Friday, April 30, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/29/2021: Lab Work and Results, Lunch at the Snake Pit, The King of Zydeco

1. I hopped in the Sube and blasted up to the clinic this morning to do a set of labs in preparation for my appointment on Wednesday, May 5th with nephrologist, Dr. Bieber. I just now read the results and, once again, the numbers look stable. In fact, my GFR, the measure of my kidney function, improved from 12 to 15 since January. I'm optimistic that Dr. Bieber will agree that I'm continuing to remain stable. If so, this is good news moving forward and is further evidence that the troubles I thought I was having in Pendleton were temporary and, I still think, caused by dehydration.

2. Around 11:30, Stu and I met at the Snake Pit in Kingston and dined on the outside patio. We talked about a variety of things, including the North Idaho real estate market (it's scorching hot), travel plans we might have, and the crazy making subject of money. I can't quite figure out for myself if I enjoy barbecued meats at restaurants, so in order to further test this question, I ordered beef brisket with sides of mac and cheese and cole slaw. I was happy when my plate arrived that the serving of brisket was moderate. Often, I think, when I order bbq, there's more food than I really want. This helping of brisket wasn't as rich as some bbq I've eaten elsewhere and so I enjoyed it. The sides were good and I left the table feeling happy with my order and pleased that I didn't feel overfed. 

If, on Thursday, the world seemed to you a bit more orderly and a slightly more peaceful place, it's because Stu and I worked diligently over our lunch to solve the world's problems.

3. I returned to the Vizio room this evening and watched another documentary by Les Blank entitled Hot Pepper (1973). It runs just under an hour and focuses primarily on the King of Zydeco, Clifford Chenier. 

I'm really starting to get into the swing of how Les Blank constructs his films. Without introduction, with no voice over narrator, with no context established, Hot Pepper just gets going and we are in a little club near or in Lafayette, Louisiana. Clifford Chenier's band is performing and he and the people who work at the club negotiate how to deal with a drunk guy who is staggers up to Chenier and his band and dance/staggers in front of them. 

This scene sets in motion about 55 minutes of scenes that alternate between Chenier performing in other clubs and in front porch settings and a variety of shots and segments documenting, again, without comment, on life in the Lafayette area. The film visits a barber shop, bars, a couple of mojo women, and gives us sustained shots of children playing, men working, the social scenes in a handful of clubs, and, most gloriously, the visual beauty of the bayou country. I can't repeat often enough that none of the pictures that move on the screen are narrated. Les Blank does nothing overt to tie the parts of this movie together. Rather, he gives us viewers the sense that we are moving about Lafayette and Lake Charles and other nearby places as we would if we were there both looking at how people live their lives and listening to them talk with one another, joking, telling stories, sharing wisdom, and remembering the past. 

I might be stretching things a bit here, but I can do that because this is my blog(!), but the fluid ways Les Blank moves us from one scene to another, as he records people talking, often making the viewer strain to understand what they are saying, often not making it overtly obvious what ties the different scenes together, reminds me of some of Robert Altman's story telling in his (not documentary) movies. 

I guess I would describe Gap Toothed Women and Hot Peppers as lyrical and anthropological at the same time -- his films observe the details of everyday life in an anthropological way and are filmed poetically, exploring the beauty and dignity of how people live their lives and of the landscapes surrounding them. 

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/28/2021: Hiking with Podcasts, Homemade Slider, Listening to Women

 1. In my ongoing effort to get moving and to improve my wind, this afternoon I scaled the wellness trail above the hospital again. Yes, I huffed and puffed on the steep parts of the trail and, yes, I stopped a couple of times to slow down my breathing and my heartbeat, but, on the whole, I was happy with how this short hike went.

On the podcast front, while walking and hiking, today I returned to the 1619 Project and listened to one episode focused on the history of lamentably terrible medical care for Black people in the United States and some of the ideas that have perpetuated the inequities in doctors' offices and in hospitals and how introducing Medicare into the medical system helped improve things. 

The other episode I listened to has two parts. I listened to the first part coming down the trail and walking home. It's about a Black man whose life as the owner and operator of sugar cane farms was crippled by a bank's discriminatory loaning practices. 

By the way, last night and today I listened to two past episodes from the NPR program Piano Jazz. From 1978-2011, this show featured jazz pianist Marian McPartland (b.1918; died 2013) sitting down in one to one interviews with musicians covering a wide range of jazz composition and performance. The conversations were always a delight to listen to, but even more enjoyable were the in studio solo performances by the guests and, in addition, Marian McPartland would always go to the piano and she and each show's guest would play a duet. 

I'll keep going back to the Piano Jazz archive, but I got started last night with a show featuring blues and jazz composer, songwriter, pianist, and singer, Marcia Ball who has a deep knowledge for and love of music from Louisiana. On the show, Marcia Ball was energetic, a great story teller, an excellent teacher, and performed brilliantly and paid special homage to the life and work of Professor Longhair.

This morning I loved hearing Marian McPartland interview Dave Douglas, a prolific composer, performer, and recorder of jazz music. He's a trumpeter. I heard him perform at the Beall Concert Hall at the University of Oregon about twenty years and found his music enchanting. He gave this interview around the same time period that I got to hear him play and, I loved his knowledge and deep love of jazz history and hearing him play brought back stirring memories of the one time I heard him perform. I've got to keep an eye out in case he performs in Spokane one day. I'd love to hear him again.

2. Over the years, I have come to enjoy sliders a lot, especially ones made from ground beef and ground lamb. I try to always keep small baggies of ground beef on hand in the freezer. After my hike, I got to thinking how I have some Extra Crispy English Muffins on hand and that I could make a ground beef slider by frying a small ground beef patty and putting it between two halves of the English muffin.

It worked perfectly, especially with catsup, mustard, cream cheese and a half of a chopped up Bubblies Kosher dill pickle. 

3. I am stoked about the vast catalog of short documentary films available on the Criterion Channel. Subscribing to this service was a smart and stimulating move.

For now, I'm especially entranced by short documentaries made in the 1970s and 1980s -- and some of my favorite full length documentaries also come from these two decades. Tonight I watched Les Blank's 1987 half an hour piece entitled, Gap Toothed Women. On the face of it, the subject matter of this film seemed random -- who would think to put out a call for women with gaps between their teeth to come forward and be interviewed about having this physical feature?

Well, Les Blank did, and what emerges is a meditation on standards of beauty, ambition, overcoming difficulties, and other subjects as a one woman after another bears witness to being gap-toothed and opens up about other dimensions of their lives. 

I didn't expect this movie to transport me back to the 1980s and to the invigorating conversations I used to have with women friends and intimates, women students at Whitworth and the U of Oregon, women I went to graduate school with, the two women I married and the women who were friends of my first and second wives back then, women in ACOA meetings, women in the political meetings I used to attend, and women I had casual, but deep, conversations with in the neighborhoods I lived in and coffeehouses and cafes I frequented, especially near downtown Eugene. I didn't expect it, but I loved it. 

I felt the same way watching Barbara Hammer's film, Audience.

Right now, I can't quite nail down with words what I enjoy so much about the way the women in these two movies talk and women I knew in the 1980s talked about art, sexuality, beauty, hopes, aesthetics, coming of age, music, politics, freedom, aspirations, and other subjects but, whatever it is, such conversations expanded my consciousness throughout the 1980s, profoundly shaped my world views, and challenged me as I tried to grow and develop as an adult. 

My guess is that I hungered for ways to experience and understand myself as a citizen of the United States and as a part of our country's social fabric that ran counter to many of the mainstream views that were perpetuated during the Reagan Revolution, that gained traction with the emergence of the Moral Majority and other like-minded movements, that advocated for cutbacks, crackdowns, and exclusion (rather than inclusion), and that sought to more narrowly define what it means to be a fully legitimate resident and citizen of the USA. 

The most invigorating conversations I had back then were with women. I was fortunate to work, study, socialize, and be a part of organizations with many women. Hearing the voices of the women in Gap Toothed Women and Audience definitely brought the many interactions back to life that I experienced 30-40 years ago and treasure today in immediate and emotionally satisfying ways. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/27/2021: Dry Food, Walking Mission Ave with Ross Gay, Return of the Tree House Concert

 1. I came home from family dinner with left over fruit salad. This morning, I went to Yoke's to buy some dry cat food for Luna and Copper. I suddenly surmised that I might enjoy some dry human food and bought a box of Grape Nuts to combine with the fruit salad. I was right. The combination was perfect. 

2. Christy and Carol talked some at family dinner about Mission Ave here in Kellogg and the people who used to live on Mission and people who live there now. Their recall and knowledge left me in the dust -- even though I delivered the Spokesman Review during the summer of 1966 in that area. 

Today, I walked Mission Avenue as far as Helen St. before turning south, walking to the former Sunnyside Elementary School building, and then heading home via Riverside Ave. I did not have the experience of suddenly remembering who lived in these houses on Mission Ave. when I was a youngster. I guess some day I'll need to have a guided tour! 

I enhanced the pleasure of my walk by listening to an episode of On Being featuring Krista Tippett interviewing poet and essayist, Ross Gay. It is entitled "Tending Joy and Practicing Delight". 

Earlier in the day, as a follow up to Sunday's discussion of comedy on Zoom, Colette had emailed me that she thought this interview fit perfectly with the kinds of ideas we started to discuss on Sunday and will continue to talk about in the future. 

She's right. In fact, I think, at some point, we'll devote a session to the sorts of things Ross Gay talks about in this episode and illustrate different points with passages from Ross Gay's collection, The Book of Delights. (My copy will be coming in the mail before too long -- ordered from

3. Bill Davie and Diane Schulstad took a vacation last week and so Bill did not perform a Tree House Concert. He was back this evening and talked quite a bit, with a mixture of honesty and facetiousness, about how nervous he was coming back -- and, in general, how nervous performing makes him, even after having been at it for most of his life. I didn't comment online on his nervousness during the concert, but thought about how I experienced similar anxiety as a classroom instructor. Until Sunday, I hadn't felt that particular anxiety since 2014, the last time I taught a class at LCC.  It's not rational. I mean, on Sunday, I was going to be giving a short presentation to good friends who asked me to do this project. Nonetheless, the old familiar anxieties surfaced, both before Sunday's session and in the aftermath. Did I talk too much? Was that comment I made bogus? Did I cut off anyone's comments and interrupt them? And so on. Bill expressed similar anxieties/neuroses this evening and boy howdy! I think I knew what he was talking about.

With humor and his marvelous talent, Bill overcame his anxieties and performed a terrific concert. He and Diane spent time on their vacation at Fox Island, a special boyhood place for Bill. He sang songs connected to that place along with taking us back to Seattle's "Old Town" and he sang "Couple's Hymn", a song about all the time he and Diane have spent together, happily, in their home during the pandemic. I haven't mentioned every song here, but I loved that he closed the night with his soulful cover of Ian Anderson/Jethro Tull's song, "Life is a Long Song". It stayed with me throughout the evening and on into the night. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/26/2021: Surprise Daft Badger Visit, Grilled Chicken at Jeff's, I Found It!

1. I didn't have any real plans for today when suddenly Jeff Steve texted me. I knew Jeff was spending a week or so out on Cd'A Lake, knew we'd get together some time, and I was stoked when he wondered if I'd like to come over to CdA and meet him for a beer and then go to his place overlooking Cougar Bay and have some dinner.

We were going to meet at Daft Badger, but a text from Darrell Dlouhy reminded us that the Badger is closed on Mondays. We started to make some other plans and then, to our delight, Darrell, one of Daft Badger's owners, invited us to meet him at the brewery, that he'd open the doors for Jeff and me, and we could enjoy some beers and conversation out on the patio. 

And that's exactly what we did. 

Jeff, Darrell, and I have criss crossing histories beginning in 1972 when Darrell and I were at NIC together and the three of us have countless parts of our past in common thanks to NIC, Whitworth, First Presbyterian Church in CdA, my first marriage, a relationship I was in back in 1984-7, Jeff and I living in Eugene at the same time, and any number of other intersections. So, we had a lot to talk about -- mutual friends and acquaintances, the evolution of our thinking and experience around religion, our respective acceptance and rejection of religion, how history works, what we embrace in life that is good, and, the most urgent topic of all, beer. 

As far as beer goes, I was in the mood for a lighter beer, so instead of drinking one of Daft Badger's awesome IPAs, I drank Daft Badger's Final Mile Golden/Blonde Ale and a tiny pour of their killer stout, Josiah's Revenge. Darrell sent each of us home with a bomber of Daft Badger's Imperial Coffee Stout, a powerful beer I'll keep on hand for when I can share it with someone who loves stouts.

2. Jeff and I made our way out to his family place overlooking Cougar Bay. Jeff grilled chicken for us and made a fresh, crisp salad and we continued the conversation we started with Darrell and branched out in other directions. We reminisced a lot about Whitworth. We both had invigorating experiences at Whitworth, both met people and were involved in things that profoundly shaped the direction of our lives, and it was warming and a lot of fun to talk it all over -- and to know that what we enjoyed so much continues to happen on Tuesday evenings as we join other Whitworth grads among the people who tune in for Bill Davie's Treehouse Concerts. 

3. A theologian from the late 16th and early 17th century named John Hales delivered a sermon at St. Paul's Cross in London that begins with a beautiful elaboration upon the nature of goodness. This passage has been living inside me for about thirty-five years and I wanted to post it on the website I'm building  in support of the comedy project I'm working on with my Zoom friends. 

I wasn't sure, though, if I had a file of this passage anywhere. When I plug my Seagate external drive into my MacBook Air, there's no search function -- when I plug it into a PC, there is a search function. So, I tried to reason out with myself just where this file might be and I succeeded! It didn't really take that long and I was happy to post this passage and imagine that one day, during one of our Zoom sessions, we'll be looking at John Hales' passage more closely. 

Monday, April 26, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/25/2021: Comedy Project Underway, Hash and Gravy and Fruit Salad, Family Dinner and Getting Dusted

1. Over about 12-13 years time I developed the course I used to teach on occasion at LCC entitled (something like) The Literature of Comedy into a study of what in life gives us vitality, what invigorates us, what animates us. Because comedies, when viewed in a literary sense, tell stories and capture the experiences of renewal, forgiveness, compassion, comfort, togetherness, goodness, and other constructive elements of human experience, I hope my students came to learn that these aspects of life are sources of vitality and invigoration. 

So, a while back, when the friends I Zoom with on alternate Sundays asked me if I'd consider being their teacher again (and for the first time for Diane) and give an informal course, I agreed and today we started a low key exploration of the literary genre of comedy.

We focused quite a bit on the idea of comic rhythm, that is, the recurring patterns of goodness, delight, gratitude, and care for others we see in works of comedy. To illustrate the idea of comic rhythm, I read Billy Collins' poem, "Lanyard" in which Collins goes back to boyhood and transforms a kind of crappy summer camp project, the making of a lanyard, into a means of understanding his mother's love and devotion to him and expressing gratitude for all she's given him, epitomized by her receiving the gift of the lanyard as a way of making them even, of completing a circle of love. 

We discussed a lot of other things, too: Shakespeare, movies we've seen that portray characters experiencing new life and delighting in love and service to others, some of our own experiences, and, I think, examined our own inclinations or urges, how our lives move us and we move our lives toward being constructive, but also destructive and divisive (the anti-comic). 

I look forward to continuing this project for however long we all want to do it. I suspect I'll be willing to go on for a long long time!

I thought our discussion of these elements of comedy prepared the way for a later discussion we had about grief, especially in light of Bridgit's father having just died.

2.  When we were done with our Zoom session, I dashed immediately to the kitchen to prepare my contributions to tonight's family dinner. To start, I had read a recipe for ham and potato hash. I didn't follow it, but it gave me some ideas for how I'd like to combine chopped yams, russet potatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, red peppers, and bacon.  I knew this dish didn't need gravy, but I thought it would be fun to make a bacon and mushroom gravy and so I did.

Carol also assigned me to make a fruit salad. Again, I looked at a recipe for a yogurt and honey dressing. I thought the recipe overdid the honey, so I used less, but I liked the idea of putting the yogurt and honey in the bottom of the bowl and of adding the fruit pieces on top of it and mixing it all together. Again, for the heck of it and because I thought it might be fun and taste good, I added Cointreau and cognac to the yogurt and honey and then added pieces of apple and tangelo with blueberries and red grapes and mixed it all together. I love eating blue cheese with apples and other fruits. I remembered I had a small amount of blue cheese and I put crumbles over the salad along with slivered almonds. 

I really liked this salad. I loved how the pungency of the blue cheese offset the natural sweetness of the fruits and that the smaller amount of honey allowed us to taste more of the yogurt's sourness. I also liked how the crunchy almond slivers complemented the softness of the tangelo slices, blueberries, grapes, and yogurt.

3. I arrived at Carol and Paul's for family dinner and discovered Christy had prepared each of us a Gin Bloody Mary, prepared with Clamato juice, loaded with olives, dill pickle, lime, and asparagus spear. And that's not all! Carol prepared us each a shrimp cocktail featuring four plump, sweet, and juicy shrimp with Marie's cocktail sauce.

Having enjoyed our cocktail, we all staggered to the table. 

Carol was in charge of our dinner and her idea was to enjoy a late afternoon brunch. (I'll spare you all my dumb jokes about us not having mimosas.)

Carol prepared a perfect three cheese quiche, including a homemade, light, flaky, buttery crust. She made the quiche with eggs and cheddar, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese with some added herbs, including chives fresh from her garden.

I described my potato dish and gravy and fruit salad above.

Christy prepared a childhood favorite: a Bisquick coffee cake. I loved its buttery, brown sugar-y, cinnamon-y flavors and had nearly forgotten what a miracle product Bisquick is! 

After about a half an hour of groans of pleasure and words of gratitude to one another, we retired back to the living room for a small mug of decaf coffee spiked with bourbon cream. 

I'm afraid I hogged up too much of our dinner and after dinner talk asking Christy and Carol to explain who or what they were talking about! Often their knowledge of people and places in the Silver Valley leaves me in the dust -- so all I have to say is "Dust!" and they stop and try to bring me up to speed about the people or places they are telling stories about.

It's my own fault. I don't sit on any local boards, don't get my hair cut uptown, don't tend to see many people I know at Yoke's -- in fact, I spend a lot of time at home! But, slowly, surely Christy and Carol tell me about the houses they are talking about or the people they know and I can quit coughing as the dust clears a bit! 

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/24/2021: Comedy Project Preparation, City Limits, Oh Yeah! I Remember!

1. A few months ago, my Sunday Zoom mates asked me to consider giving an informal course. I agreed I would and I decided I would blab for a while every other Sunday for no more than a half an hour on the literary genre of comedy. I taught a course at LCC several times on this subject and it centered on those plays, stories, poems, and movies that dealt with love, renewal, forgiveness, reconciliation, and other similar human experiences that are at the heart of comedy, when understood in as a literary concept. Oh! Literary comedy also often includes things that make us laugh.

So, today, I decided to create a google site I can also publish as a webpage devoted to this project with a casual list of works that I might refer to or that those interested might read. I'll also post a brief outline in advance of each presentation. 

2. I took off around 4 o'clock and drove to Wallace, thinking I would park the car and then walk around town and eventually make my way up to the City Limits. I arrived in Wallace and I wasn't prepared to walk in the rain. I drove straight to the pub.  I'd read that City Limits had aged some amount of their Pulaski Porter in bourbon barrels and I wanted to see if it was still available. 

It wasn't and won't be until the brewers can get a hold of bourbon barrels again. 

I had prepared myself for this possibility, so I ordered a Jackass Juicy IPA and a shrimp basket. I slowly and quietly enjoyed my beer and my meal and just I was finishing up, Chris Meyer and her husband, Dan, approached me and we chatted for a few minutes. I ended up being at the City Limits for a very enjoyable hour or so. 

3. Finished watching The Player brought back the thrill I felt in 1992, but nearly as intensely today as then. As the movie drew to its conclusion, I remembered all the ways this movie was satirizing itself as it developed and I remembered how the movie's final satirical pay off at the end of the movie had elated me in 1992 and I enjoyed it tonight as the movie's pieces and my previous experience with this movie all fell into place. 

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/23/2021: Vizio Returns Home, *The Player* and Short Docs, Private Investigations

1. Things seemed pretty much the same at Ace Hardware today when I moseyed down to buy an electrical outlet adapter as part of my project to plug the new internet hardware directly into the wall and to set up the Vizio in the Vizio room again. I had had the Vizio in the living room, but now that our days are growing longer, I moved in back to its original home where the curtains are thicker and the room darker. 

2. After Adam commented today on a couple of Japanese movies he enjoyed on the Criterion Channel, I wondered to myself why I had never subscribed and today I changed that and signed up. I spent a bit of time perusing the remarkable list of documentary films and was especially stoked to see that Criterion has collected a generous number of short documentaries, one of my favorite genres. 

I watched a short clip of Robert Altman talking a bit about McCabe and Mrs. Miller on the Dick Cavett Show. It moved me to click on his movie, The Player, one of my very favorite movies back in 1992. I had planned on just watching the opening scene which runs about eight minutes as a single, uncut shot. I enjoy the comments characters in the scene make about long uncut shots in other movies and the commentary provided by Walter (Fred Ward) about the influence of MTV on movies and "cut, cut, cut, cut". 

At once, it's clear that The Player will be a satire on the film making industry and a pretty wild tale unfolds with murder, lust, mixed loyalties, back stabbing, celebrity obsession, and, above all, to me, a penetrating study of amorality. I watched about 90 minutes of The Player and decided to finish it on Saturday. I wanted to get to a few other shorter films before going to sleep.

I began by watching a very short, seven minute documentary entitled, 575 Castro Street. As its setting, filmmaker Jenni Olson uses the replica of Castro Camera, the camera store Harvey Milk co-owned. It was created for the movie, Milk. Nothing happens in this replica of the store. The only movement is of light and shadow. While we, as audience, are in the store, we hear the tape recording Harvey Milk made in November of 1977 in case he were assassinated. And he was assassinated. It happened one year after he recorded the tape we listen to. It is as if the ghost of Harvey Milk occupies Castro Camera as Milk quietly and thoughtfully encourages those active in what would later be known as the LGBT to continue their campaign for human rights. 

I've never seen any of Barbara Hammer's experimental lesbian films, but tonight I watched the first fifteen minutes of her thirty minute documentary Audience. I'll also finish it on Saturday.

Here's what I saw tonight: I didn't catch exactly when this happened, but some time in 1980 or 1981 the Roxie in San Francisco screened ten of her films and Barbara Hammer, for Audience, has herself filmed interviewing people in the line outside the theater, asking them what they expect to see in these films. Later, in the part I haven't watched yet, Hammer has discussions with viewers after they've seen her work. 

Coincidentally, it was during this time, beginning in the early 80's that, thanks to several friends and students and thanks to reading writers like Adrienne Rich, I began learning a great deal about lesbian culture. Eugene was an ideal place to live in order to learn more and I was fortunate that I knew students who were eager to enlighten me about their lives as lesbians. At Whitworth, women students, both straight and gay, confided in me about their experience and, seeing that I was eager to learn, added to my understanding of feminism and the lesbian community. 

The half of this movie I watched took me back to those conversations, gave me pause, and gave me a chance to feel gratitude for all that I learned. I am eager to watch the rest of this movie and to return to an interview The New Yorker ran in 2019, featuring Barbra Hammer shortly before she died of cancer.   

3. Somewhere in the midst of diving into the 1980s world of LGBT activism, I also watched another episode of Midnight Diner. It feature squid and taro stew and deftly built a story around this dish involving an experienced private investigator and her partner, a trainee, a naive man recently graduated from college. I would like to write more about what happens in this episode, but I don't want to spoil in for anyone who reads this and decides to watch Midnight Diner. All I'll say is that from the beginning, I have experienced these short episodes as dramatic haikus, bringing contrasting characters together and, more often than not, portraying a small transformation that grows out of their differences. I thought this happened in this third episode of Season 3. 

Friday, April 23, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/22/2021: Back to The Goose and the Tree, Upgrade, Manga and Tomato Rolls

 1. Cas zoomed to the front of the house and I dashed to his rig, vaulted myself into the cab, and we roared off to Pinehurst for breakfast at The Goose and the Tree. I'd never tried The G & T's chicken fried steak before, so I ordered it. The order consisted of two medium sized steaks. They were perfectly breaded, golden brown, and a little crunchy. In other words, perfectly prepared. They were so tender that I barely touched them and I had a bite on my fork. The steaks were dressed with sausage gravy and sat atop an island of hash browns as golden brown as the steaks -- again, perfectly cooked. I also had two eggs over medium and two slices of The G &T's homemade white bread toast. I could only eat one of these tender steaks and boxed up number two to enjoy at home. 

The food was superb and yakkin' with Cas was even better as we talked about baseball, fantasy baseball, music, movies, and any number of other topics. I had an awesome time.

2. Upon arriving home, I discovered I'd missed a call while yakkin' at breakfast. Sean, a tech from Ziply, left me a message saying that he could come to the house early to install the upgraded fiber something or other internet service at the house. 

Great! Sean was at the house for a couple of hours. While he worked on the installation, I devoted my efforts to cleaning the kitchen more comprehensively than usual, spiffing up the outside of the lower cupboard, the outside of the refrigerator and dish washer, the stove, the oven racks, the sink, and the counter surfaces. I also swept the floor. It's a real boost to the spirits to have the kitchen looking a lot cleaner.

Sean wrapped up his work and I got the computer and phone and television all hooked up to the new network and enjoyed that the internet service has a more zip, more speed than it did this morning.

3. I thought I might watch two episodes of Midnight Diner tonight when I went to bed, but after watching one episode featuring the tribulations of a novice manga artist, I decided to let this episode rest inside me on its own and I'll return to more episodes later. 

Tonight's episode featured the tomato roll, a cherry tomato wrapped in bacon and grilled on what to my limited knowledge looked like a Hibachi, to use the North American term. Master served each customer three of these rolls on a skewer. 

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/21/2021: Cimbing Mt Fernan, Patio Bliss, The Promise of Sleep

1.  I woke up this morning in anticipation of a really good day lying ahead. First, I fed Luna and Copper and I squirted a painkiller and an antibiotic down Luna's throat, not particularly to her delight. 

I revved up the Sube, then, and blasted over the 4th of July Pass to Coeur d'Alene and met Byrdman at his house. 

We piled in his pickup and Byrdman powered us up to a trailhead so we could hike in the Fernan Lake Natural Area. We hiked about two miles in all. The trhail was pretty well suited to my current physical condition. It tested my wind and legs with some of its ascents, but also gave me some breaks with descents and some level areas. I enjoyed gazing below us, mostly at Fernan Lake, but we also got some views of Lake Coeur d'Alene and some of the town of CdA. 

I'm glad the air was pretty cool, but, all the same, I had to peel off my light hooded sweatshirt and the long sleeved shirt under it by the end, leaving me in a T-shirt. Even though it wasn't hot out, the sun itself was beginning to sap my energy by the end, but I made it to the conclusion of our hike and this outing helped further assuage concerns I had a week ago about my well being.

I was breathing kind of hard and glad to be sitting down at the end, but I felt great.

2. Byrdman and  I looked at some costly houses on up the road above the trailhead before heading back to Coeur d'Alene and making our way to the Ponderosa Par 3 golf course. Fairly recently, Tom Capone bought and took over the bar and grill at the Ponderosa, renaming it Capone's Pub on the Green. Byrdman suggested we take advantage of the outdoor patio at the pub, have a cold foamy or two, and decide about eating. 

It was perfect on the patio and the golf course laid out before us was lush looking, enhanced by a fountain in the middle of a pond between one and two hundred yards away.

I ordered a Widmer's Hefeweisen, a classic beer from the early days of craft brewing in Portland and it was perfect, like having a reunion with an old friend. 

We yakked for a while and decided to stay put for lunch and I enjoyed a thick hamburger and fries. Sitting on this patio, solving the world's problems with Byrdman, enjoying the mild weather and the nearly cloudless sky while drinking a couple of pints and eating bar food made me feel like time had stopped and I was in a bubble of bliss, not a care in the world. 

3.  Nothing popped my bliss bubble back home in Kellogg. I was tired. My legs wanted rest. I wrote in my blog, enjoyed that Luna is becoming more and more animated after her dental surgery, nodded off, woke up, nodded off again, ate a couple of beef lunch meat sandwiches made between thin slices of Killer Dave's power seed bread, and crawled in bed early, fully ready to reap further rewards of hiking with a night of deep sleep. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/20/2021: Luna to the Vet, Discovering Scary Pockets, Fleetwood Mac and Talking Heads Nostalgia

 1. First thing this morning, I gathered up Luna and, facing nine pounds of earnest resistance,  quickly put her in her carrier. We then headed down to the veterinarian's office where I checked her in for a dental cleaning and a couple of tooth extractions. Much of the news was very good. Dr. Cook checked her glucose number and it was very good. Luna continues to be in remission from when her numbers were high and it looked like she was diabetic. She also got through the procedure with no problems. Once home, she was a bit lethargic and spent hours on the ottoman. At one point, after I'd gone to bed, I got up, picked her up, and brought her into bed with me, but she was not interested, leaped off the bed, and returned to the ottoman.

Once every twelve hours, I am giving Luna a liquid antibiotic and a liquid pain med. 

She doesn't like that. 

2. As I was scrolling through Facebook this evening, I spotted a post (h/t to Mark Kenney) entitled "If Stevie Wonder Wrote 'Layla'" by Scary Pockets.  I listened to it, enjoyed it a lot, and soon discovered that Scary Pockets is a project, spearheaded by two guys, Ryan Lerman and Jack Conte. They bring together different session musicians and every week release a video performing a well-known song as funk. Scary Pockets has a YouTube channel and I spent at least a couple of hours listening to funk covers of songs by The Beatles, Blue Swede, Gloria Gaynor, Fleetwood Mac, and others. It was thrilling. They are covering songs as funk in the same way Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox covers songs in vintage swing and jazz styles. In became more enamored than ever with soul music by listening to different artists perform on Daryl Hall's show, "Live from Daryl's House" and tonight I was awakened in ways I never had been to the beauty of funk. 

3. When I lived in Greenbelt, Maryland, I experienced my long delayed awakening to the beauty and genius of Fleetwood Mac. It was a private pleasure that I enjoyed while home alone, but that also got a welcome jolt by a guy who poured beers at DC Brau and played a channel on one of the music streaming services called Yacht Music. Often, Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nix solo songs came on that channel. 

That experience of awakening to Fleetwood Mac became an emotional experience and tonight, as I watched videos of "The Chain" and "Dreams" and "Don't Stop" and "Tusk" and other Fleetwood Mac songs, I was moved to tears. Both times I had teaching jobs at Whitworth, songs from Rumours were in the air, on the radio, playing in the HUB, and, later, featured on MTV. I was thrown back to days I loved in Spokane. I also felt nostalgic about living in Greenbelt, about Sundays with Debbie at DC Brau, and longed to have those days back again.  

It was getting late, but I wasn't done with YouTube videos yet and decided to relive visits to movie theaters in Eugene and Portland and dance parties I attended featuring the film Stop Making Sense by the Talking Heads. I listened to several songs once,  but a couple, "Life During Wartime" and "Thank You For Sending me an Angel",  I repeated and gave special attention to Tina Weymouth's innovative and perfectly played bass lines. I loved them. 

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.