Day family dinner and see if anyone's interested in eating them with our meal.

2. I want to see Gonzaga's men's basketball team win the national championship. But, I'm not a myopic fan. I love the game of basketball more than I do the Zags. I have a long history with college basketball, extending back to the first NCAA championship game I remember watching. It was in 1966 when Texas Western (now U of Texas at El Paso) electrified the world of college basketball and defeated Kentucky, 72-65. 

In the ensuing years, I became a devoted UCLA Bruin fan. I loved their run from 1967-1975 when they won the championship eight of nine years.

So, tonight, as UCLA and Gonzaga hit the ice, and I saw UCLA's classic blue and gold jerseys, I could hear the UCLA fight song in my head and feelings that are over fifty years old returned, and I hoped this 2020-21 UCLA squad, a late blooming squad, a team playing superb basketball over the last three weeks, would bring their best game to this contest and the Zags and Bruins would square off in a compelling match up.

Well, let's just say, not in my wildest dreams did I imagine my hopes being so fully realized. If my hopes were coffee being poured into a cup, let's just say my cup ran-eth over tonight!

UCLA played brilliantly. They were disciplined on offense. They managed the shot clock intelligently, got their best shooters in spots they like to shoot from, made few mistakes, and never folded in the face of whatever pressure Gonzaga applied, full court, three quarter court, or half court. UCLA's best player, Johnny Juzang, scored 29 brilliant points, Jaimie Jacquez added 19, and, to me, the real bonus for the Bruins came from Tyger Campbell and Cody Riley who scored 17 and 14 points, respectively, making it difficult and a bad idea for the Zags to focus much of the defensive attention to Jacquez and Juzang.

It was a marvel to watch how this UCLA team coalesced, found their identity in playing dogged defense and disciplined offense, over the last three weeks. They did everything they needed to do to beat Gonzaga.

Well, except one thing.

UCLA didn't have the game's last possession.

When Johnny Juzang scored on a put back of his own missed shot to tie the game near the end of  overtime, there were still just over three seconds left on the clock, enough time for Corey Kisbert to inbound the ball to Jalen Suggs, for Suggs to dribble-race across half court and from 40-45 feet away from the basket shoot a jump shot. 

Just before the horn sounded to end the game, Suggs' shot kissed the backboard just above the rim and dropped through the hoop.


This magnificently played, intensely battled basketball game ended and Gonzaga won it, 93-90 in OT.

I belted out a My God the World is So Brilliantly Random and Absurd laugh, texted with Christy, Terry, Byrdman, Rog, and Stu and watched the ensuing celebration.

3.  I got to thinking. For years I didn't have a television and so I've only seen replays of past incredible buzzer beaters in the NCAA Tournament. I missed Arike Ogunbowale, Christian Laettner, Kris Jenkins, U. S. Reed, Mike Miller, Tyus Edney, Bryce Drew, Keith Smart, and who knows what other famous buzzer beaters simply because I didn't have a television. But, I had a television in 1983 and nearly jumped through the ceiling of my North Spokane generic apartment when Lorenzo Charles turned Dereck Whittenburg's air ball from thirty into a short buzzer beating game winning shot. 

Tonight I got to see one of the NCAA Tournament's most exciting moments live, as it happened, and you know what? I'm grateful to have ended my years without a television streak. Seeing this game tonight was a blast.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/02/2021: Easter in Valley Cottage, Stanford in a Thriller, Arizona Bears Down

 1. I had missed/overlooked a message Debbie posted to Christy, Carol, and me that Molly, Olivia, David, and Ana were spending Easter weekend in Valley Cottage with Debbie and the Langfords. Debbie posted some pictures of our grandchildren. It's fun to see them all in one place, all in one photograph and, kind of oddly, it helped me remember that it was seven years ago, almost to the day, that we put the word out that we had definitely decided to leave Eugene and move to Virginia -- which, by September of 2014, became a move to Maryland. Seeing the pictures of the grandchildren and realizing the time that has passed since we left Eugene brought to mind a cluster of memories -- selling the house, driving across the country, living with the Diazes in their townhouse, starting to explore Washington, D. C., Maryland, and Virginia, discovering the abundance of natural beauty in these states, becoming acquainted with local beers -- it was fun to recall all of this. I hope it's a fun weekend for Debbie and the Langfords and Diazes. I look forward to more pictures and any news about what's going on.

2. This afternoon, I tuned into the first Final Four game of the weekend matching Stanford and the University of South Carolina. I'd seen Stanford play once or twice earlier in the season and hadn't seen South Carolina. This was a furious game. Both teams were the top-seeded teams in their region. They are tough-minded teams who play rugged defense and can score from in the paint or from beyond the arc. Stanford fell behind early, but went on an extended run in the late first quarter on into the second quarter and led at halftime, 31-25. Stanford's bench was a huge help. The Cardinal's Haley Jones scored early and often in the first quarter, but also committed her second foul and didn't play in the second quarter. Even without her, the Cardinal found other scorers, played stout defense, and often kept the Gamecocks off the boards, a remarkable achievement against the one of the nation's leading rebounding teams.

If you look at the box score, you'll see that Lexie Hull only made 4 of her 17 shots. That stat might lead you to think she had a lousy game. Far from it. The graduate of Central Valley High School of Spokane Valley pulled down 13 rebounds, played relentless defense, found ways to get inside the South Carolina defense, and was most impressive as a hard-nosed leader of this team, more than willing to do what in basketball is known as the "dirty work": defend with energy, dive for loose balls, force tie ups, drive fearlessly to the basket, and rebound with tenacity.

No doubt, the player of the game in Stanford's 66-65 victory was Haley Jones. She scored 24 points and capped her performance by hitting the game's winning shot. That said, I thought Stanford's most valuable player was Lexie Hull. Stanford needed to play rugged and physical against this physically imposing University of South Carolina team and, in that crucial dimension of the game, Lexie Hull was the Cardinal's team leader.

3. The other semi-final game featured perennial basketball powerhouse Connecticut against Arizona. Coming into this game, UConn had played in 21 Final Fours -- the last 13 in a row. Arizona's program had never advanced this far. Connecticut's team is led by Paige Bueckers, the AP national player of the year. 

As they say, on paper, UConn looked like the clear favorite to win this game.

But, you know what else they say? Games aren't played on paper.

No, they are played on the maple.

And, tonight, Arizona played what their star player Aari McDonald called suffocating, stinky defense. They disrupted Connecticut, kept them out of rhythm, gave up few open or easy shots, and harassed and confused the Huskies. 

On offense, the Wildcats didn't have the player of the year, but they had the best player in this game. Aari McDonald is not very tall, but she's quick and cerebral. She knows how to get to the spots she likes to shoot from and release her deadly shots quickly, whether from way outside or from midrange. She can also put the ball on the floor and drive to the hoop, darting between defenders, finding angles to shoot from, and often draw fouls. 

Aari McDonald wasn't alone in leading Arizona to its 69-59 victory. Yes, she scored 26 points, but every Wildcat, every starter, and every player off the bench played with a passion and a toughness, on defense and on the boards, that I'm not sure the younger UConn team had experienced in an opponent before. 

I watched a lot of Pac-12 basketball back when my tv provider included the Pac 12 Network. The Oregon Ducks in 2018-19 and 2019-20 were always my favorite team, but my next favorite team, by far, was Arizona. I loved then and I loved tonight the way they play so hard for their coach, Adia Barnes, and I immediately was blown away, and still am, by Aari McDonald's versatility, quickness, sharp shooting, and stout defense. She was this year's Pac 12 player of the year and named the conference's top defensive player of the year. She's a force.

I won't see all of the final game between Stanford and Arizona because it will still be on when I leave for family dinner, although Carol and Paul might also have it on.

It's hard to know what to expect. Stanford defeated Arizona by a wide margin twice in conference play. The last of those two games happened on Feb. 22. It's common knowledge that Arizona has improved since that game, but hasn't Stanford also improved? Aren't both of these teams playing at a higher level in early April than they were on Feb 22? 

I'm not making any predictions -- I'm just looking forward to seeing how this championship game plays out and am happy that the Pac 12 Conference place both teams in this final contest. 

Friday, April 2, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/01/2021: Starting Over, Walking West Kellogg, Curry and Noodles

1. Today was the opening day of the Major League Baseball season and that also means the opening day of fantasy baseball. 

It's weird.

When I was a young baseball fan, I knew all the players, their teams, how they were performing, everything. 

Now, the new season rolls around and I honestly have to start all over again familiarizing myself with the players on my teams and around the league. 

Once the 2020 season was over, the players, in large part, just went away. Out of my mind.

So, today, I started to familiarize myself with players again and, as it turned out, my teams did pretty well on Opening Day. I didn't draft my own players -- ESPN robots drafted more me -- and now I'll just have to learn more and see what happens.

2. My legs were a little rubbery today after I walked on Wednesday in CdA, but I want to keep moving and took about a fifteen minute shorter walk today. I walked over to the triangle park on Riverside and Mission, walked around its circumference and then went back to Cameron Ave and walked past the hospital, past McDonald's, past the title loan place, to the condos or whatever they are west of town.

I backtracked to the intersection of Cameron and Jacobs Gulch and headed to the stairway that leads from the hospital parking lot to The Trail and walked on The Trail back to Riverside and headed back home. 

So, I walked for about 35 minutes. I racked up about nearly 3700 steps. I just keep trying to get stronger.

3. Back home, I knew I had about a dinner's worth of chicken curry sauce left over from the other night. I didn't have any rice left over, though, and so I decided to sort of replicate one of those wide noodle Thai dishes I've enjoyed over the years in Thai restaurants by boiling a batch of Amish Wedding Food Wide Noodles. 

It was perfect. The yellow curry sauce tasted terrific in combination with the egg (not Thai rice) noodles and I let myself believe that I was back in Eugene, at 940 Madison, enjoying a container of take out Rad Na. 


Thursday, April 1, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 03/31/2021: Walking in Coeur d' Alene, The Crown and Thistle, Muffin Pan

 1.  I drove to Coeur d'Alene today to take the kind of walk I enjoy the most.  I parked the Sube just north of 4th and Wallace and walked toward the lake, not really knowing what I was going to do. I reached Front Street and decided to do something I'd never done before and walk the route of the floating boardwalk. It was a flawless, cool, clear afternoon, the lake stretching out for miles without a ripple on it and hardly a boat.  The cobalt lake surface set off the distant hills topped with snow beautifully. 

Because I haven't walked much during the winter, I like to walk in downtown areas -- or on this boardwalk -- because I can readily find public benches or tables to sit and rest a bit. As I build strength back in my legs again, I'll need to sit less often as I walk, making walking the routes I usually take in Kellogg more appealing, as well as walking on the Trail of the CdAs. 

2. I had decided that after I walked for a while, I'd try out The Crown and Thistle on 4th Street, just north of Sherman Ave.

Crown and Thistle is built in the style of an English pub and offers a menu of pub fare: fish and chips, meat pies, Scotch egg, pasties, bangers and mash, and other such offerings. They also serve Guinness, Harp, and other beers from the U.K.

To my surprise, after all these years, I experienced a moment of truth at The Crown and Thistle.

I ordered a 10 oz glass of someone's ESB -- wish I'd written the brewer down -- and haddock and chips.

My food arrived and I started to eat the haddock and suddenly I realized that I love the idea of fish and chips, but I don't enjoy the actual meal that much. I took some time and thought about this. I thought about fish and chips I've eaten everywhere from the Atlantic ChipShop in Brooklyn to Billy Mac's and Newman's in Eugene to the Fisherman's Market and Grill in Coeur d'Alene and I realized that while I'm not put off by fish and chips, I honestly don't enjoy them that much.

The haddock and chips I ate today had no defects: the fish was moist and the breading was made of a beer batter and was crispy and intact (not damp and falling apart). 

I cannot and will not fault The Crown and Thistle!

I simply would rather eat other fare and I'm writing this largely so that I hope I'll remember that when I return to this place or go to other similar spots, not to order fish and chips. 

I really think it's a meal that I want to enjoy more than I actually do.

I enjoyed my malty ESB. I ate at a very slow time in the pub so I had a pleasant, quiet time. 

I actually just wish I'd had my come to Jesus moment regarding fish and chips before I sat down and wish I'd ordered something else. 

Ha! I'm a slow learner. 

3. I walked several blocks up 4th Street back to the Sube and drove out to Fred Meyer where I found a jumbo muffin pan, put it in my cart, and bought a few other things I needed.

When I returned home, I was relieved to discover that the jumbo baking cups I accidentally ordered online fit perfectly in the holes in the muffin pan I bought, so I'll be in business soon baking some muffins.

When I finished shopping, I checked my pedometer.

This was my most productive day walking in along time.

I took over 5300 steps in just over 50 minutes and racked up about 2.3 miles. 

I did exactly the kind of walking I enjoy most today, a combination of walking city streets with a stroll very near water and, along the way, I found plenty of places to sit the two or three times I wanted to give my legs a rest. 

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 03/30/2021: Baking Cups, Tree House Concert, Zags Streak Past USC

1.  Well. Well. Ha! I enjoy making muffins from time to time and I prefer aluminum foil baking cups. I bought aluminum cups once at Yoke's a couple or so years ago, but Yoke's seems to have quit carrying them. So, I ordered 100 of them online. They arrived today. I discovered I accidentally ordered jumbo cups (3.5 inches), not the regular cups (2.5 inches) I thought I'd purchased. 

I decided to accept my error and take advantage of it rather than beweep my outcast state. I'm going to go out and find some jumbo muffin pans -- and wanting to do this might just give me good reason to rocket over the hill and do a little shopping and maybe a little eating in CdA.

2. Tonight's Tree House Concert was a gem. I enjoy these concerts no matter what Bill Davie plays, but, I confess, I get a little extra pleasure when Bill reaches deep into the past and plays songs from his early recordings -- songs like "Mornings" and "Learn to Say Goodbye" and "King of the Art" -- and that's what he did tonight. Bill also announced that even if, as more and more people are vaccinated, he returns to coffeehouse and other in person performances, the Tree House Concerts will continue. That's great news -- I think for many of us who tune in regularly to Bill's concerts, they have gone way beyond being a source of pandemic relief. They are a great joy, an uplift to our spirits, a chance to virtually congregate with other people far and wide who love Bill and his generosity, his music, poetry, and poetry readings -- and we all love The Hand.  I know that I, for one, long ago stopped connecting these concerts to the pandemic and that however the pandemic surges and recedes, Bill will continue to perform Tree House Concerts online. 

3. So, Sunday night I watched USC's men's basketball team dismantle Oregon. USC's zone defense pushed Oregon away from the basket, forced Oregon into late in the shot clock shots, many of those shots poor ones, and, in general, stymied the Ducks.

Now, here's what I am incapable of: I could not imagine how the USC defense would fare against Gonzaga. For starters, I didn't know how the presence of Gonzaga would impact the Trojans psychologically and, in addition, Gonzaga has a very different team of starters than Oregon does. 

I was, however, eager this evening to find out.

Well, right from the get go, Gonzaga established a huge psychological edge over USC. The Trojans started the game jittery, turned the ball over on consecutive possessions, and the Zags streaked out to an early lead. On the other end of the court, when Gonzaga had to play their half court offense, it became clear that Gonzaga is a much more versatile team than Oregon, has many more ways to attack USC than Oregon did, and the Zags scored in multiple ways. The Zags went right at the powerful Mobley brothers inside and established Drew Timme as the player their offensive attack would orbit around. I heard several people say before this game that Timme would have a lot of problems in this game because he'd never faced a defensive player like Evan Mobley or like his brother, Isaiah. To myself, I thought that might be true, but I'm not sure the Mobley brothers have faced a player inside as deft and versatile as Drew Timmey.

Timme established himself as a force inside. But, he wasn't alone. The Zags attacked the Trojans' defense with crisp passes, great cuts, vision, and selflessness. The Zags shredded USC, storming to a 49-30 half time lead and cruising to an 85-66 win. 

I really didn't learn a thing about how the Trojans would fare against the Zags by having watched them play other opponents, especially Oregon.  

And, I have to say that I don't know what to expect when the Zags play UCLA. UCLA plays vigorous defense. They gave Michigan State, BYU, Abeline Christian, Alabama, and Michigan all kinds of problems. 

But not one of those teams is Gonzaga. I saw Creighton do things out of character against Gonzaga, leading me to believe they were mentally rattled by the Zags. I saw the same thing happen against USC.

Will UCLA be jittery? Can UCLA stop the multi-dimensional and versatile offense of Gonzaga? How will UCLA fare on offense against Gonzaga? Will UCLA's Johnny Juzang continue to score a lot of points? The Zags' defense looked very good against USC, whether for physical or psychological reasons. Will the Zags disrupt the Bruins as well?

I can't say. 

Until I see these two teams actually on the maple playing one another, I don't know what to expect. 

It's the same for Baylor and Houston. 

I just don't know.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 03/29/2021: Luna Sleeps In, Yellow Chicken Curry, Beavers Fall Short

1. Luna has developed a new habit in the mornings. I will contrast her with Copper. Both Luna and Copper sleep with me, Luna close to my chest and Copper at my feet. I usually rise and shine between 6:30 and 7:00 in the morning. Copper immediately leaps off the bed and begins to order me around with persistent meows. He's a bit impatient when I have to use the bathroom first thing and, as I make my way out to the kitchen, he stays at my ankles, herding me.

Copper wants his breakfast. 

Once in the kitchen, Copper is patient while I wash out his food bowl, put water in the water bowl, and pop open a can of wet food. It makes him very happy when I put his food down.

In contrast, Luna doesn't rise and shine with me. She has taken to sleeping in. She loves to burrow herself under the covers and keep sleeping. She started doing this a while back and I was a bit concerned that it was a sign that she wasn't feeling well again. 

So, early on, I got Luna out of bed. I immediately saw, however, that she was doing fine and so now I let her sleep in as long as she wants. 

The only slight adjustment I've had to make is that I now wait until she's up and around before putting her food down.

Otherwise, Copper will eat it. 

These are delicate negotiations between me and Luna and Copper. 

2. I had some fun in the kitchen today. I started out by putting on a pot of jasmine rice. While it cooked, I took out the package of chicken tenders I bought the other day and started cooking them in olive oil and sesame oil. (I also added sesame oil to the water when I prepared the rice.)

I chopped up an onion, a few baby Yukon Golds, a half a yam, and took some green beans out of the freezer. I combined coconut milk, soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar, a couple dried lime kaffir leaves, and yellow curry paste in a pot. I started heating it up and soon folded in the vegetables and chopped up chicken tenders and let this sauce cook slowly away until the potatoes and yams and onions were tender.

I love curry sauce over rice and this bowl turned out really delicious. As a bonus, I have over a quart of sauce and a quart of cooked rice left over, so there will be more yellow chicken curry in my near future.

3. Early in tonight's tilt between the Houston Cougars and the Oregon State Beavers, Houston's defense stymied and confused Oregon State and they fell behind, trailing by seventeen points at halftime. At halftime, the Beavers' coach, Wayne Tinkle, devised a defensive scheme that threw the Cougars off kilter and slowly, surely the Beavers mounted a comeback, even tying the game at 55-55. But, as happens, it's often difficult for a team storming back from a large deficit to get all the way over the hump and take a lead. The Beavers had chances, but they stymied themselves with a couple of turnovers and some poor shot selection. It was a really admirable run the Beavers made, not only in this game, but in the month of  March, but tonight it ended in a 67-61 defeat. 

Houston advances to the semi-finals of the tournament where they will face Baylor, who defeated Arkansas in a fast-paced, high flying game, 81-72. The semi-finals will be on Saturday. 

Monday, March 29, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 03/28/2021: Italian Family Dinner, Zoom Talk and Trauma, USC Overpowers Oregon

1.  As I've alluded to throughout the week, Carol was in charge of family dinner this week and she planned an Italian feast. None of us knew what it would feature, but Christy and I knew what we were to bring to add to the mystery main dish. 

I was in charge of wine and brought a bottle of Rose (Rozay) and a Petit Syrah. I also brought gin, sweet vermouth, Campari, and strips of orange peel and mixed us each a Negroni cocktail.

Christy picked up a loaf of freshly baked bread at Blackboard Market in Wallace on Thursday. We all agreed it was Italian bread! I froze the bread until this morning and it remained fresh. Christy also made a superb Italian green salad. 

Upon arriving at Carol and Paul's, with Paul's mother, Pat, as a guest, we found out that Carol make a very delicious minestrone soup featuring tomatoes from last summer's harvest and homemade chicken stock which had bubbled away for about a week and was dark, full of nutrients, and deep and rich in flavor.

We also discovered that for an appetizer, Carol had prepared a Merenda, a spread of nuts, meat, cheese, crackers, olives, and fruit. For what I enjoy most in an appetizer, it was perfect! 

For dessert, Carol baked an awesome Italian lemon cake served with a scoop of vanilla gelato that had oak in its title. Was it vanilla oak gelato? Oak vanilla? I didn't quite get that straight. 

So, not only was our dinner perfectly delicious, we also felt some of the relief that comes with all being fully vaccinated.

We've been having dinners at Carol and Paul's because they have room in their living room for us all to spread out and establish plenty of distance between one another. We've also taken the added precaution of covering our faces when not eating and drinking. I've been very grateful, week after week, that Christy, Carol, Paul, and I have all agreed to cover up and that no one has groused about it. 

Tonight, though, we agreed that given what we've learned about being vaccinated, we could be together uncovered. Pat took a group picture of the four of us, one with our face coverings on and another with them off, all holding our vaccination cards.

Being fully vaccinated gives me a lot of confidence that I'm unlikely to get sick -- or get very sick -- if exposed to the virus. 

I remain concerned, though, about the potential for me to spread the virus to others, should I be exposed. 

Enough uncertainty exists about whether vaccinated people might still be vectors and sources of contagion that I will continue to wear a face covering in public places -- again, not so much because I'm concerned about getting sick, but because I don't want to take a chance that I might be carrying the virus, not know it, and spread it to others. 

I'm lucky, I guess. I don't feel restricted by having my face covered. It's not uncomfortable for me. I understand neither of these things are true for many others. So I'll continue to cover up, for the sake of others, in public (unless I'm eating or drinking!), until I am assured that a large segment of the population has been inoculated. 

2. Today's Zoom meeting with Bill, Diane, Val, Bridgit, and Colette was, on the whole, a sobering one, often difficult. Bridgit lost her balance in a parking lot last week and fell, suffering broken bones, countless bruises, and other sources of pain. She's going to the hospital on Monday, the 29th, for surgery on the fractures. It's going to take her weeks, if not months, to heal, not only physically, but from the trauma of such a surprising and brutal accident. 

Colette worked for over thirty years in Boulder with developmentally disabled people. She helped clients in innumerable ways to, among other things, train for employment, find jobs, live independently, navigate getting around in the city, and many other things.

The gunman who killed ten people in the Table Mesa King Soopers store in Boulder on March 22, 2021,  murdered one of Colette's longtime clients, Teri Leiker. Teri Leiker worked as a courtesy clerk, a grocery bagger, at King Soopers for thirty-one years. Colette had been instrumental in helping her secure this job and continued to work with Teri regularly until Colette and her family relocated to Washington State a few years ago.

The slaying of Teri Leiker devastated Colette. Colette entrusted us, her friends, with as much of the story as she could tell, bringing Teri Leiker to life for us in vivid detail, telling us Teri Leiker's personal history, describing her personality, and detailing the relationship she had with Teri Leiker. We learned about how much Teri Leiker loved working at King Soopers, how she loved hugging people, high-fiving them, and how Teri Leiker articulated what she wanted in life and how she was able to make many of her dreams for herself come true. 

Why would I include the murder of Teri Leiker and Colette's grief in a daily accounting of beautiful things that happened to me?

To me, the way Colette has written about Teri Leiker online and the way she brought us into Teri Leiker's world today is beautiful because Colette's writing and telling of Teri Leiker's story, and her part in that story, brought the horror of this murder close to us, made it immediate.  Colette's accounts have not only animated the lost life of Teri Leiker, but her accounts have brought us intimately into the murder's impact on those who knew Teri Leiker, helped us experience that the effects of such brutality extend out far beyond the person killed. We could see the devastation in Colette's face, hear it in her voice, and could begin to comprehend it in her stories. None of the rest of us knew Teri Leiker, but we are now all involved in one dimension of the trauma her murderer activated when he killed Teri Leiker. 

3.  It was also quite a day in college basketball. With UCLA and USC winning their games today, three of the eight teams still in the tournament are from the Pac 12 conference. Gonzaga seemed to barely break a sweat dispatching one of my favorite teams, Creighton. UCLA defeated Alabama in a thrilling overtime game. My alma mater, however, had a lot of problems tonight. I've repeated this point about the Oregon Ducks over and over again: they have to get good production on offense from their four best players, Richardson, Omoruyi, Duarte, and Figueroa in order to have a shot at beating really good teams. If they also get production from Williams or get some production from the bench, it's a bonus.

Tonight, USC played a zone defense that befuddled the Ducks. They just couldn't get the ball in their best shooters hands in places on the court where they are at their best and often the shots they did get were rushed as they ate up time on the shot clock trying to penetrate the Trojans' great defensive scheme. 

All credit to the Trojans. Their defense disrupted Oregon, really made the Ducks struggle, and on offense the Trojans got great scoring out of their backcourt. The guards' shots opened up, in large part, because the tall and lanky Mobley brothers established themselves as a potent scoring threat inside early on and as the Ducks collapsed their defense on them, the Trojans peppered the basket with deadly outside shooting. 

This game was never really in question. Early on, USC established dominance over Oregon and beat the Ducks handily, 82-68.

Now USC plays Gonzaga.

I don't really know what to expect. 

The Zags have never played a team quite like USC -- nor has USC played a team quite like the Zags.

It'll be fascinating to see what gives. 

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 03/27/2021: EMERGENCY! LOL!, Oregon State Wins, Luna Chases Copper

 1. I dashed over to Yoke's this morning, set on buying the wine for Sunday's family dinner. Carol is preparing an Italian dinner and I volunteered to bring, as assigned by Carol, an Italian wine. I had asked Carol what to buy and she thought Yoke's usually carried a Chianti.

Well, maybe Yoke's in Kellogg used to carry a Chianti, but evidently there's either a very high demand for Chianti and Yoke's was sold out or Chianti isn't very popular in Kellogg so Yoke's doesn't carry it.

Either way, I came up empty.

I bolted back home, wrote a panicked email to Carol and Christy with the subject heading Family Dinner EMERGENCY! and sought their counsel. Christy said she might be going out to Barney's and, if she did, she'd see if Barney's carried Chianti. It turned out Christy didn't need to go to Barney's -- she found everything she needed at Yoke's! -- and so I sweat cold bullets for hours, waiting to hear from Carol.

Carol's delay made me think she didn't fully understand the gravity of the situation 😉, but, just as I was about to jump in the Sube with a willingness to search every wine cellar in North Idaho for a bottle of Chianti, Carol got back to me.

In six simple words, Carol quieted my anxiety and tranquilized my nerves: "A Syrah or Shiraz would work". 

My breathing returned to normal. My hands stopped shaking. I knew, because I had slowly and carefully read every wine bottle on the shelves at Yoke's that the store carries both wines. 

I will fulfill my obligation to Sunday's dinner and not be the cause of it's failure.

Thank goodness! 

2. There is definitely an unwritten rule in the unwritten book of unwritten rules that states that if a person is a graduate of the University of Oregon -- or even a fan of the Ducks -- that person must hate the Oregon State Beavers.

Was I ever grateful today that I've never submitted to nor obeyed that rule.

If I had, I would have denied myself the pleasure of watching the Oregon State Beavers men's basketball team knuckle down on defense, slowly, but eventually, find some rhythm on offense, and, in a physical grind of a game, defeat Loyola of Chicago, 65-58. Remarkably, the Beavers advance to the fourth round of the NCAA Tournament as a 12th seed, as the team picked in the preseason to finish last in Pac-12.

As I watched the Beavers win today, a few things stood out. First, without a doubt, their team leader, both in scoring and in temperament, is Ethan Thompson. He keeps the Oregon State offense organized, has a knack for scoring in pressure situations, and brings a contagious joy and confidence to each game. Secondly, the Beavers have about seven or eight next tier  players who are about equal in talent. The best of them is the explosive leaper, Warith Alatishe, and then the Beavers have a wave of hard-working defenders, some of whom who might get hot and score in double figures, but who come in and out of the game, giving one another some rest, play solid defense, and give the Beavers depth. The Beavers have also been, throughout the tournament, great from the free throw line, a particularly important strength late in these games when the Beavers have been protecting their leads.

Oregon State faces a stern test on Monday when they play the University of Houston. I don't know what to expect. Like Oregon State (and like Loyola-Chicago), Houston plays strong defense. Houston would appear to my (not that trustworthy) eye to have more players who are reliable scorers and they are a bigger and longer team than any the Beavers have faced so far in the tournament. 

A Beaver win would be astonishing, but astonishing wins have been the Beavers' trademark ever since they won four straight games on four consecutive days to win the Pac-12 Tournament and qualify for the Big Dance.

3.  I don't know that I'll ever figure out how Luna and Copper experience each other. On the face of it, I'd say Copper is sometimes intimidated by Luna, but other times they rest peacefully together on the couch and are definitely at peace with each other when we all go to sleep at night.

Today, and I don't know who initiated this, Luna and Copper got frisky with each other and I couldn't tell if the chasing, hissing, hiding, romping around from room to room was playful, if Luna was being aggressive and asserting her dominance, or a combination of both. 

This chasing around lasted no more than ten or fifteen minutes and then Luna and Copper retreated to their usual places. I wondered, at one point, if they were having a territorial dust up over my bed. Usually I keep Luna and Copper out of my bedroom because Copper was, on occasion, taking dumps on the bed.

Copper always wants to be in that room and, because I knew he had just done his business in the litter box, I left the bedroom door open and Copper immediately made himself at home on the bed. 

I think the chasing around started soon after Copper jumped on my bed and that makes me think that Luna wanted to make sure Copper knew who rules the roost.

No harm resulted, just some commotion, and an interruption to the usually calm and quiet lives Copper and Luna normally live day to day. 

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 03/26/2021: Walking Wallace, Pine Creek Tavern, Sleeping with Luna and Copper

1. My favorite places to go walking are near water -- I especially enjoy walking paths that go around a pond or a small lake -- and walking in towns and cities. One of the things I enjoyed most about living in Maryland was having a small lake just a stone's throw away from our apartment home and being able to walk in along other watery areas. I also loved walking the streets in Washington, D.C. and the same was true in Eugene. In Eugene, I enjoyed combining walking city streets and walking near water when I'd walk through neighborhoods near our house and then along the Willamette River and end up at Delta Ponds in North Eugene.

I have to admit, I haven't found comparable experiences since moving to Kellogg. The closest -- and it's a very good experience -- is when I hike along creeks, say on the Coal Creek Trail or the Pulaski Tunnel Trail. 

This morning I thought that it might be fun to walk the streets of Wallace's downtown. There are blocks in downtown Wallace to walk up and down and I'm always wanting to get the geography of downtown Wallace a little clearer in my head. 

So that's what I did. I parked on 5th Street and walked Pine, Cedar, Sixth, Seventh, Fifth, and Bank -- not in that order -- in a circuitous route, reminding myself where different places are -- like Blackboard Market, Wallace Brewing, Cogs Gastropub, Slab Meat, Fainting Goat, Eureka Sally's, and other spots. It's too bad I wasn't hungry or feeling like having a beer -- it would have been fun to stop in somewhere for a refreshment, but I just walked for about 25 minutes and racked up over 2000 steps. 

This walk didn't satisfy my ever present yearning for walking in a city -- I won't lie -- but it was pretty good and I can see myself returning to try out other routes and expand upon what I did today.

2. After walking, I felt like driving for a while. I didn't get on the freeway. I drove the old highway to Osburn, on into Kellogg, and then drove uptown and headed west on McKinley, out of town, to Smelterville and eventually to Pinehurst. 

I started feeling a little hungry. I also have been imagining going to an out of the way tavern in Shoshone County for a bottle or two of Miller beer.  

Ah! The Pine Creek Tavern!

I walked in the Pine Creek Tavern and two men were at the bar and every table was vacant. I sat down at a table, ordered a Miller beer and a hamburger with fries. 

The beer was just what I wanted. It was kind of sweet, easy to drink, very cold and refreshing. It tasted great with my thick burger dressed with mustard, ketchup, lettuce, tomato, onion, and dill pickle. It tasted good with my fries and fry sauce, too. As I've written about in abundance over the years, I love craft beers, but I don't enjoy them very much with food. I like to drink craft beer and then eat or eat and then drink craft beer, but, on the whole, I don't enjoy most craft beers while I'm eating.

It's a whole different story, though, with American mass produced lagers. I really enjoy washing down a burger and fries or slices of pizza or even a breakfast of hash browns, sausage, and eggs with a Budweiser or a Miller or a Rolling Rock. Sometimes, I like to combine orange juice with an American lager or tomato juice or a V-8. 

Today, it had been at least a year or more since I'd enjoyed a cold Miller beer served out of a Shoshone County tavern/bar/Lounge cooler turned way up. 

I was so happy when I returned home that I sat in my chair, put my feet up on the ottoman, enjoyed Luna affixed to my chest, and fell into the old familiar burger-fry-Miller beer sleep I relish when I have had one of these lunches.

3. I awoke from my afternoon hibernation and looked at my pedometer and decided I'd like to get in over 3000 steps today. I don't have a lot of stamina right now and I'm wanting to build it up so I can return to hiking in the hills. At first, I thought I'd walk down to the Gondolier convenience store and pick up a bag of popcorn or some other snack, but my better self rejected that idea and I just took a walk in the neighborhood and pushed my step total to around 3400. That is the highest total I've walked in quite a while. I decided that rather than berate myself for not having walked more, I'd congratulate myself for getting out and moving around. 

There are all kinds of rewards for any amount of walking I do, but the one I enjoy the most is the way it helps me sleep at night. My tired legs love the relaxing feeling of being stretched out at night and walking helps me sleep deeper and longer. Copper seems to enjoy it, too. While Luna spends the night either attached to or very near me from the waist up, Copper, who never makes contact with me during the day, presses herself against my lower legs at night. 

The three of us have some negotiating to do during the night as I am up about three or four times (at least) to visit the water closet, but we work it out and neither Luna nor Copper protest. In fact, sometimes they take advantage of my getting up to take a stroll in the house themselves, munch on a little food, have some water, visit a litter box, or, sometimes, Copper enjoys batting the little plastic golf ball with a bell in it around the living room and the hallway outside my bedroom for about ten minutes or so.

But, they always return, assume their spots, and we fall back to sleep again. 

Friday, March 26, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 03/25/2021: Good News for Luna, Christy Delivers Italian Bread, Chicken Tenders

1. First thing this morning, I drove Luna to see Dr. Cook who wanted to get a reading of the glucose in her blood after two days of no insulin. The result was awesome. Dr. Cook called me into an examination room. He was almost giddy as he explained that Luna has gone into diabetic remission and doesn't have to have insulin as long as her condition remains stable.  Luna has some dental problems that need attention. Dr. Cook has been delaying doing this, but with Luna's urinary tract infection cleared up and her glucose levels so good, she can have this dental work done on April 20th. Before sedating Luna and going to work on her teeth, Dr. Cook will get a glucose reading and if it's up again, I will have her insulin on hand in case she needs a dose. 

I know it might be a rough time for Luna in the couple or three days after the dental work, but I'll be very happy that she will be a much healthier cat after this work is done -- and, if I dare write these words, both cats will have had all the medical attention they need for a while -- a great relief to me. I want Luna and Copper to be as healthy as possible.

2. In the middle of the afternoon I was working a crossword puzzle and I saw Christy walking in front of my picture window. 

She had a loaf of bread in hand!

It's a gorgeous oval shaped loaf of freshly baked bread from Blackboard Marketplace in Wallace. 

Christy and I hoped it fulfilled Carol's request that we bring Italian bread to dinner on Sunday. Christy found an article on line spelling out differences between French bread and Italian bread. Upon reading it, I texted Christy a proclamation that I believe it's an Italian loaf, but also said that we'll find out for sure on Sunday. Carol will have the final say: she has first-hand knowledge of Italian bread because she's been to Italy. 🙏🙏🙏

3. It's been years since I've purchased a package of chicken tenders. There was a time, when we lived in Eugene, that I used to quite regularly pick up a bag of tenders at Trader Joe's. Today, while at Yoke's, I decided to buy some. Later on, I cooked them in the cast iron pan with a combination of sesame and olive oil and I made a batch of rice. I had a very simple meal of chicken and rice, made more flavorful with a combination of Teriyaki sauce and Bragg Liquid Amino.  I had some tenders left over and I definitely see a chicken curry bowl in my immediate future.