Saturday, July 31, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 07/30/2021: Beavers Are Builders, Online Shopping, Start Snapping!

 1. It's a neutral factual point: human beings do not have a natural habitat. Human beings create habitat. Humans build places to live. One other species on earth does the same thing: the beaver. As I read more of Ben Goldfarb's book Eager, I realize that I'd never thought about how similar human beings and beavers are as unique species who, in Goldfab's words, "rearrange [their] environments to maximize provision of food and shelter".  Not quite satisfied with reading about beavers constructing dams and lodges, I wondered if I might find a video on YouTube of beavers at work. I did. I found a segment from a BBC program, narrated by David Attenborough, that complimented Goldfab's detailed descriptions perfectly. That video is right here

2. I shopped for a few minutes at Yoke's today and then returned home and purchased some online items. I went to and purchased copies of Being Peace and The Gift, a collection of books by Hafiz. I found a used bookstore that carried Robert Grudin's On Dialogue: An Essay in Free Thought. My plan is to draw upon these books, along with the Tao te Ching, when the Basementeers have our next ZOOM meeting exploring the comic spirit.  Robert Grudin's book will also aid in our future discussions of The Hollow Crown

I bought Luna and Copper a scratching pole, hoping they will find it satisfactory. I purchased a couple kinds of coffee from Doma, the Post Falls coffee roasting company headed up by Terry Patano (KHS, '74) and his wife, Rebecca.  Lastly, the Yoke's section dedicated to Bob's Red Mill products doesn't carry couscous, farro, sesame seeds, or teff. So I went to Bob's website and ordered them.

3. As subjects to photograph, I have found Copper and Luna elusive. Today, Deborah sent me gorgeous pictures of her daughter with her cat and one of Deborah and Scott's cat. I see all kinds of enchanting pictures of cats on Facebook and elsewhere. I think it's time for me to put out a little more effort and try to take some decent pictures of my pals, Luna and Copper. 

Friday, July 30, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 07/29/2021: Humans and Ecology, Covid Caution, Copper Changes It Up a Bit

 1.  Tonight I finished reading the fascinating, haunting, complicated, and often difficult book, Fathoms: The World in the Whale by Rebecca Giggs. Upon completing it, I took a short break from reading and then started reading Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter by Ben Goldfarb. 

I'm drawn to writings about interconnectedness, both in the natural and the spiritual realms,  not for sentimental or romantic reasons, but because of what interconnectedness demands of us, if we are not indifferent to it, don't ignore it, or don't act as if it doesn't exist. 

I'm not sure I can, right now, spell out the demands of interconnectedness -- or interdependence --, but upon finishing Fathoms and then reading the introduction to Eager and thinking back to reading Dan O'Brien's brilliant Buffalo for the Broken Heart and recalling when about thirty years ago when I read Bruce Brown's astonishing Mountain in the Clouds: A Search for the Wild Salmon and Bill McKibben's The End of Nature, I came to an obvious and sobering realization.

Human beings are the only creatures on Earth that can ignore ecological relationships, can be indifferent to them, and can act (often aggressively) on this apathy. On the other side of this fact is this one: we are the only species on Earth that can examine, analyze, and arrive at understanding of the planet's ecology.

One brief example: beavers and swans cannot choose to break off their ecological relationship to one another. Swans benefit from the dams beavers build. The water behind a beaver dam provides still water for swans to glide on, shelter for nesting, and support for the life forms swans eat. When trappers ravished beaver populations in the 19th century to make money off of beaver furs, swan populations diminished because of habitat loss. The swans couldn't decide they were no longer ecologically dependent upon beavers. All they could do was begin to die off, and, over time, a series of ecological relationships were damaged. One quick example: beavers' dams enhance wetlands. Wetlands might be lousy areas for commercial or residential development and they have to be drained if farmers want that land to grow, say, alfalfa or expand grazing land for cattle, but ecologically they provide water filtration for aquifers, suppress wildfires, help dissipate floods, among other benefits. Beavers enhance wetlands. The loss of beavers meant a loss of wetlands, too. 

Humans can decide what they want to do within ecological systems, whether mindful of the impact of their actions or not. Humans can also decide to back off -- not trap or shoot beavers, not fill in wetlands, and not do countless things that upset ecological balances.

Plants, water, animals, air, rocks, soil, climate etc. can't decide. 

They are dependent on one another and often at the mercy of whether humans have regard for the place plants, water, animals, air, rocks, soil, climate, etc. in the ecology of creation or not. 

It's sobering. 

2. I can't say that I've come to accept all inconstancy, inconsistency, and unpredictability in my life and in the world around me, but I do my best to embrace that we live in the midst of impermanence and constant change. It's kept me from being disillusioned about the latest news regarding Covid-19 and the delta variant. Right now, I am uncertain enough about the percentage of people vaccinated in North Idaho, my own susceptibility to the virus because I have chronic kidney disease and a history with both toxic and bacterial pneumonia, and the potential for me to be a vector of the virus (I don't want to spread it), even though fully vaccinated, that I'm going to spend most of my time here in the house and always have my mask with me so I can slip it on if, say, Yoke's or the liquor store seems crowded to me. I was already going to be spending most of my time indoors before the latest Covid news came out because of how hot and smokey it is outside. But, for the time being, my plan is to exercise caution -- and, I suppose, err on the side of being too cautious. 

I know I say this all the time, but there seems to be a stigma about fear and the virus. So, I'll just say, I'm not feeling afraid. To my way of thinking, it's rational for me to lie low again and put whatever protective measures I can into practice. I'm fortunate that doing so doesn't mean I'm not living my life -- thanks to books, cooking, family dinners, movies, electronic contact with friends and family, the companionship of Luna and Copper, and my enjoyment of quietness, I will not quit living just because I won't be out doing things very much. 

3. Normally, Copper maintains a fair amount of distance from me, but I think he's much more bothered by being alone than Luna is. Copper never wants to be far away from me -- he likes to be in a chair near where I'm sitting or, if I'm in the Vizio room, he likes to be in the same room and lie on the rug. 

This evening, though, as I was lying on top of the covers, waiting for the fans to bring more cooler evening air into the bedroom, Copper inched toward me and somehow non-verbally communicated to me that he wanted me to pet him. We had a short session. Satisfied, he loped to the foot of the bed, not far from my feet, and resumed his usual posture of being nearby but not too close. 

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 07/28/2021: Human Spirit/Holy Spirit, Humans and Nature, Remembering Life on W. Broadway

 1.  I spent quite a bit of time today pondering how my religious life (often referred to as one's faith) and my professional work intersected. One point of contact between the two was that either explicitly or implicitly the courses I created focused on what endures, what persists, what seems to be always with us in life. I don't remember, as an instructor, ever referring to this emphasis as exploring "eternity", but I do think my secular concern with what endures paralleled the concern in my spiritual life with living a finite life in the presence of the infinite -- or a temporal life in the presence of the eternal.

To me, the bedrock of a liberal arts education was to persistently examine what it means, in Socrates' words, not to live, but to live well. What is a well-lived life? Alongside this, I'd say the content of my courses was guided by another maxim of Socrates that the unexamined life is not worth living. 

Working with these enduring questions, examining topics like happiness, reconciliation, vitality, justice, the nature of knowledge and how we arrive at it, the nature of reality, ethics, and a host of others over the years animated me. 

In my spiritual life, structured largely by being an Episcopalian, I am not animated. I'm quiet. The fervor that many express in their religious practice, I expressed in my life as an instructor. 

I'm all for ecstatic experience. It's the human spirit that invigorates me. Reading books, listening to music, watching athletic competition, spending time with friends, enjoying well-brewed beer, watching movies, enjoying hiking trails, writing in this blog, the old days of teaching -- these are all experiences growing out of the human spirit that fire me up.

The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, calms me. Worship in the Episcopal church is mostly sedate, rarely boisterous. I loved leading Compline services at Whitworth over forty years ago and reserving generous spaces of time in those Wednesday night services for silence, contemplation, unspoken prayer. 

It's all connected, the holy and the human. I go back to what I quoted yesterday. As Brandan Robertson said: "We're all finite beings trying to comprehend the infinite." The infinite can be as human as Socrates or Rumi and as sacred as one's experience with the Divine. 

2. On occasion, back in my teaching days, I would focus the research writing course (WR 123) on the relationship between human beings and nature. One of the books I assigned was John Krakauer's Into the Wild, a story that explores how the world of nature, for the book's protagonist, Chris McCandless, is both a source of spiritual union with the life forces of creation and the source of his death at a young age.

The questions we explored in that course are all before me again as I read Rebecca Giggs' book, Fathoms

One the one hand, whales have been a mythological source of awe for different cultures for ages. They still are. Whale watching tours are popular. Activists working to stop the industrial hunting of whales have always drawn upon the mystique of the whale to inspire support for their efforts -- and it's worked. The movement known as "Save the Whales" has achieved international success.

On the other hand, the human impact upon nature, the atmosphere, the soil, and the ocean, for example, devastates whales. While whale hunting has, by international agreement, diminished (but not disappeared), whales are endangered by pesticides that get washed into rivers and make their way to the ocean; by changes in atmospheric temperatures as the global climate gets warmer; by all matter of plastic trash in the ocean. Much of this plastic is granular, barely visible or not visible to the human eye. Much of the plastic is very visible. Whales, as a result, ingest plastic netting used in fishing, broken DVD cases, plastic shopping bags, balloons, cords, packaging tape, rope, plastic drinking cups, food wrappers, and many other items ranging from pieces of plastic buckets to styrofoam items.

Ecology is the study of interconnectedness. Humans feel connected to whales in any number of spiritual ways, including drawing inspiration from recordings of whales singing, recordings that can be purchased.

The human connection to whales is also material, not only in the way warming waters and atmosphere affect whales, not only in the way whales' lives are endangered by hunting and human pollution, but by the noise generated by the huge vessels that cross the ocean with many of the goods that help shape the way we live our material lives.

It's overwhelming to read. I'm nearing the end of this astonishing book. I find it very hard to believe that as Rebecca Giggs draws this book to a close that she will have anything hopeful to say in her conclusion. 

3. The cheese sauce I made this evening to pour over the broccoli and cauliflower I steamed and brown rice I heated up was a little bit lumpy, but I enjoyed how this dinner tasted and enjoyed traveling back in time to the tiny apartment I rented in in the basement of a building at 361 W. Broadway and how I gave so much effort to preparing nutritious, vegetarian meals for myself while living on the stipend I earned as a Graduate Teaching Fellow. My kitchen was tiny. My income was modest. But, I prepared a lot of delicious food and learned a lot about how to cook in that little place. 

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 07/27/2021: Playful Faith, Current Pandemic News, Awe and Grief BONUS: A Limerick by Stu

 1. My eyes were cruising up and down my Twitter feed when this quotation from Brandan Robertson popped up. It's the first time I'd ever heard of him and if you want to know more about him and his ministry, his life, and his work are summed up in the article about him over at Wikipedia. 

I read his quotation and provided my own context. I thought the timing of coming across this quotation was uncanny given that I'd been rereading Rumi and reflecting back on my experience as a student, chaplain's assistant, and instructor at Whitworth. 

Here's what Brandan Robertson posted:

Religion and Spirituality should be creative endeavors.

If your faith doesn’t free you to be curious, imaginative, and playful, it’s probably not a healthy faith. Take it easy. We’re all finite beings trying to comprehend the infinite.

Personally, I would recast the second sentence and write it something like this: "A healthy faith frees you to be curious, imaginative, and playful." Or, I might leave out the words "A healthy" and just say, "Faith frees you to be curious, imaginative, and playful." 

I'm attracted to Brandan Robertson's insight.  I'm less attracted to the implicit criticism I think he's leveling at others about what is or isn't "a healthy faith". 

While a student at Whitworth, and in the nearly fifty years since then, I came to understand that living a life grounded in faith is what has driven my curiosity to explore ideas, perspectives, a variety of ways of experiencing spirituality (both secular and religious), and to revel in the boundless wealth of how writers, thinkers, scientists, wisdom teachers, and others engage the mysteries of existence. 

As I've aged, I've explored more deeply and settled more and more fully into a flawed life shaped largely by my ongoing Christian liberal arts education. This approach drove my studies, especially of Shakespeare, as a graduate student after graduating from Whitworth, informed the way I approached teaching courses at Lane Community College, and continues to inspire the breadth I pursue in the books I read today as well as the documentary and fictional movies I watch and the music I listen to.

Essentially none of these books, movies, and music is explicitly Christian. Nor, of course, were my courses at Lane Community College. 

But my playful faith moved me to encourage the free play of the mind in myself and in my students.  This playfulness is far from frivolous. It resists absolutism but not critical examination.  Playfulness encourages expansion, delight, flexibility, curiosity, imaginative thinking, creativity, discovery, errors, and openness. 

That's it on this subject for now. For better or worse(!), I'll return to it in future posts.

2. As I slowly move forward in reading Rebecca Gigg's book, Fathoms, I'm tossed back and forth between awe and grief. Whales are complex, complicated, mysterious, elegant, and mighty. Reading about their songs, migration habits, anatomy, sensitivities, and essential role in the ocean's and the globe's ecology moves me. But, human activity like whale hunting, shipping, war at sea, dumping waste, releasing carbon into the atmosphere, and other things we do to support our ways of living have had a long term destructive impact on whales. Reading about this is grievous and the scale of human invasiveness upon the lives of whales (and other marine creatures) is beyond anything I had ever imagined -- as is its destructive impact.

3. Normally, I digest the news by looking back upon events after some time has passed rather than depending on day to day coverage. Today was different, for the most part. I spent time today reading about and listening to experts in epidemiology sharing insight about the recent surge in Covid-19 cases, the mutation known as delta, and the CDC's response. 

I'm also trying to keep somewhat current with the local fires burning nearby in wooded lands not far from Kellogg.

I've been staying indoors a lot because of the heat and smoke in the Kellogg area, both because the heat makes me feel nauseous and because I don't want to expose my compromised respiratory system to the smoke. 

I'm also trying to gain an objective understanding of the Covid situation in Shoshone County. Cases have increased. The percentage of local people vaccinated is pretty low. These facts, along with the smoke and heat, will probably move me to lie low for a while -- but not quarantine. I'll carry a face covering with me and be ready to slip it on if I determine I need to. 

Here's a limerick by Stu:

Now "Milk" is the choice of the day.
Neither bitter nor dark are in play.
Do not choose semi sweet,
And pass if there's white to eat.
The choice would be BROWN I would say.

National Milk Chocolate Day

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 07/26/2021: Reflecting on Our Liberal Education, Home Food Options, Bags of Snacks

 1.  I love the handful of longtime connections I have with friends I made and students who were in my classes at Whitworth. My first day as a student at Whitworth was in Sept. of 1974 and my last day of employment at Whitworth was in May of 1984. (I left Spokane and was a grad student at the U of Oregon in this time period, too, from the fall of 1979-spring of 1982 and resumed my graduate work in the fall of 1984.)

One subject we Westminster Basementeers discussed on ZOOM on Sunday was how much we value the liberal arts education we dug into at Whitworth (Diane feels the same way about her studies at Pacific Lutheran University). 

All of us are grateful that the emphasis of our studies at Whitworth was not career focused. Val was a history major, I double majored in history and English, and the rest of us Basementeers were English majors. (I think I got that right.) 

The focus of our education was to learn to read and think critically and to ask questions. I have often thought about how my education at Whitworth, and later my approach to teaching, was fundamentally more interrogative than declarative. We learned to be open to a variety of world views, ways of thinking, perspectives, and possibilities. 

So, when my friend  since we met in 1974, Deborah, emailed me and said that after reading about Sunday's Basementeer ZOOM session, she was going to set her book of Rumi poems on her bedside table and read from it before going to sleep at night, it made me very happy. 

It made me happy that while I don't think any of us read Rumi at Whitworth, the way our professors approached their work as Christian liberal arts educators inspired our curiosity to explore the wide world of ideas, art, music, ways of thinking,  literature, and so much more. 

I know I carried this inspiration forward in my work at Lane Community College. It moved me to teach my writing courses philosophically. I wanted to teach classes in which we could explore Rumi, the Tao, Buddhism, movies from Israel and Iran and other Middle East countries, and other writers and thinkers outside the Western tradition, as well as explore more traditional writers like Shakespeare and Homer.

The emphasis of our liberal arts education at Whitworth was to understand a wide range of ways of thinking about human experience and to assess these ways of thinking after we'd arrived at an understanding of what we'd read. 

Right now, I'm reading about whales from an ecological perspective as I work my way through Fathoms by Rebecca Giggs. 

It's not Shakespeare. It's not Rumi. It's not exactly a history book. In other words, I'm reading this book not because it's similar to other reading I've done over the past year, but because I committed my life to the value of liberal (broad) education and I'm curious about a wide range of things. I will always be grateful, first, to North Idaho College and then to Whitworth for setting me on this path -- not a career path, but a path of curiosity, learning, questioning, weighing, reading, listening, and discussing. 

2. Thinking and reading was on my mind today and so was food. 

This summer's heat has eroded my interest in cooking and, moreover, has diminished my interest in cooking meat. Today, I got out a couple of cookbooks that I first started cooking from 30-40 years ago. First, I thumbed through Laurel's Kitchen and then I read recipes from Moosewood Cookbook

It helped me remember the ways I used to prepare food when I was in my thirties. Back then, much like how I'm thinking about food right now, I didn't eat meat at home, but enjoyed eating meat in restaurants and if I was a guest at someone else's table. 

Right now, at home, I'm finding that meat sits heavily in my system and I'm wanting to eat lighter food. 

My guess is that I'll be eating steamed vegetables and rice, tortillas with beans, rice, and cheese, pasta with butter and pepper, and other such things which not only taste better when it's hot, but feel better in my system.

3. When I went to Glacier National Park with Meagan and Patrick back in June, I was impressed with the number of bags of snack foods they carry when traveling. I'm disappointed that I don't remember the names of these products, but today at Yoke's, I bought three bags of snack food: lightly salted almonds, a bag of peanut butter and chocolate Snappers, and a bag of Wiley Wallaby black licorice. 

I knew I'd enjoy the almonds and the licorice, but the Snappers were new to me. 

Oh, my.

Chocolate, peanut butter, and a pretzel combined into a bite-sized snack.

I'm all in. 

Monday, July 26, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 07/24-25/2021: Staying Indoors with Rumi, ZOOMING with Rumi, Birthday Party at the Casino

 Saturday and Sunday turned out to be one forty-eight hour day for me, so I'm writing one blog post combining the two days.

1. Weather conditions in Kellogg on Saturday kept me indoors all day. The temperatures climbed back into the 90s. Smoke from local timber fires seemed heavier to me and made its way into the house enough that it made my vision blurry, making it difficult to read.

Difficult, but not impossible. 

I needed to prepare for Sunday's ZOOM meeting with the Westminster Basementeers and our continuation of our exploration of literary comedy. Because in literary comedy, the plots of stories move toward togetherness and reconciliation, toward some kind of social consummation, literary comedy pushes me toward the mystical. Mysticism invites us to experience the interconnectedness of all things in the world, to surrender our attention to the wholeness of existence rather than its fragmentation. Mysticism can be religious or secular, experienced in terms of divine spirit or human spirit. 

Our Sunday exploration of literary comedy would move toward the mystical and I spent Saturday rereading poems written by the 13th century Sufi poet, Jalaluddin Rumi (translated by Coleman Barks). 

Rereading Rumi transported me mentally back to when Rumi's poetry was a personal highlight of the Intro to World Literature syllabus I created back in my teaching days at Lane Community College. I'm not sure any poetry I assigned had a greater impact and inspired more gratitude in my students than Rumi's. On occasion, I ran into former students at, say, Trader Joe's or a local taproom in Eugene, and, years after they'd been in the World Lit course, these students would stop me and thank me for introducing them to Rumi's poems. 

A lot of great memories returned today as I prepared for Sunday's ZOOM time. We Basementeers have a google site devoted to our study of literary comedy and today I posted a short outline of what I planned to bring up to kick off our discussion on Sunday and listed the poems I'd be reading aloud. 

This was a most satisfying way to spend a day indoors. I nourished my mind and spirit and enjoyed a host of sweet memories inside while the heat and smoke made things difficult to bear outside. 

2. It's difficult to sum up our ZOOM meeting on Sunday morning -- except to say it was glorious. 

To my way of thinking, as we've explored features of literary comedy like vitality, goodness, the idea of home, to name a few, we've been moving away from discussing the form or structure of literary comedies and delving more deeply into the spiritual richness of this literature. That's why we explored some of Rumi's poetry today. If we were just looking at the form or structure of literary comedies, we wouldn't explore these poems. But, literary comedies point us toward experiencing union, whether through marriage, reconciliation, forgiveness or other means, and Rumi's poems explore how we, as humans, long for union, not only with one another, but with the Divine. 

So, this morning, Bill, Diane, Bridgit, Val and I dove into the great ocean of mystical union, of spiritual mystery, of aspects of life that exist beyond the capability of denotative language to define them.  Rumi explores them through images and metaphors, helping us see that even the simplest of experiences like a dog sniffing its food before eating or loosening the knot on one's robe, can help us experience what it is to live in the eternal presence of the Divine. 

I realize what I'm about to write might only make sense to me, but I want a record of it in this blog.

Our discussion today about longing brought to mind Robert Hass's translation of this haiku by Basho.

    Even in Kyoto --

hearing the cuckoo's cry --

    I long for Kyoto. 

3. My Sunday took quite a change in direction around noon as Bill, Diane, Bridgit, Val and I signed off of ZOOM.

Sunday was Ed's birthday and to celebrate it, we piled into his Camry and blasted down to the CdA Casino and spun some reels. 

It was a lot of fun. I had the experience I have every once in a while of having poor luck for couple of hours and then having things turn around, having some machines pay off, and ending the afternoon having won a very modest amount of money.

Ed and I wrapped up our celebration of his birthday in the Red Tail Lounge where we split an order of onion rings and had a drink. Ed loved his margarita and I deeply enjoyed the refreshing pint of Georgetown Brewing's Roger's Pilsner I drank. 

Talk about experiencing the whole of life, the union of opposites.  That's what I got to do this weekend.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 07/23/2021: Complicated Book, In Praise of Miller Beer, A Simple Dinner

 1. As I read further into Rebecca Giggs book, Fathoms, I learn more and more about the complicated relationships human beings have with other animal species, the inanimate world of nature, and with ourselves in relation to nature. I'm intellectually equipped to understand much of what she writes while I read it, but I'm not equipped, just yet, to summarize her insights. She writes philosophically, theoretically, and poetically. It's challenging and, for me, stimulating and enjoyable. But, as of now, I can't really articulate any kind of precise condensation of what I've read so far. I haven't sorted it out well enough. 

I can say, though, that she's giving me a lot to ponder and a lot to examine in myself as one who loves animals and loves being out in the world of nature.

2. Ed wondered if I'd like to go up to The Lounge around 4:00 and shoot the breeze and drink a couple beers. I sure did. Things were mellow at The Lounge at 4:00. Ed and I had fun talking together about this and that and got in some pretty good yakkin' with Cas, too. These days, when I go to The Lounge, or any other establishment that serves mostly big market American beers, I enjoy drinking The Champagne of Bottled Beers -- that is, Miller High Life. 

Yes, I enjoy a masterfully hopped craft beer as much as the next tap room/brewery hound, but when Cas serves me an ice cold, and I mean ice cold, Miller, I welcome its crispness and sweeter flavor. It's been fun to kind of figure out that while the great American big market beers do not have the galaxy of flavors available that, say, a hoppy IPA has, their cold crispness, out front sweetness, and light bitterness makes them easy to drink and refreshing. I have found, unlike many other craft beer drinkers, that I don't enjoy the flavor packed craft beers alongside food. I enjoy them much more before a meal or afterward. But, I do very much enjoy, say, a Miller High Life to help wash down a burger and fries -- it feels to me very similar to the enjoyment I experience drinking a cola with a burger (but not quite as sweet). 

So, fellow beer drinkers, count me in as someone who loves all craft beer, from stouts to Belgians to IPAs to red ales to pilsners and lagers and, who, at the same time, loves to grab a seat at the bar at the Inland Lounge or the Prichard Tavern or at Corby's and enjoy a Miller High Life or a Budweiser in a long neck bottle (or on draft). 

3. I arrived home a little after five after my hour uptown and, before long, I took out some frozen shrimp and a frozen salmon patty and cooked them together and put them in a bowl of jasmine rice and topped it with some teriyaki sauce. It was a simple, filling, and satisfying dinner. 

Friday, July 23, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 07/22/2021: Road Trip to Burke, Celebrating Betty Moore's Life, Farro Green Salad

 1. Ed swung by this morning around 8:30, having invited me to join him on a drive to the once booming, now dilapidated old mining town of Burke. The company Ed retired from is in the midst of a huge repository building project up that canyon and Ed wanted to check out their progress. We drove close to the site and Buff saw Ed's pickup and gave him the green light to come to where he was, doing some supervision from his pickup. We did and Ed learned all about who's running what machines and trucks on the job and how this big job is progressing. 

We meandered on up the canyon a ways and Ed spotted his cousin so we went up Julie's driveway and Ed and she yakked for a while. 

It was fun to get out and see a little piece of Shoshone County and it's always fun to yak and laugh and get caught up on the latest local news with Ed. 

2. This afternoon, at 4 o'clock, I moseyed up to the Inland Lounge to take part in the Celebration of Life for Betty Moore, a longtime Silver Valley resident who died this past Saturday. She was 91 years old. As is always the case at such gatherings, I saw and got to talk with people I don't see very often. For starters, I had a couple or three involved conversations with Betty's son, Butch. While Butch and I were in one conversation, John Austin arrived and joined us. I hadn't seen John, in person, since high school, although I've read tons of his comments, insights, and remarks on line over the last fifteen years. Terry Lennon and I had a good session and later we did some serious reminiscing about Dick and Floyd's with Cas. I had a good talk with Eric Benson.  I saw a lot of other people I've know over the years from a distance or exchanged a quick hello with them. What I'm about to say isn't eerie, but just the way it is: these community gatherings to honor a person who has died always give me the sense that my past life is flashing before me -- I have so many connections of one degree or another with so many people over so many years and the celebration of Betty's life brought a great number of those people together this afternoon. I swear every decade of my sixty-seven year life returned to me today. 

3. The other day at Yoke's, I bought a bag of salad and this morning I decided to experiment a little bit and add farro to it. I gotta say, this was a great idea. I cooked the farro -- it takes about thirty minutes -- let it cool, and added it along with celery and cucumber to the ingredients in the salad bag and I totally enjoyed the chewy farro mixed in with the crisp, fresh vegetables. I like to mix no recipe random vinaigrettes and I had enough of one I made a while back in the fridge to dress a couple bowls of this salad. I think the vinaigrette was a combination of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic powder, and honey, but I'm not sure. I squeezed juice from a lemon chunk over the salad before putting on the dressing and the lemon brightened it up. I ate helpings of this salad throughout the day and still have some left over for Friday. 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Three Beautiful Thing 07/21/2021: Cravings, Whale Writer, Syllabus

1. I picked up a few things at Yoke's today and decided to indulge two cravings by buying a package of Wiley Wallaby's soft and chewy black licorice and a couple of bottles of club soda. I won't consume the two together, but I am pretty sure that eating this black licorice will be a gateway to drinking small portions of the bottle of ouza I have in the house. I love the club soda's carbonation and its tastelessness quenches my thirst. 

2. Honestly, the book Fathoms by Rebecca Griggs is so entirely packed with insights about nature, ecological relationships, cultural history, the invasiveness of human beings (in the ocean and on land), and countless other topics that I am currently at a loss to sum up my reading. This book is stimulating my thinking, deepening feelings of love I have for the animal kingdom and the world of nature, and expanding my understanding of the vulnerability and the resilience of non-human life -- and the terrible number of species of living things that humans have destroyed.  

3. I did some poking around online, looking to see what, in addition to writing this astonishing book,  Rebecca Griggs has been up to.

To my delight, I found the syllabus of a seminar that Dr. Rebecca Griggs and Dr. Jennifer Hamilton gave at NYU-Sydney entitled: Readings in Contemporary Literary Theory: Eco-Criticism.

I'm going to do some work to understand better the thrust of eco-criticism. I think doing so will help me understand the book, Fathoms. As it stands, I am enjoying Fathoms a lot, but I know I'm not fully comprehending it and this may have to do, in part, with my inexperience in the field of literary theory in general and eco-criticism in particular. 

The syllabus provides some working definitions of eco-criticism and a demanding reading list for the students who enrolled in this seminar. I am quite sure that if I ever had the intellectual energy to complete this seminar when I was a grad student, I doubt I have that energy now. 

I'm thinking some of you reading this blog post might be interested in looking this syllabus over. If so, here's the link:

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 07/20/2021: Delicious Ya Ya Beers, Dinner with Mary at Luna, Leaving Copper and Luna Alone

 1. Yesterday, once I knew that I was going to Spokane to play trivia at Rock City Bar and Grill, I decided I'd start my outing in Spokane Valley at Ya Ya Brewing Company, an establishment tucked nicely in an industrial area just off of the Pines Road exit on Montgomery Drive, across the parking lot from McVay Brothers Siding and Windows.

As I strolled in the front door, I saw a table of guys about my age enjoying a session together and a few other people were at other tables. A very friendly server greeted me and gave me plenty of time to examine the tap list and decide what beer I was in the mood for.

I ordered a medium sized pour of Ya Ya's 1603 Kolsch, a style that sits somewhere between a heavier ale and a lager. Pleasantly, my first sip surprised me. Ya Ya's Kolsch is brewed in such a way that its Perle hop gives it a pleasing taste of lemon. I don't have perfect recall of all the Kolsches I've ever drunk over the years, but at the moment I drank this delicious 1603, I couldn't recall a Kolsch with such a pleasing and forward lemon flavor. 

In keeping with wanting to try Ya Ya's lighter beers, I then ordered their Dishman Hills Pilsner. Once again, to my delight, the Dishman Hills Pilsner was lemon-y and a little peppery. It was easy to drink and, like the Kolsch, refreshing. Both were perfect July afternoon hot weather beers.

Now I'm intrigued by Ya Ya. The Ya Ya tap list has solid variety (saison, IPA, stout, brown ale, and others) and my short session today assured me that I can count on their other beers being tasty. If Ya Ya weren't nearly sixty miles away, I'd be heading there regularly to try out more beers and enjoy the friendly service and inviting atmosphere.

2. While I was sipping my Dishman Hills Pilsner, Mary messaged me that when she called to reserve us a spot at Rock City Bar and Grill to play trivia, she learned they were already at capacity. 

No trivia tonight.

Mary recommended a superb alternative: Luna, a relaxing cafe at Perry and 57th dedicated to supporting local businesses. Kathy, Mary, and I visited Luna back in December of 2019. It was the last time I ate raw oysters with bourbon. This week I'd been remembering that wonderful time we had a year and a half ago and it excited me when Mary suggested we meet there for some food and cocktails.

After just a few minutes at the bar, Mary and I were seated at a corner booth in the bar. I ordered a gin martini and crab cakes (both were delicious) and Mary and I had great time talking about all sorts of things: James Thurber, Jess Walter, our experiences with marriage and being apart from our spouses, the Class of 70-71 reunion, and a number of other things that I'll continue to ponder. 

3.  I'm trying to learn about how long I can leave Luna and Copper alone when I leave the house. When I was away in New York, Copper apparently was anxious about my absence and acted out by making messes outside the litter box. He didn't do this when I was away for two nights in Montana. 

So, today, I left Kellogg around 2:30 and arrived back home around 8:00. When I left, both Luna and Copper were upstairs resting -- Luna on the futon, Copper underneath it. I left them fresh wet food in their bowls in the basement and fresh water upstairs.  I scooped out the litter boxes. 

I arrived home and Luna and Copper seemed relaxed. They were lounging in the living room. It was a relief. After all, I've initiated some disruption in Luna and Copper's life over the last week by moving their feeding area from the kitchen to the basement and doing the same with their litter boxes. They seem to be adapting to this change -- for example, I no longer need to carry either cat to the basement to eat -- and I'm very happy that they did just fine this afternoon and evening while I was gone. 

I think the three of us are learning a bit more about each other daily. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 07/19/2021: Luna the Hunter, The Wondrous Whale, An Invitation

1.  When Luna jumps up on me when I'm seated or lying on my back in bed and insists on being petted and scratched and she peacefully purrs, I don't think of her as a predator. 

I no longer have that luxury. This morning, I glanced out to the back yard and I saw Luna crouching, moving slowly forward, and I wondered what was up. Was she playing a cat and mouse game with Copper? Was Grayson in the weeds and was Luna approaching him? 

Soon I witnessed neither of these things to be the case. 

As Luna crept closer to the weeds and the snowball bush, she suddenly sprang and, at first, I thought she had plucked a butterfly out of the air -- but, no, it was a baby bird. 

Luna stunned the bird with a swipe of her paw and then bit into the bird and proudly headed back toward the house with her prey in her mouth. She lost interest in her accomplishment about three quarters of the way back toward the house and dropped the bird and trotted indifferently back to the porch and came in the house.

I intervened only to move the deceased bird off the lawn to protect it when the mowing crew comes next time.

Starting in about June of 1989 my second wife and I lived in the country northeast of Eugene for about a year and a half. We had several cats and watching Luna hunt down the baby bird today took me back to when our cats hunted small rodents and snakes in the acreage that stretched out from the house we rented at the foot of Bunker Hill outside Marcola. Often they brought their prey to us as gifts. I became accustomed to the spectacle of the hunt and to checking the floors of our house for these gifts any time we returned to the house after being gone. 

I didn't know, when I adopted Luna and Copper, if either of them would be hunters once they became indoor/outdoor cats.

Now I know.

2. Today, I returned to reading Fathoms: The World in the Whale. Page after page I'm stunned by this book and I'm sure I'm comprehending, at best, about 80 percent of it. It's a wide-ranging, comprehensive, elegantly written study of whales from multiple angles including mythology, anthropology, ecology, commercialism, tourism, biology, and much more. More than anything, to me, this is a book about interconnections, about how the seemingly smallest things we humans do affects whales and how, in turn, what whales do by nature and what they suffer because of human abuse affects not only the ecology of the ocean, but the wider biosphere, including the atmosphere and our climate. On the one hand, I love reading about interdependence between all things because the intricate interconnections are mind boggling to me; but, I also hate reading about interdependence because when humans inflict harm on any member of the animal kingdom or on any part of the ecosphere, that harm ripples out and has negative impacts almost beyond our imagining and definitely beyond our immediate awareness because of interconnections and interdependence. 

Therefore, as I read Fathoms, I'm tossed back and forth between marvel and grief, between wonder and deep feelings of futility.

3. Today, Mary C. sent me a message inviting me to return to playing trivia again in Spokane. She and one of our teammates, Dan, from our trivia heyday back in late 2019 through early March 2020 are going to play at Rock City Bar and Grill on July 20th and Mary wondered if Christy, Linda, and I might want to join them. As it turned out, I'm available but Linda and Christy are not available this week. I look forward to returning to Rock City, to sipping on a martini, eating some food, and joining forces with Dan and Mary to see how we do as the trivia questions start rolling out. 

I'll miss Kathy.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 07/18/2021: A Traditional Golfer Triumphs, Go Read Christy's Blog!, Transitioning Luna and Copper Continues

 1. One trend in the world of professional golf these days goes something like this: players are working out, developing physical strength, swinging their clubs (especially the driver) as hard as they can, and putting a premium on distance over accuracy. The general idea is that even if it's not on the fairway, a drive that is struck a long ways will be closer to the green, even if in the rough, and players are willing to gouge shots from a shorter distance in the rough than play longer shots from the fairway (or the rough).

One young player making a name for himself in professional golf, however, doesn't play this way. No, Collin Morikawa plays golf in a more traditional way. He aims to keep his drives on the fairway and hits irons with exquisite accuracy. Watching some of the bomb and gouge players can be pretty wild. Watching Morikawa play is not wild. He's efficient. He's calm. He's composed. I loved watching him negotiate Royal St. George's today, hitting green after green in regulation, and, when he didn't, making medium range putts for par, putts that are some of the most nerve racking in the game of golf.

As the 2021 Open champion, Morikawa won his second major tournament and he's only played in eight of them. It's a remarkable feat. I don't dare predict what his future might look like. Golf is a cruel game and just in the last several years we've seen two players, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, experience prolonged slumps on the heels of stunning successes. Morikawa may never win another major, but the one he won today was so masterful, so gutsy, so artistic, that it will live in my mind for a long time as a gem. 

2. I don't know how many of you who read my blog also read my sister Christy's blog, Gathering Around the Table. She took some time away from writing over the last year or so, but she is back to writing regularly again and is succeeding not only at finding beauty in everyday life, but in bringing pleasure and inspiration to those who comment on her posts. 

I thought I'd bring her blog to the attention of readers of my blog. If you'd like to read about recipes, photography, songs, silver linings, and other positive sources of beauty in Christy's life and think about what gives you pleasure in yours, here's a link to Gathering Around the Table:

3. Copper, whom I thought was the less flexible of my two cats, has been more amenable to eating in the basement than Luna has. I hope this changes soon, but, currently, to remind Luna that the food dishes and the dry food feeder are now in the basement, I am carrying her down to her food. 

Before long, I'll be moving the second litter pan to the basement. I don't think either Luna or Copper has used the one currently in the basement. I'm a little anxious about taking the second one downstairs. 

A reminder: I'm making these changes because it will work better to have food and litter pans in the basement when Gibbs returns with Debbie in about two months. 

I'm trying to engineer this transition way ahead of time. 

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 07/17/2021: Round Three at The Open, Zoe's Birthday Party, Leah Writes Three Beautiful Things

 1. While the pin placements were wicked today and the turf at Royal St. George's was a little drier, the weather for the third round was benign. As a result, no many players shot really low scores, but those players at the top of the leaderboard all broke par. All had some rough patches in their rounds. Collin Morikawa started the round unsteadily, Louis Oosthuizen wobbled some near the middle of the back nine, and Jordan Spieth bogeyed the last two holes, moving him to rush in a trot off the course to the practice putting green.

Going into the final round, Oosthuizen leads Morikawa by a stroke and Spieth by three. I would love to be able to intelligently assess who I think will win the Open Championship, but I have no clue. I can't pretend to know how these players atop the leaderboard will play tomorrow. You'd think after watching golf tournaments for over fifty years that I'd have a clue regarding what to expect. I don't. I don't even know what it will come down to -- straight drives? iron play? scrambling? putting touch? control of emotions? All of these factors? These players play such an advanced game of golf, I can't begin to say. Luckily, my enjoyment of the game doesn't depend on making predictions. I simply enjoy watching these players face the rigors of playing links golf.

2. This afternoon, our family piled into Carol and Paul's back yard to commemorate Zoe's 27th birthday. Zoe requested grilled hamburgers for her birthday meal. Christy brought a delicious potato salad. I pitched in with a rice salad. Cosette and Zoe teamed up to make cocktails, a tart French 75 and a nicely balanced Lemon Drop. We enjoyed a moist zucchini-chocolate cake and a scoop of ice cream for dessert. 

It was a fun get together. I was especially grateful for the slightly cooler weather. After all the days we've had of temperatures over 90 and 100 degrees, it was remarkable how comfortable an afternoon in the mid-80s felt.

3.  The years I taught at LCC are no longer very distinct from one another in my mind. I'm Facebook friends with several of my former students and, in most cases, I can no longer pinpoint what year or years we worked together. It always makes me beam, however, when I learn more about how they are doing.  From afar I've enjoyed pictures of their vacations, of learning about new babies being born and growing up, reading about marriages starting, others ending and new relationships forming, businesses thriving. Some of my former students have moved across the country; one headed east and has returned to Oregon again. I've read about sobriety anniversaries, theater successes, forest fire fighting, and college degrees completed. 

One of my former students, Leah, has painful memories of traumatic events in her life return to her every summer. Today I discovered that this year, knowing that this difficult time was upon her, Leah decided to turn some of her attention to writing about what she's grateful for and has been making daily Three Beautiful Things posts. I hope they've been therapeutic for Leah. I know they've been a joy to read. 

I'm deeply impressed with Leah's determination to relish her time with her children, to photograph the beauty in her life (especially her children), and the work she is doing to enhance her home business. 

Reading Leah's 3BTs takes me back to conversations Leah and I used to have in my office. Leah used to drop by from time to time to shoot the breeze. I enjoyed these conversations a lot. Leah's current writing may not bring back all the content of our long ago conversations, but her graceful prose brings back the spirit of our talks and some of my favorite memories as a teacher.  

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 07/16/2021: Rice Salad for Zoe, Pale Ale at the Lounge, Aged Amber and Burger at Radio

1.  We will be celebrating Zoe's birthday on July 17th and Carol asked me to bring a rice salad to go with the burgers that Zoe requested. I didn't want to interrupt my Saturday morning viewing of the Open Championship, so I made the salad today -- I didn't do anything out of the ordinary -- just a standard jasmine rice, olive, almond, tomato, chickpea, feta cheese salad garnished with basil, parsley, and mint and dressed with a little olive brine, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. I forgot to buy cucumber. Dang it. Luckily, I doubt any one will miss it. 

2. I dropped in at the Inland Lounge around 4:00 this afternoon. As planned, Ginger and I enjoyed a beverage and shot the breeze, and, lo and behold, Ed and Brian were in the house, too. In my most recent visits to the Lounge, I've been enjoying the Champagne of Bottled Beer, Miller High Life. Today, though, in keeping with my recent enjoyment of pale ales, I ordered what might be, along with Deschutes' Mirror Pond, the USA's finest pale ale, the tasty, reliable, and venerable Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I sure enjoyed its crispness, and its citrusy hop forward slight bitterness. It was a great follow up to the pale ales I enjoyed over the last week or so -- a crowler of  MickDuff's Lake Paddler and a pint of Georgetown's Manny's Pale Ale. 

3. Earlier in the day, I'd seen Molly walking up Main Street, dressed in her Radio Brewing gear, and figured she was working today at Radio. After a couple of Sierra Nevada Pale Ales and some solid yakking at the Lounge, I strolled up to Radio. Molly was seated at the bar. Her shift was over and she was relaxing with a beer and some food. She saw me come in, invited me to join her, and I did.

Since Radio didn't have one of their pale ales on tap, I took Molly's advice and ordered a Brandy Barrel Aged Amber and enjoyed it a lot before I dove into my burger and fries.  I loved the depth and intensity the brandy added to the Amber, making it, to my taste, seem similar to a Strong Ale. I love drinking memory beers and I wasn't necessarily expecting this aged Amber to be a nostalgic experience, but after about two sips I was suddenly transported back to the Church Key, a second story tap house I loved in Washington, D. C. and a day in February of 2015 when I first drank Troeg's Nectar Nugget, the first Imperial Amber I'd ever tried. Radio's Aged Amber isn't an Imperial Amber, but the moderate boost of booziness the brandy barrel gave it brought back that splendid February day when I walked 8.5 miles, wandering from Foggy Bottom to the National Gallery and up to Logan Circle, capping off a perfect day in the District with a perfectly tasty and satisfying beer. 

Friday, July 16, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 07/15/2021: Change for Copper and Luna, Golf's Not Fair, Ah! To Be Charles Grodin!

 1. Even though Debbie and Gibbs won't be back in Kellogg for a while, I'm starting, way ahead of time, to prepare the house for their return. My primary task is to move Copper and Luna's feeding station and their litter pans to the basement. Debbie is certain that Gibbs would eat their food if it's out on our main floor, and, because Gibbs doesn't like to go down stairs, the basement makes good sense. I've read some articles about cats, their love for routine, and changing the location of litter pans, so I'm slowly moving the litter pans from one spot upstairs to another, and, before long, both pans will be in the basement.

2. On the occasion of this year's Open Championship getting underway today at Royal St. George's Golf Course in County Kent, England, I am going to make a confession. Royal St. George's is a links course. Not only is it bordered by water, it also features fairways that have numerous mounds and challenging slants. This means that a player can hit what might appear to be a splendid drive, but watch helplessly as the golf ball bounces in an unexpected direction, even getting sucked into a pothole sand trap or into the course's thick rough.

Here's my confession: I do not agree with those who say a good golf shot should be rewarded. From my point of view, golf is, by its very nature, an unfair game that tests players' ability to cope with hardship, including dealing with having what might appear to be a great shot turn out not to be so.  

On a links course, like Royal St. George's, players are tested all the time by external factors they can't control when the wind kicks up, when they have to play from awkward lies, when they have to make blind shots, and when the speed of the greens is unpredictable. 

It hasn't, to my knowledge, happened this week, so far, but sometimes players will complain, when things on a course are unpredictable, that it's unfair.

I disagree. 

Golf demands that a player play the course as it is, not as a player thinks it should be.  That means, because golf is often an unforgiving game, that what a player thinks is a great shot will sometimes not be rewarded. It demands mental strength to deal with this fact and I enjoy seeing players facing these difficulties. 

(I'll add, as I wrap up my golf comments, that the weather has been benign at Royal St. George's so far and the world's best players are shooting some uncommonly low scores in the tournament's first two rounds.)

3. Charles Grodin passed away in May and, as I read the tributes to his career, I realized that I'd never seen two of his well-known movies, The Heartbreak Kid and Midnight Run.

I was idly scanning through offerings on Netflix this evening and Midnight Run popped up as available. 

I decided to watch it. 

I had a blast. 

I popped myself a bowl of popcorn and surrendered gladly to the movie's many absurdities, its slapstick car chases, and its scene after scene of law enforcement Keystone Cops failures. The plot was nutty, tight, and complicated. I found its wild momentum irresistible. 

I also gladly surrendered to the relationship that developed between Jack (Robert De Niro) and Duke (Charles Grodin). Often when I watch movies, I wish I could perform like certain actors I see. This evening, I wished I could be Charles Grodin -- dead pan, wry, intelligent, urbane, and funny. In addition, this movie was jam-packed with great roles for a number of accomplished character actors and I had a lot of fun watching them bring to life this movie's gallery of thugs, mobsters, double-crossers, and befuddled feds.  


Thursday, July 15, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 07/14/2021: Lazy and Hazy, Manny's Delivers, Copper and Luna Were Safe

 1. Today was hazy. I was lazy. Nothing much was crazy. My best accomplishment was scanning and emailing a couple of documents to Debbie and working electronically on a writing project she asked me to help her with.

2. Late in the afternoon, I buzzed out to Kingston and Ed and I piled into the Hanson Camry and headed down to the Cd'A Casino. Upon arrival, I told Ed I was in the mood for a beer and we both went to the bar at the Red Tail and I enjoyed, for the first time in years, a Manny's Pale Ale. In a beer world so stocked with a dizzying variety of India Pale Ales, I find that I enjoy, from time to time, the often less intense and often a bit simpler Pale Ale. That was certainly the case today. Manny's was a pleasant beer.

3.  As Ed drove us back to the Silver Valley after a fun, but not very successful time of playing, Christy texted me that she'd heard cats fighting somewhere close to my yard. To my relief, Copper and Luna stayed inside while I was gone -- to my further relief, Christy told me her cats, Grayson and Winnie were with her and not involved in the cat screaming. I don't know much about the neighborhood cat population. The only cats I've seen around the yard are Copper, Luna, Winnie, and Grayson. I'll be keeping watch, now, to see if any unfamiliar cats are hanging around and do all I can to keep Copper and Luna from tangling with them. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 07/13/2021: Queen Movie and Memories, Doc Brown and Marty McFly, Elton John in Russia BONUS: A Limerick by Stu

1. The other day, when I watched Rocketman, I realized I'd never watched the movie Bohemian Rhapsody

So, today, I did. 

I didn't expect the movie to move me the way it did. I realized, upon reflection, that Queen's music transported me back to when I was first engaged to be married and to the early years of my first marriage. I remembered that my former brother-in-law loved Queen. He was younger than my first wife and the stereo system in his bedroom was always on. Visiting my fiancee's family meant hearing Mott the Hoople, early ZZ Top, Genesis, among other bands I wouldn't have heard otherwise, and Queen.

Today I discovered that listening to Queen from about 1974 until about 1980 had gotten inside of me more deeply than I realized at the time. Memories of the best days of my first marriage, going to school, living, and working in Spokane, and of thumbing through bins of lps in record stores came back to me and, with so much time having passed, I've hung on to memories I enjoy, that fed my nostalgia.

I didn't actively seek out Queen's music once "We Are the Champions", "Another One Bites the Dust", and "We Will Rock You" became ubiquitous songs. I didn't have to seek out Queen. It seemed like those songs were playing everywhere and my interest in Queen diminished.

As I watched this movie today, I had no clue what would make a good Queen movie or a good Freddie Mercury story. So I took it in, enjoyed the tale the movie told, gave myself over to its emotional power, shed some tears, and enjoyed reminiscing about the presence of Queen in my life -- both when they were a welcome presence and when I just got tired of the thump thump clap in stadium after stadium of "We Will Rock You"! 

2. On Facebook today, Colette posted a contemporary picture of Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox, a photograph, I'd say, celebrating that they are both still alive and paying homage to the popularity of the movie, Back to the Future.

I saw Back to the Future upon its release in 1985. I've also been aware that this movie has remained very popular over the last 36 years. I remember laughing at the movie's Ronald Reagan/Jerry Lewis joke, but nothing else about the movie really stayed with me. I know that nothing about it, unlike, say Harold and Maude, moved me to watch it repeatedly.

So, after talking to Debbie on the phone and finishing my viewing of Bohemian Rhapsody, I went down to McDonald's and ordered a bare, no cheese quarter pounder with fries and a Coke, brought the burger home and dressed it my way (ketchup, mustard, dill pickle disks, and bread and butter pickles) and rented Back to the Future.

My experience watching Back to the Future was mostly on an even keel. I admired the screenplay and the movie's careful plotting, the way all its pieces fit together perfectly. I enjoyed musing from time to time on its philosophical content, in much the same way I have enjoyed thinking about what day I would like to live over again after I've watched or read Thornton Wilder's Our Town -- and wondering if I'd be disillusioned in the way Emily Webb was when she relived her 12th birthday.

I enjoyed getting caught up in the movie's suspense and felt relief that it ended the way it did. 

I'm done with Back to the Future, though. Nothing in this movie compelled me to want to watch the sequels. 

I've got a long list of other movies I'm eager to see for the first time.

3. After Back to the Future ended, I wasn't quite ready to go to sleep.

The other day, I purchased a streaming copy of To Russia...With Elton

It's about an hour long documentary of Elton John performing without a band in Russia in 1979, accompanied in a handful of songs by the animated and precise percussionist Ray Cooper.

I watched half of it tonight. It's a pleasure to watch and listen to Elton John perform by himself at a piano and I enjoyed the digressions the film took into giving viewers a snapshot of life in the the USSR in 1979 and what risks those in power might have been taking in allowing Elton John to perform in their country. 

Here's a limerick by Stu: 

Sure, Popeye thinks Olive is “Cutah”!
Just an issue if also says "Blutah"!
So they fight, it's a rout,
'Til the spinach comes out.
Popeye's punch ends the "Blutah" "Disputah". 

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 07/12/2021: The Versatile Tabbouleh, Salad Buffet for Family Dinner, Divine Horchata

 1. I started preparing for tonight's family dinner on Sunday by making a black bean and rice salad and a red pepper, lentil, and tomato salad. This morning, I made tabbouleh. I decided to build the tabbouleh around farro instead of bulgur and I was very happy with the result. Farro is a chewy, kind of nutty tasting grain.  That it worked so well in today's tabbouleh simply reinforced what a versatile salad tabbouleh can be. I've made it with jasmine rice, brown rice, couscous, and bulgur.  Each version has been equally delicious.

2. As tonight's family dinner host, I decided to set all the food out on the dining table so we could have a buffet. I put out the three salads I made along with butter crackers, saltines, two kinds of cheddar cheese, champagne cheese, salami disks, almonds, bread and butter pickles, dill pickles, and green and black olives.

I asked Christy if she'd bring a salad that was new to all of us: escabeche salad. "Escabeche" is the Spanish word for marinade. To make this salad, you mix together cooked vegetables, vinegar,  olive oil, Dijon mustard, garlic, salt, and pepper and pour it over chicken, beef, fish, or any other protein. This is the escabeche and you refrigerate it overnight -- or for several days if you'd like.

Then, when it's time to have the salad, you simply pour the escabeche over salad greens. 

Like tabbouleh, this is a very versatile salad. Christy got sidetracked by a mishap (everything's okay) in her back yard and, instead of cooking vegetables or meat, she bought jars of pickled cauliflower and other vegetables and used canned salmon. It was perfect! I'd even call it fortunate, not that the mishap occurred, but that she had to diverge from her original plan and use these canned/jarred ingredients. They tasted great as a part of the escabeche.

We kicked off our dinner with a cocktail. I'd asked Paul, Carol, and Christy to send me a request so I'd be sure to have the proper ingredients on hand. I had a lot of fun mixing Christy a Dark and Stormy, Paul a Gin and Tonic, Carol a dry Gin Martini, and a quasi-Margarita for myself. I simply poured tequila, Cointreau, and RealLime over ice and enjoyed sipping on that mixture. I was a little short on fresh limes and used them for Christy and Paul's drinks, happily, and RealLime for my concoction. 

3. We had plenty to talk about over our food. The new thrift store down the street is closing. Carol and Paul have busy days lying ahead with family visiting from out of town and they are also taking a short vacation to Montana for their 35th wedding anniversary. We celebrate Zoe's birthday this coming Saturday. We spent time sorting all of this out and sharing what we knew or didn't know about other news around the Silver Valley. 

Paul is helping supervise the upcoming production at the Sixth Street Melodrama in Wallace and had to leave early.

In his absence, Christy, Carol, and I enjoyed the dessert I asked Carol to make and bring.

My request has a brief history. When Meagan and Patrick were here a couple of weeks ago, one or both of them bought cans of Radio Brewing's Horchata Cream Ale. I'd never heard of horchata before and Meagan explained to me that it's a rice milk flavored with cinnamon. Radio's Horchata Cream Ale is also flavored with vanilla. I loved this beer.

It took me about two seconds of online searching to find a horchata recipe and I passed it on to Carol, wondering if she'd be willing to make it.

She was!

Carol's horchata was out of this world delicious.

The recipe I sent her way called for an overnight soak of white rice and almonds, a rich and very tasty combination. She flavored the rice/almond milk with sugar and cinnamon and served it over ice. 

Honestly, had I been left alone with it, I could have drunk the entire pitcher.

At the end of a hot day, the horchata was refreshing. I thought it balanced out the more vinegary, acidic salads we'd eaten for dinner. 

The cinnamon and sugar were perfectly balanced. The recipe didn't call for vanilla and that was fine. One day, I might make a batch of horchata and experiment with vanilla simply because I enjoyed that flavor so much in Radio's Horchata Cream Ale. 

Monday, July 12, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 07/11/2021: Djokovic Wins Wimbledon, There's No Place Like Home, Family Dinner Prep

 1.  Having arrived home early in the evening on Saturday, I had no problem (with the help of hungry Luna and Copper) rising and shining before six o'clock this morning to watch the men's final tennis match at Wimbledon featuring Novak Djokovic and Mateo Berrettini.

In the first set, Berrettini was down 2-5 and Djokovic was serving, in the eighth game, for the set. Somehow, not only did Berrettini hang on and break Djokovic's serve, but he held serve, broke Djokovic a second time, eventually forced the set into a tie breaker, jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the tie breaker, and  won the first set.

Berrettini started shaky in that first set, but saving the set and breaking Djokovic settled him down. His booming serve and powerful forehand shots put Djokovic on his heels. Djokovic controlled the match early, but, in the eighth game, Berrettini seized the momentum and I uttered that terrible cliche to myself, promising to never say it again, "Well, we've got a tennis match!"

I don't have a deep enough knowledge either of tennis nor of the mental strength of Novak Djokovic to explain what inner resources he drew upon to immediately break Berrettini in the second set and seize a 4-0 lead. Djokovic is remarkably adept at making adjustments during a match and, in this second set, his uncanny ability to return much of what Berrettini rocketed at him combined with moving his opponent all over the court with his returns and hitting to Berrettini's backhand more often opened the way for Djokovic to impose his will on Berrettini.

Djokovic evened the match by winning the second set and continued to keep Berrettini's shots at him in play, blanket his side of the court with speed, and hit shots made possible only because of his imagination, flexibility, and versatility. It's mind-boggling to watch how Djokovic comes at opponents with thunderous shots, deft volleys, delicate lobs, and pinpoint returns hit at what seem to be impossible angles.

Add to this the way Djokovic consistently wins points at crucial junctures in his matches. It's otherworldly. It's a mark of his confidence, determination, and savvy. 

After dropping the first set, Djokovic swept the next three and won his sixth Wimbledon title and his 20th major title (tying him with Federer and Nadal for most career major wins).

When Djokovic enters the US Open later this summer, should he win it, he will be the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win all four majors in a calendar year -- Steffi Graff won all four majors in 1988 and also won the Olympic gold medal that year. It remains to be seen if Djokovic will play in the Olympics, if he will pursue what is known as the Golden Slam, winning the four majors and an Olympic gold medal in one year. After his Wimbledon victory, Djokovic said that chances are about 50/50 that he'll compete in the Tokyo Olympics. 

2. The Westminster Basement Study Group met this afternoon on Zoom for another discussion of literary comedy. I am responsible for setting our discussions in motion and today I drew on my experience from the first time I taught the Literature of Comedy course at LCC over 20 years ago when I focused on stories, movies (like the Wizard of Oz), and plays that told about characters being isolated or separated from home and that were resolved with a return home or with a discovery of home.

I emphasized in that course and again today in our Zoom discussion that home is both an external reality -- it's the place where we feel secure, safe, protected, a sense of belonging, and comfort -- and an inward reality. What we see character experience in the outward action of these stories parallels the inner experience of discovering security, ease, acceptance, balance, and confidence within one's self.

Our discussion was wide-ranging, moving me to say to those present that what I loved about my days doing improvisational theater was we were guided by the simple principle of "Yes, and". One actor received, accepted, and built upon what the other actors had to give. Today we discussed the idea of home and nourished our understanding of comic vision in many ways, but never with disagreement. No one every said, "but" -- no one said, "yes, but" or "no, but". Our comments in response to one another were always in the spirit of "yes, and". As a result, we significantly expanded our collective understanding of comedy and the concept of home. 

This has been a most stimulating project and has deepened our friendships and strengthened the bonds that connect us.

3. I am hosting family dinner on Monday and I don't enjoy trying to get everything ready the day of our getting together, so, after Zooming, I made a couple of grain and legume salads and they are ready to go. I am going to make one more salad for the heck of it and I'll have it done in the morning on Monday. Then I'll get the house spiffed up a bit,  get it cooled down, and I'll be ready for the family to come over and enjoy a cold meal together. 

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 07/10/2021: Yoke's and The Bean, Ginger at The Lounge, Korean Rice Bowl and Home Early

 1.  We are having family dinner on Monday because Carol and Paul will be Sunday evening's worship leaders at the Prayer Station in Wallace. I buckled down a little bit this morning and figured out what I need from the store to make my contributions and went to Yoke's. As good fortune would have it, Linda L. was also at Yoke's, picking up the sandwiches she ordered for today's reunion picnic. We talked for a bit about how wonderful and fun the atmosphere had been on Friday night, both at the Elks and at the Lounge. The 1970-71 reunion was definitely off to a superb start.

After shopping, I stopped in at The Bean and ordered lox, onion, cream cheese, and capers on a plain bagel and a bottle of San Pellegrino. I got it to go and this late breakfast brought my morning to a tasty, refreshing, and nourishing close. 

2. I shot the breeze with Debbie for a while on the phone this afternoon and then headed uptown to the Lounge with the idea that I'd get dinner from Wah Hing. But, Wah Hing took a week off. Ginger was in the house, though, and we hadn't debriefed after her fantasy baseball team shellacked mine a week ago and so I showed her my battered body, my bruises and scars, and we had a good session of solid bs before she left to meet a friend at the Longshot. 

3. I needed to eat dinner, so I told Cas I'd be back in a while, but that I was going up to Radio Brewing for some supper. Molly was working and it was fun to see her in action, seeming to stay very calm as the joint got busier and busier. I ordered a small pour of cream ale and just as my beer arrived, I learned that since Radio is out of their own lager and pilsner, they had just put a German lager and a German pilsner on tap. 

I ordered a delicious Korean rice bowl with steak and paired it with the excellent German lager I'd just learned about. I finished my food, paid up, and headed back to the Lounge.

I had a good time talking with Nathan, Seth, and Cas about baseball -- reaching back into baseball history was really fun -- and, at about 8:00, I headed home. If I had more stamina, I might have stuck around to see if any people from the 1970-71 reunion buffet at the Hilltop might migrate back to the Lounge, but I don't have the staying power now that I did when I was younger. I don't know what, if anything, I missed later at the Lounge, but I was glad to have chosen discretion over valor and didn't wear myself out. 

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 07/09/2021: The Men's Semi-Final Matches, Table of Fun at Noah's, Lots of Class Reunion Happiness

1. Even though I had a kind of an erratic and short night's sleep -- no real reason --, I sprang out of bed at 5:30 a.m. so I could watch the two men's semifinal matches at Wimbledon.

I sometimes wish I were an accomplished sports writer and could write in some detail what happened in these matches, but I'm not. So here's a condensed version of what I saw.

For two sets, Mateo Berrettini, behind a thundering serve, bullied and dominated Hubert Hurkacz, especially in the second set. In this second set, Berrettini flattened Hurkacz 6-0. In the third set, though, Hurkacz gathered himself, played some brilliant tennis, strongly resisted the bullying, and won it in a tie breaker 7-6 (7-4). I thought in that third set Hurkacz not only got himself back into the match, but won himself some self-respect and the admiration of the spectators. 

As it turned out, though, Berrettini was just too powerful and he dispatched Hurkacz in the fourth set, 6-4. 

When I've written about sports before, I've confessed that I'm not good at all of imagining what a future contest, no matter the sport, might look like. As you'll read soon, Novak Djokovic will face Mateo Berrettini in the Wimbledon men's final. 

Mateo Berrettini is on an impressive grass court win streak right now. He'll throw a lot of firepower and aggression at Djokovic. I don't know what to expect,

BUT, I can say that Djokovic's semi-final opponent, Denis Shapovalov, gave Djokovic a foretaste of what he might expect in his final match with Berrettini.

Like Berrettini, Shapovalov hammers opponents with a huge serve (although Berrettini's might be even more powerful) and, today, Shapovalov served up a lot of booming shots that Djokovic couldn't get to or that he returned weakly or wildly.

In fact, in the first set, Shapovalov was serving for the set at 5-4, but Djokovic did what he does best. He dug in. He stoutly defended his court. He was calm in this crucial moment while Shapovalov hit an easy return long, committed other errors under pressure, and ended up losing the set 6-7 (3-7), a huge blow.

Shapovalov continued in the next two sets to pound away and, in many ways played the better tennis. But Djokovic's experience, mental strength, and confidence prevailed at key moments. At every turn in the match, when a dramatic point was at stake, no matter what difficulties he'd had in previous points, Djokovic won those points and prevailed in the match, sweeping Shapovalov 6-5-5.

Djokovic's experience is apparent not only in his calmness under pressure, but in his versatility. No question, Djokovic is a powerful player and, as always, today he kept the pressure on Shapovalov with his uncanny, almost other worldly ability to return shots and keep points alive.

He kept several of those points alive, not with power, but with finesse shots -- little drop shots, some unimagniably accurate lobs, and angled shots impressive more for their placement than their force. Djokovic can extend rallies from the baseline, he can come to the net and win points with perfectly placed vollies, and he covers the court with breathtaking agility and speed.

He'll have his hands full on Sunday as Berrettini launches rocket serve after rocket serve and smashes powerful forehand after forehand. 

It's Berrettini's first major final. 

It's Djokovic's 30th. 

Djokovic has won Wimbledon five times. 

Djokovic is the world's top player. 

It will be tough (but not impossible) for the mighty Berrettini to prevail.

2. This weekend is a high holiday in Kellogg -- no, unlike in the Eugene area, Kellogg is not hosting a Country Fair this weekend, but, today and tomorrow,  the combined classes of 1970 and 1971 are celebrating their 50th class reunion.

A bunch of us younger (!) kids from the Class of 1972 got together around 4:30 this afternoon at Noah's for some food and a couple of drinks with the idea that we'd head uptown, hang out at the Lounge, and try to see as many of the reunion participants as possible, either in the Lounge or, once their dinner was over, by strolling over to the Elks.

Our function at the Elks was a lot of fun. For about ninety minutes or so, we yakked at our table non-stop, talking about all kinds of things and enjoying a ton of huge laughs. I don't think I've been to Noah's since I moved back to Kellogg. I ordered Korean BBQ boneless chicken wings and enjoyed how sweet and slightly spicy they were and was really happy with how well they paired with the two margaritas I enjoyed. 

I was beaming and fired up as we left Noah's. I sprang back into the Sube,  screeched back over the river for a quick stop at home, made Copper and Luna happy by feeding them dinner, and then headed uptown to the Lounge.

3. The reunion's dinner at the Elks began around 6:30 and about an hour and a half or so later, Linda and Mary came over to the Lounge. I'd been nursing a bottle of Miller's for quite a while, talking with Pam B. and Wandy S. and others. Mary, Linda, and I grabbed a table. It was still quiet in the Lounge and we talked about how well things were going across the street and Mary and Linda filled me in on how Kathy is doing. (She's under better care at the facility she's in and she has more visitors than she could at Sacred Heart. She's not eating much and so looks gaunt. Linda and I are going to pay her a visit together sooner than later -- maybe we'll see Mary, too. Our plans are a bit vague right now. No problem.)

I sauntered with Mary and Linda across the street and over the next hour or so saw a bunch of people from our shared deep past. I don't think the substance of conversations at reunions like this is nearly as important as the good cheer, the smiles, handshakes, the lighting up at seeing people for the first time in years. I got around as much as I could and then headed back to the Lounge, took a seat at the north end of the bar, and enjoyed numerous conversations, some kind of brief, others, like with Big Al, more extended. From where I sat, I could see the whole room and I really enjoyed seeing so many old friends running into each other again, laughing, hugging, sharing goodwill, and having fun. I couldn't get around to see everyone I might have liked to, but that was all right. It was just kind of remarkable to see people I've known in one way or another over the last sixty years so happy to be with each other again. 

Friday, July 9, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 07/08/2021: Singing and Dancing in *Rocketman*, Sir Elton Talks with Graham Norton, Elton John in Moscow (not Idaho!)

1. Deborah G. sent me a wonderful email about her awe for Elton John/Bernie Taupin and told me that she'd enjoyed the movie, Rocketman. Rocketman has been in the back of mind since its release. Deborah's comments were just the push I needed to rent it and watch it.

I didn't know anything about the movie as it got underway and thoroughly enjoyed how it crossed genres, moving back and forth between being a biographical movie and a musical. I enjoyed the set song and dance pieces. They made the movie pleasantly surreal for me and helped me experience and understand Taupin and John's songs in fresh ways.  The movie made me think back to the days about 35-40 years ago when I watched a ton of MTV videos and the way the best of music videos expanded my experience with any number of songs and gave me a lot of enjoyment. I had just that experience throughout the movie. 

2. When I watched the Classic Albums episode on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, I enjoyed Elton John's calm intelligence, his low key and candid manner. Knowing how flamboyant he was as a younger man on stage and knowing that much of his on stage and off stage drama was fueled by his drug and alcohol abuse, I enjoyed the sober Elton John.  Sobriety had helped his better self emerge and thrive.

So, when Deborah told me that she had enjoyed Elton John: Uncensored (kind of a hyperbolic title. . . but, oh well), I found it on Amazon Prime and tuned in. The interview took place in 2019 in support of Rocketman coming out and the publication of his autobiography, Me. Graham Norton conducted the interview and gave Elton John plenty of room to tell stories, both funny and serious,  reflect on his past and present, to talk calmly and candidly about his reckless years and to explain how, upon sobering up, he moved his life toward being a giving person, committed to service to others, especially through his AIDS foundation. 

3. I'll take a break from Elton John video material for a while unless I can find a short film he released in 1979 entitled, To Russia. . . with Elton. In an earlier post this week, I mentioned that I was a Showtime subscriber back in 1980 and Showtime ran To Russia . . . with Elton back then. Elton John had decided to take a break from the usual razzle dazzle and pyrotechnics of his arena shows and play a run of concerts featuring him at the piano, accompanied only by the percussion wizard, Ray Cooper. 

NEWSFLASH: I just discovered I can purchase a streaming copy of this film on Amazon Prime! I just did it. 

I don't necessarily trust the accuracy of memories from over forty years ago. So, even if this didn't happen, my memory makes me think it did and I enjoy the feelings that accompany it, no matter how accurate! My memory is that Roger P. paid my first wife and me a visit in Eugene. I don't remember what else Roger and I did that day, but I remember watching To Russia . . . with Elton together on our black and white television, giving the three of us an hour of enjoying what might later have been called "Elton Unplugged" and also giving us a rare look at the film's shots of the grandeur of Moscow. 

As much as anything, thanks to this concert, I became enamored with Ray Cooper. That day, and in performances of his I've seen later, I loved his precision and I loved his antics. I thought he enriched Elton John's performance and gave the concert at Moscow a jolt of playfulness that I completely enjoyed. 

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 07/07/2021: A Contrast: Djokovic and Federer, Biking the Joad Family Route, Taupin/John

1. I was up just before 5:30 this morning and fired up the Vizio to watch two quarterfinal tennis matches from Wimbledon. The first match went pretty much by the book. Novak Djokovic pummeled Marton Fucsovics early on, and took a 5-0 lead in the first set. Fucsovics didn't relent, though, and started to play better, but lost that set 3-6. The match was slightly for evenly played in the second set, but Djokovic prevailed, 6-4 and won the final set by the same score. 

Djokovic looks unbeatable. Every aspect of his game is in top form, he's as fit as I've ever seen any athlete in any sport, and his will and determination strike me as superior to all the other players. By dispatching Fucsovics efficiently today, he didn't overly tax himself and should be well rested and will be the clear favorite to win his semifinal match against Denis Shapovalov. 

The second quarterfinal match featured Roger Federer against Hubert Hurkacz.

Whereas Novak Djokovic is at or near the peak of his athletic prowess, Roger Federer, who will turn 40 on August 8th, is in decline. I doubt anyone would argue that Federer is among the most elegant men ever to play tennis and is the game's most trusted, admired, and respected player. It's very difficult for those of us who love tennis to come to grips with the fact that Federer's days as an elite player are, thanks to the inevitable effects of aging, numbered. 

But, in his last two matches at Wimbledon, Federer had played well and some of us even hoped that since he and Djokovic were playing on opposite sides of the tournament's bracket, that they might meet in the tournament's final match.

It was not to be.

Hubert Hurkacz was very much the fresher, more powerful, and better player today. 

He wore Federer out. It appeared that the matches Federer played up to this point took more out of him than we fans might have thought. Today, Federer was a tad bit slow, hit too many shots off balance, made bad decisions about the shot to hit at key moments, and, in one particularly painful moment, looked awkward as he stumbled trying to set himself for a smash and badly muffed what would have been an easy point.

Federer lost the first two sets 3-6, 6-7. In the third set, the unimaginable happened. Federer didn't win a single game. Hurkacz overpowered Federer to win the third set 6-0. Watching Federer pack up his equipment and stride to the locker room, stopping to wave to the spectators, a generous gesture of gratitude, I didn't wonder so much if Roger Federer would ever win another major -- I wondered if, after this year's U.S. Open (given he plays), we'll ever see him play any more major tournaments. 

Time is cruel.

2. On Facebook, a friend of mine, Judy, asked her friends to recommend a movie she could watch that wouldn't demand a lot of mental energy -- she posted that her brain was tired.

I read through the recommendation's people made. I'm always on the lookout for movies I haven't heard of that sound good.

One of my friends, Mary, recommended the documentary, Bikes of Wrath. My first thought was that this sounded like a motorcycle gang film -- something along the lines of Sons of Anarchy.

But, I thought, Mary wouldn't be drawn to this subject matter, so I looked up the title and AHA! is it ever not a motorcycle gang documentary.

No, this is the story of five Australian men who love John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath and decided to follow the route of the Joad family, riding bicycles from Sallisaw, OK to Bakersfield, CA over a month's time.

I don't want to give away what happened, and I hope what I'm about to write isn't revealing too much.

I was moved to tears several times as this movie developed and I loved that these guys, who shot the movie themselves, asked people they met on their journey to read aloud passages from The Grapes of Wrath. It brought to mind a project I want to return to where everyday people in Alabama were videotaped reading poetry by Walt Whitman. Hearing Whitman's poetry and Steinbeck's prose read in this way brought both writers' work alive to me in fresh and moving ways -- really moving ways. 

As far as what else in this movie moved me, my keyboard is sealed. I wouldn't have wanted to know what was going to happen in this movie before I watched it and I'm not giving anything else away.

I'll just say that I'm grateful to Judy's tired brain and Mary's superb recommendation. I'm not sure I would have found this movie, on Amazon Prime, had Judy not posted her request.

By the way, I don't know what movie Judy ended up watching with her tired brain. 

I'm really glad my brain wasn't tired, though, when I watched Bikes of Wrath this evening!

3. After watching Bikes of Wrath, I popped open the bottle of Iron Goat's Rubus that Patrick and Meagan brought me from Spokane. I only drank one glass and hope the stopper I put in the bottle will preserve its life and freshness for a few days. Rubus is a raspberry sour, a tart sour beer with a pleasing dry finish.

I closed out the evening by rewatching the episode of VH1's Classic Albums that focused on Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Elton John's music has been getting to me in new and stronger ways lately and I remembered that this program enhanced my appreciation of both Elton John and Bernie Taupin when I first watched it.

It did so again tonight.

I especially enjoyed listening to Bernie Taupin talk about his ways of writing songs, of how much he drew upon vivid memories from his youth growing up in Lincolnshire and of how he focused his powers on creating vivid images in his songs. Many of those lyrics had little to do with Elton John's experiences in life and, yet, Elton John embraced those songs, gave them superb melodies, and sang them as if they were his own. 

Maybe everyone knows this about Taupin/John, but, as is often the case, I've arrived a bit late to this party. Sure glad I came. 

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 07/06/2021: *Heartworn Highway Revisited*, Private Eye in a Murky World, Beauty in the Tree House

 1. Someday, I'll read up on the subject and come to an understanding of what criteria a country music singer/songwriter/performer meets to be regarded as "outlaw". A little while back, I watched the 1975/6 documentary, Heartworn Highways, a loving portrait of the early days of the Outlaw Country movement. I don't remember how, but when I watched Heartworn Highways, I discovered that a sequel of sorts was made and released in 2015. I leapt online and ordered discs of both movies. Today I watched Heartworn Highways Revisited.

The director of Heartworn Highways, James Szalapski, died in 2000.  Experienced music video director Wayne Price took up the project of directing the sequel. He focused Revisited on a circle of musicians playing out of East Nashville and built the movie around contemporary Outlaws John McCauley and Jonny Fritz and also featured a generous number of their fellow musicians, including Shovels & Rope, Justin Townes Earle, Nikki Lane, Shelly Colvin, Robert Ellis, Andrew Combs, Bobby Bare, Jr., and more. In addition, Wayne Price brought original outlaws Guy Clark, David Allen Coe, and Steve Young into the movie, a brilliant move. 

Heartworn Highways Revisited introduced me to every one of the contemporary musicians. I enjoyed their work and look forward to paying more attention to them. But, for me, the emotional heart of this film was the aged Guy Clark. My tears flowed when he played and sang "LA Freeway" and a number of the young performers joined him. I loved the interviews with Clark and how the film flashed back to Clark as he appeared in Heartworn Highways. Likewise, I loved how Wayne Price brought Steve Young and David Allen Coe into the story. It gave this movie both a sense of deep history and gravity.

2. I let Heartworn Highways Revisited settle inside me and then returned to the Criterion Channel's menu of neo-noir offerings. Having just watched Gene Hackman in The French Connection, I decided to watch Night Moves, an Arthur Penn movie he appeared in about five years after The French Connection.

My sense is that the neo-noir directors seek to complicate the traditional film noir stories and conventions and that is certainly the case in Night Moves. Hackman plays a private investigator named Harry Moseby and, as the story developed, I began to realize that this was the story of a detective where a significant gap exists between his sense of himself as a competent detective and his actual incompetence. I found the movie's story confusing, but, as I looked back, I enjoyed this confusion, found it compelling, actually, because my confusion was also Harry Moseby's confusion. As a viewer of the movie, I could acknowledge my confusion, step back, and try (unsuccessfully) to piece the story together, but Harry Moseby can't step back and sinks deeper into the murky waters of his investigations and deeper into the consequences of events he never understood.

Traditionally, detective stories give us the pleasure of witnessing a knot being untangled, of confusion being clarified, of the unknown becoming known. We witness a case being solved. In this way, many detective stories are literary comedies.

But this neo-noir movie, similar to many others in this genre, is more complicated, more existential, more tragic. To me, Harry Moseby is portrayed, yes, as unheroic, unable to comprehend, let alone solve the mess he dives into. He's unheroic but not a fool.  The twisted situation he's investigating overwhelms him. The gap between what he believes is true and what actually is turns out to be emblematic of so much of life itself -- certainty is a fleeting and rare experience. Heroism is rare.

3.  Meagan bought crowlers (not growlers) of great beers at MickDuff's in Sandpoint about ten days ago and tonight I popped open the 25 oz can (it's a crowler, not a glass growler!) of Lake Paddler Pale Ale. As I drank more deeply into this crowler/can, and, as the beer warmed up a bit, its malty-ness began to assert itself and I had moments when drinking this beer called up memories of drinking McMenamin's Hammerhead, my all-time favorite pale ale. 

The pleasure of this beer was surpassed only by the pleasure of tuning in to tonight's Tree House Concert. Because of the pain and other complications Bill Davie is experiencing because of having MS, he has cut back on his Tree House Concert performance schedule. He's giving these concerts twice a month now instead of every week.

Bill has trimmed back on how many songs he plays per concert The limitations the MS impose on him dictate his selections. Tonight, he played gems, including "Learn to Say Goodbye", "The Mud Song", "Fascination", "The Only Magic I Know", among others. It was a superb playlist, perfectly complimented by the handful of "Body and Soul" poems he read from the stunning anthology, Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times, edited by Neil Astley. It was a powerful hour and, judging from the comments they made during the show, Bill's audience loved it. I know I did. 



Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 07/05/2021: Thoughts About Movies, Rice Salad, Grayson Divides His Time

 1. As this lazy day progressed, I decided to take a day off from watching movies and let the ones I've viewed sink in more. I enjoyed that Mark, Bridgit, and Diane commented on how they also enjoy Picnic at Hanging Rock and, in the larger picture, that Peter Weir is one of Mark's and Diane's favorite directors. Bridgit and I had a brief back and forth that raised the question regarding why we return for multiple viewings of a movie like Picnic at Hanging Rock that we experience as unnerving and creepy. I don't have a definitive answer to this question, but, off the top, I think what brings me back time and time again is artistry, craftsmanship, and beauty. I feel this way about several movies I have watched repeatedly over the years. When it comes to Picnic at Hanging Rock, there are passages in this movie where very little is actually happening, but the combination of the movie's cinematography, music soundtrack, and images, whether of Hanging Rock or of birds, insects, lizards, or snakes arrests me, actually takes me out of myself, and I relish these sublime moments in the film. 

Bill and Diane told me that they enjoy my thoughts and observations about the movies I watch. This made me very happy. It's disappointing to me that so much discussion of movies centers around ratings (how many stars) and recommendations. When I write about movies, I'm never rating them or making recommendations. I try to express my experience with the movie and emphasize what I enjoy. 

I look for enjoyment in movies. Much like eating at a restaurant, I don't enjoy the experience of being disappointed. I don't enjoy being critical. I enjoy enjoyment. It makes me unreliable as "critic", so I don't think of myself as a critic or a reviewer but as a chronicler of my enjoyment and recorder of what I've learned -- whether about food preparation or movies (or plays or concerts). 

Enjoyment, looking for what's good in places I dine, the beer I drink, in the movies I watch and in other parts of my life is good for my sense of well-being, especially mentally and emotionally. This approach might call my intelligence and critical faculties into question, but so what! I enjoy exercising my mind by focusing on what gives me pleasure and on finding enjoyment in things. 

So, that's how I write about them. 

Knowing that Bill and Diane enjoy what I write buoys me, helps keep me going.

2. We've been in a heat wave for about ten days now I guess. I just can't bring myself to cook much on the stove. I'm willing to cook rice, though, and I had fun today cooking a batch of brown rice, letting it cool, and combining it with almonds, olives, cilantro, cucumber, green onion, garbanzo beans, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar, and olive brine to make a cool rice salad I can eat from over the next few days.

3. One of Christy's cats, Grayson, seems to enjoy having two homes. He loves sunning himself on our deck and, often, when I'm up during the night, I'll check the front porch to see if Grayson is hanging out on it and very often he is. 

Copper seems to enjoy being outdoors more all the time and especially enjoys being out in the back yard overnight. I'm not sure what kind of relationship he and Grayson are forming, but, at the very least, they aren't fighting, although when they are at a short distance from each other, sometimes they hiss and growl a little. 

When Luna and Copper are out back, I often leave the back door open a bit in case they want to come back in. Well, Grayson, being the wily and clever cat he is, exploits this opening and almost every day now he comes in the kitchen. There's a dry food feeder on the floor and sometimes he'll munch on some nuggets and, other times, if Luna or Copper have left some traces of wet food in their dishes, Grayson will lick their bowls clean. 

I don't think Grayson is looking for a new home. He's got it made being Christy's cat. It's fun, though, that Grayson enjoys going back and forth between our yards, seeking company, sometimes seeking food, always seeking comfort and cat pleasure, and always expanding his world, bit by bit.