Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 08/30/2021: Cooking by Making Due, Preparing Pasta and Garbanzos, Pasta Night at Family Dinner

1.  I like to imagine myself being a person who works late at night or who has been out late (I'm the opposite) and comes home at 2 or 3 in the morning, possibly with a friend, and fixes food at that hour. I picture myself having to make due with whatever I have on hand and prepare something with pasta or rice, possibly a can of tomatoes, an onion and some garlic, possibly a tortilla, you know, make whatever I have on hand work. I like to imagine having a half-finished bottle of wine on hand or a few sessionable bottles or cans of beer. My fantasy ends with me whipping up something tasty in about fifteen minutes and enjoying it by myself or with a work pal or someone I've been having a few beers with.

I don't remember either episode clearly, but this kind of cooking was the focus once on the podcast, Burnt Toast and I remember once, when I was home with Mom, Chef Michael Symon did a segment on The Chew that featured him whipping up a "what to make when you get home from work early in the morning and don't feel like cooking but are hungry and want something good" meal. I think it involved pasta.

Debbie ordered a cookbook a couple of months ago and had it sent to our home that encourages just this kind of cooking.

It's from the New York Times food department, authored by Sam Sifton, and is entitled, No-Recipe Recipes.

For family dinner tonight, Carol assigned all three of us a pasta dish to make from this book.

2. All day today, I was antsy to get going on making the no-recipe recipe Carol assigned me.

It's called simply Pasta with Garbanzos.

To put myself in the right frame of mind to prepare this dish and to give myself the illusion that I was cooking it at 2 or 3 in the morning, I poured myself the first of two Session American Lager beers from Full Sail. 

(By the way, I love beers with a thickish mouth feel. Both of the Full Sail Session lagers I've drunk the last two days, the American and the Cerveza have, to me, great texture, a fullness that I might not expect from a lager. By the way, so does Daft Badger's Mexican Lager when it's on. I drank one of the Session Hazy IPAs in the variety pack I bought the other day and it felt thin in my mouth and so I didn't enjoy it as much as the lagers. I still have three Full Sail Hefeweizens in the fridge and I'm eager to find out if the Hefe's mouthfeel will be as satisfying as the lagers. Mouthfeel is one of the qualities I enjoy when drinking a Hefeweizen from Widmer Brothers.) 

Okay. Back to meal preparation. One of our family members has an adverse reaction to onions. Usually, if the onions are cooked, no reaction happens, but I've decided that I'm simply going to find ways to get around sautéing onions when I fix family dinner.

So, I clicked around a little bit on the World Wide Web and found an idea that intrigued me: subbing fried cumin seeds for onions.

I wondered, would the earthy flavor of cumin work in this pasta with garbanzo dish? 

You bet it would. 

In fact, I thought, it might even be better than onions.

So, I got out the smaller Dutch oven, heated up a glug or two of olive oil and added about four minced garlic cloves, some cumin seeds, and broadcast some salt and pepper in the mix. 

Once the garlic was just beginning to turn brown, I added a few shakes of cinnamon, a tablespoon of tomato paste, and two regular sized cans of fire roasted tomatoes. 

Then I remembered the huevo rancheros a cook named Bruce used to make at the Keystone Cafe on 5th and Lawrence in Eugene back in about 1985-6-7. 

He added fennel seed to the dish's tomato sauce and I've never forgotten how delicious that was.

So, I took another swig of Session American Lager and added fennel seed to the pasta sauce, unsure if others in the family like fennel, hoping it would be acceptable.

I simmered this cumin, cinnamon, fennel, garlic, and tomato sauce for about twenty minutes or so and then added what I consider this sauce's magic ingredient: heavy cream. I slowly added small amounts of heavy cream until the red tomato sauce turned pink and I kept the lowest possible heat under it to keep the sauce warm.

I packed up to go to Carol and Paul's by putting the sauce in a bowl with a lid, getting out another container and putting a can of garbanzo beans in it, and packing up a bag of Rotini.  I had asked Carol to boil me a pot of water at her place.

She did.

I arrived at the Roberts', mixed Molly, Christy, Carol, Paul, and I each a Negrini (equal parts gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari with an orange peel garnish), and then cooked the bag of Rotini, kept out a little bit of pasta water which I added to the sauce, and combined the sauce, garbanzo beans, and pasta in a bowl, garnished it with parsley from Carol's garden and it was ready to eat. 

3. We had quite a feast (once again) for family dinner.

Christy made a fresh, crispy Italian Giardiniera salad. She asked me to taste the vinaigrette she made for it, wondering what I thought of its vinegar content. I said I would have used a bit more vinegar, but, when I said that, I didn't realize that the salad included pickled (is that the right word?) vegetables. These vegetables perfectly added the more vinegar-y taste I was looking for. Wisely, Christy didn't add more vinegar to her dressing and it was a perfect salad.

Using "recipes" from the No-Recipe Recipes cookbook, Carol made Pasta Puttanesca, a heavenly combination of anchovies, garlic, canned tomatoes, olives, capers, and red pepper flakes served over pasta with Parmesan cheese added. 

Christy made Pasta with Blue Cheese and Walnuts. It, too, was divine and divinely simple. Once she boiled the pasta and put it in a warmed bowl, she added butter, blue cheese, and walnuts and combined it. 

Molly added loaves of crusty bread to our dinner and we had red and white wine available.

We ended our meal with a small scoop of gelato accompanied by milano cookies.

At some point, I'll prepare each of these dishes on my own, alone, so that I can enjoy the Pasta Puttanesca and the Pasta with Blue Cheese and Walnuts all by themselves. 

Talk about winners!

Talk about keepers! 

Talk about a superb family dinner! 

Monday, August 30, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 08/29/2021: Thrilling Golf at the BMW Championship, Lying Low with Cerveza and Tequila, Limits of Cause and Effect

1. I was finishing up another relaxing acrostic puzzle, keeping track of TATurner and Byrdman texting about the BMW Golf Championship being played near Owings Mills, MD (about 50 minutes north of Greenbelt).

They both agreed as the back nine got underway that Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Cantlay had separated themselves from the rest of the field and that the tournament was a two player, head to head contest.

I decided to tune in.

Not only was I in the mood for some riveting golf action -- and boy howdy! were the next several hours of golf action ever riveting! 

I tuned in for the action, but I also tuned in to watch the fascinating contrast in personalities and golfing styles between DeChambeau and Cantlay.

A brief digression: when I was a younger guy, golf writers used to fret that the PGA tour was becoming a "cookie cutter" tour, made up of players who all seemed to look alike and play similar games.

I never bought that analysis -- what was cookie cutter about Lee Trevino? Hale Irwin? Craig Stadler? Calvin Peete? Etc.

But, if that ever was a legitimate concern, the contrast between DeChambeau and Cantlay today crushes it.

DeChambeau is muscular, power swinging pulverizer of the golf ball. He is tightly wound, expressive of every thought and emotion he has on the golf course, both verbally and in his body language. As he makes his way around the course, chin forward, striding as if he's about to miss a train, he lets out cries bemoaning his outcast state, grimaces, talks to himself, cries out like Job to the golf gods, wondering why they treat him so unfairly, and, on the other hand, he relishes his shots when they go long and straight and openly expresses his joy when a crucial putt falls.

Is DeChambeau a complicated guy? I think he is. Is he kind of a mess? I think he is. Can I take my eyes off of him when he plays? No. I enjoy the way his power and length off the tee astonishes me and I never know what mini-meltdown or oddball reaction might happen next. With DeChambeau there's rarely a dull moment. 

Patrick Cantlay, on the other hand, epitomizes the stoic, nearly expressionless golfer. Today, he was almost eerily focused, unrattled, it appeared, by all the times he was on the edge of this tournament's cliff, about to lose the tournament several times. 

Watching Cantlay play golf is almost like watching old episodes of Shell's Wide World of Golf. He has a classic golf swing, aims to hit his drives straight, not mind-bogglingly long. On every driving hole today, Cantlay's drives dropped about forty yards shy of DeChambeau's. As a result, Cantlay has to hit longer clubs into the hole. While DeChambeau hits, say, his wedge, an unimaginably long ways, Cantlay is often hitting a six, seven, or eight iron into the green and watching him do so with such precision is thrilling.

Cantlay was not perfect today. He hit some wandering shots into the rough. In regulation, his tee shot off 17 splashed in the pond. His calmness, his focus, and his resolve steadied him though, and while DeChambeau missed makable putts that could have clinched him the tournament, Cantlay scrambled, recovered, and made clutch putt after clutch putt under intense pressure, and after 72 holes of play, the two players were tied. 

In the playoff, the putter was a magic wand for Cantlay and a tire iron for DeChambeau. Cantlay survived hole after hole by steeling himself and dropping putts that kept him tied while DeChambeau missed putts. Cantlay stayed cool as he dropped these putts -- hardly a fist pump, no dances, barely a smile. Just the look of focus. DeChambeau was all expression and disbelief, sometimes gesturing with a wide sweep of his hand that he couldn't believe his putt broke the way it did, other times protesting to the heavens with grimaces for the injustices being imposed upon him, apparently by forces outside his control.

In the end, on the sixth (YES! SIXTH!) playoff hole, Cantlay sank a slightly uphill 18 foot putt for birdie. DeChambeau had hit his second shot well inside of Cantaly, but he missed his nine footer, culminating his day of suffering thanks to his shaky short game and unsteady putting. 

2.  I'm not being virtuous, I'm not angry, I don't feel judgmental, I don't want to yell at people, and I'm not being a martyr. The fact is that the recent surge of the delta variant and the low percentage of people vaccinated in the Silver Valley -- and the way the local hospitals are close to or over capacity (depending on the day) -- has led me to be cautious about where I go outside the home.

I cannot adequately express how grateful I am during this current surge in the virus for electronic communication.

For example, today, as happens every day, I had a great session of message exchanges on Messenger with Stu.

Later, I joined Byrdman and TATurner on the text machine as we watched the golf tournament together.

Honestly, the texting while watching is so much fun that sometimes it seems like we are in the same room together watching the golf action. 

At one point, Byrdman declared that the tournament was now going to be mano a mano between DeChambeau and Cantlay and, when he dropped that Spanish phrase, I suddenly decided it was a perfect time to crack open one of my Full Sail Session beers: the Cerveza! 

I cut myself a slight wedge of lime, popped open the Cerveza, and my enjoyment of watching golf and texting increased many fold.

Then, as the tournament never seemed like it would end, I cracked open my other two bottles of Cerveza -- I was crushing lagers now -- and I decided to also enjoy a couple of 2 oz shots of tequila.

What a perfect afternoon! Golf. Buddies on the text machine. Awesome lager beer. Sipping tequila. Total enjoyment. 

Confining myself to quarters doesn't have to be so bad. Often, for me, it's really enjoyable.

3. So, I've been thinking a lot about doing all I can to keep anxiety at bay. I wrote about this yesterday.

Today I had a few moments when my mind traveled back to all those school years in the 1990s when Rita and I team taught philosophy and English composition.

The winter quarter focused on epistemology and it was the first time, thanks to philosophical skeptics like David Hume, that I confronted the idea that cause and effect might not be a reliable way of explaining what has happened or a predictor of what will happen.

I bring this up, not to argue philosophy, but to point out that often when, say, a friend tells another friend that they have been suffering depression or anxiety, the listening friend often responds, innocently enough, with the question, "What caused it?" or "What brought that on?"

Often the answer is nothing.

The depression or the anxiety just came over me.

It's puzzling because we put, legitimately, a lot of trust in knowing what we think we know through explaining it by causation.

But in the realm of moods, mood changes, being overwhelmed by anxiety or depression, we live with the impact, but often it's futile and can even be of little help to try to determine a cause or the cause.


Sunday, August 29, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 08/28/2021: Past Travel and Present Dreams, Beef Noodle Soup, Resisting Anxiety

 1. It's an ongoing conversation, ripe with uncertainty. It's fun. It takes place between Debbie and me. It's our regular "well maybe we could" chat about me flying to New York so that Debbie, Gibbs, and I can pile into the Camry and head back to Kellogg, Idaho.

Debbie and I have traveled by car across the USA and back with Molly and Patrick. That was in 1998. We drove across the country again, this time with Maggie and Snug, in, I think 2005, for visits in Cincinnati, Hendersonville, NC, Arlington Heights, IL, and Kellogg. We drove out to Virginia in 2014 when we moved back east and we drove back west when we moved, in 2017, to Kellogg. Tucked in there somewhere, I believe it was 2009, Debbie had been traveling in the Sube and flying to New York, Texas, and points in between and ended her travels in Arlington Heights. I flew out to Chicago in late August and we eventually traveled in the Sube together to Kellogg and back to Eugene. 

Today, Debbie sent me an itinerary we might follow if and when the time comes to drive east to west again.

It reflects Debbie and my decision when we drove to Kellogg from Greenbelt, MD in 2017 to limit our road time to about six hours a day.

Debbie charted out a travel plan that follows this principle -- if we limit ourselves to about six hours a day on the road, we drive in daylight and are rested when we arrive at the different cities along the way. We can enjoy food. We have the energy to take Gibbs to a dog friendly brewery or two and enjoy small amounts of beer and get some beer to go if we so desire. 

Yes, this stretches out the trip -- but so what! We learned back in 2017 that traveling while rested, not driving at night, having time to try out beers and food in different places, and simply taking our time as we meander across the USA makes for a much more enjoyable trip.

The next step is figuring out when this can happen.

That's an ongoing and enjoyable conversation.

2. The days are cooler. I can cook the ways I most enjoy.

Today, I browned some beef stew meat, set the pieces aside, and then sautéed onion, celery, mushroom, and garlic.

I returned the browned beef pieces to the pot and added chopped broccoli and cauliflower and opened packages of frozen green beans and sweet corn and tossed them in. 

I poured a box and half of beef broth over the beef and vegetables, brought it to a boil, turned down the heat, put the lid on the pot, and let this soup cook.

For the coup de grace, I put the remaining beef broth I had on hand into a pot with some water and cooked a batch of Amish Egg Noodles. When they were soft, I added them to the soup and poured the broth/water I used to boil the noodles into the soup.

I've got a ton of soup.

It's not the best soup I've ever made. No problem. I savored being able to enjoy a bowl of hot and nourishing soup on this lovely late August (kind of like early autumn) day and am happy to have a plenty more to eat later.

3.  I am always asserting effort to keep creeping anxieties at bay. If I can hold the anxiety off, I think more clearly, enjoy my days more, and behave more calmly and reasonably. My mind is much less preoccupied. 

I've been successful, for the most part, over the last year and a half or so. But, those guerrilla bands of anxiety have tried launching surprise attacks lately and I've found that working acrostic puzzles helps keep them at bay. I can't really explain why. I can say, though, that I've completed several of these puzzles in the last two or three days and it's helped keep my mind clear, keep me focused on what's at hand, and has kept me more relaxed. 

More than at any point in my life, I don't want to feel agitated. Finding ways to resist the persistent rising up of anxiety within myself has significantly improved the quality of my life. 

Cooking. Working puzzles. Reading. Just watching Luna and Copper. Watching movies. They all help. 

With my shoe inserts, I hope I can return to the best antidote of all: walking. 

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 08/27/2021: Eugene Gratitude, Return to Full Sail Beer, Testing Dr. Scholl

1. I spent a lot of time this morning writing in my blog about living in Eugene. Then I spent a lot of time today thinking about Eugene and how my experience there from 1979-2014 was, inevitably, a combination of affection, missed opportunities, tumult (divorce (twice), illness, struggles with depression), and some of my most beloved experiences -- especially with friends, friends and people I taught with, marrying Debbie and becoming a stepfather, being an active member at St. Mary's Episcopal Church,  my short time with my canine companion, Snug, the time I spent in the theater, the many photo walks I took, and getting to teach at the U of O and Lane Community College.

I'm not really headed anywhere with this beautiful thing. I write Three Beautiful Things primarily as a way of maintaining my outlook on life that gratitude does not depend on life being predictable or stable; nor does it depend on having things in my life go the way I want them to.

I try to be grateful even as life is reliably and relentlessly volatile. 

Many of my years in Eugene were volatile and some were very difficult. 

My gratitude, however, prevails. 

2. Back in about 1996, when I began to drink craft beer in earnest, Full Sail Brewing was a favorite of mine, especially their Amber beer. As other Oregon beers began to proliferate, I must have gotten it in my head that Full Sail beers were yesterday's beers. I suppose the fact that 16 Tons never, to my memory, had Full Sail on tap reinforced this prejudice. Today, as I strolled by the beers for sale at Yoke's, I stopped and thought to myself that it had been years since I purchased any of Full Sail's beers in the Session series. 

When Patrick was living with us after he graduated from OSU, he went through a Session lager phase, but I didn't join in.

But, today, I looked at the Full Sail Session variety pack and decided it looked perfect.

After all, I love a lager, pilsner, Kolsch, kellerbier, Hefeweisen, all of the lighter bodied beers, especially when they are microbrewed.

The variety pack fit this bill and included three 11 oz bottles (perfect size for me) of Session Lager, Session Hefeweisen, Session Cerveza (Mexican Lager), and Session Hazy IPA.

I only drank one beer after I returned home.

I poured a Session Lager.

It was just what I'd hoped for: light, crisp, a slight hint of lemon, and nicely hopped. 

I can hardly wait for my next session to try the other beers.

3. Today, the Dr. Scholl's heavy duty shoe inserts for men over 200 lbs arrived and I cut them to size and put them on top of the inserts already in the shoes I wear the most often.

My hope was that when I strolled the aisles of Yoke's, the added support and cushioning would relieve me of the discomfort I've been feeling in my left heel - a problem that first popped up back in Greenbelt, but that had been in remission for the last four years or so.

I shopped in the least efficient way possible at Yoke's today so that I'd have to criss cross the store several times as a way of giving my insert a reasonable workout.

My first report: I think it worked. 

Friday, August 27, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 08/26/2021: Transcendent Beer, Long Live Lenny's Nosh Bar, Finding Scott Taylor

1. Debbie called me earlier in the day than usual and she had a lot on her mind. It was awesome. We had some money talk. Once we dispensed with that, Debbie told me all about the movies she's been watching, movies directed by Spike Lee, Quentin Tarantino, and the Coen Brothers. It was exhilarating. She hadn't seen movies like Do the Right Thing or Reservoir Dogs and others when they were released and she's excited about getting back to them now. Her movie watching parallels another way Debbie is going back in time. She's been listening to the Classic Vinyl station on Sirius/XM radio, listening to music from our youth that she wasn't interested in back then. It's working for her now.

As scintillating as it was to listen to Debbie talk about movies and music, the best was yet to come.

Debbie told me that on Tuesday night, she drove down to one of our favorite taprooms, Growler and Gill.

She told me she'd had one of the best beers she'd ever tasted, but couldn't remember the name of it. She was pretty sure it was number 9 on their tap list.

I put the phone on speaker and jumped on the taproom's website while we continued to talk and clicked on the tap list.

Suddenly I was back at the EatBar on 8th Street SE in Washington, D.C.

It was a glorious sunny early February day in Washington, D. C. I had been to Eastern Market and the Capitol Hill Bookstore and been generally wandering around this part of the city.

I wandered into EatBar and ordered a beer I'd never heard of, but thought I'd try.

The beer was a Double IPA from Astoria, Queens brewed at SingleCut Beersmiths.

Its name: Softly Spoken Magic Spells.

Every once in a while, I drink a beer that is so transcendently delicious that I can remember where I was, what I was doing, and, because I record it in my blog, I can look back and nail down the date. 

Softly Spoken Magic Spells was one of those beers, possibly the epitome.

And guess what -- the beer that Debbie couldn't remember the name of, the beer that she told me, before I'd said a word, was one of the best beers (ridiculously good I think she said) was, in fact, SingleCut's Softly Spoken Magic Spells.

I've only drunk the one glass of Softly Spoken Magic Spells, the one than made me audibly groan with pleasure as I drank it back on February 4, 2017.

To be honest, I have thought in the four and half years since that maybe my romanticizing mind had, over time, exaggerated how good that beer is.

But, no more.

As Debbie told me how much she loved the two pours of Softly Spoken Magic Spells she drank Tuesday, I nearly came out of my chair here in Kellogg and could barely stop myself from rhapsodizing non-stop about how much I loved that beer and how I'd never forget it.

What kept me from endlessly rhapsodizing?

Debbie's own copious praise of this great Double IPA! 

2. Early this afternoon, after I completed an acrostic puzzle I started last night, I spent many hours, until after 1 a.m. (with a few breaks), returning, via the World Wide Web, to Eugene, Oregon, mostly in the 1980s but on into the 1990s as well.

It all started when I somehow stumbled onto a Facebook site called "Long Live Lenny's Nosh Bar". 

Right off the top, I have to say that I was not by any stretch of the imagination a regular at Lenny's Nosh Bar -- not, as I learned some regulars were called, a Noshraelite.  As I write this, I'm disappointed that I wasn't, but during Lenny's Nosh Bar's years of operation, 1979-1985, I was, first of all, a frightened graduate student who tried to overcome my fears and deep academic insecurities by working on my schoolwork way too much -- not quite all the time -- but a lot. This was especially true from 1979-1982. In August of 1982, I left Eugene to teach for two school years at Whitworth College. I returned in June, 1984 and resumed many of my old habits of panic studying, always compensating for my fear of failure -- failure which I ultimately realized by not writing a dissertation after about seven years of sheer panic.

Okay. So until Sacred Heart Hospital expanded around 1986, a collection of businesses occupied The Courtyard,  an area on the north side of E. 13th Street between Hilyard and Patterson. These establishments were housed in older buildings and included some very popular spots like Poppi's, a Greek restaurant, Koobdooga, a bookstore, and some I don't remember but read about, including a record shop, bicycle shop, and at least one vintage clothes shop. 

I think, for the moment, I'll just say that looking at pictures from Lenny's Nosh Bar, recognizing people I either didn't know but knew of (Joe Lewis, Curt Hopkins), met later (Dan Schmid), or, in one case, had in a WR 121 section (Scott Taylor), reading about people's experiences, and seeing pictures of the bands they were listening to in Eugene, all made me realize that I paid a lot of attention to people just a few years younger than I was whom I actually longed to be like. I wanted to spend more time drinking coffee at the Allann Brothers coffee shop on E. 14th. Now that I know who some of the Noshraelites were, I know that many of them hung out at Allann Bros on E 14th. I would be grabbing a cup of coffee to avoid my studies and these people always seemed engrossed in conversation about books, music, and Eugene gossip that I wished I could be a part of. 

I'm glad I pursued graduate studies. I'm especially happy that these studies led to the years and years of superb experiences I had teaching, especially at Lane Community College.

But, at the same time, when I went on a little detour last night and went to the Lane County Music History website,  I realized how infrequently I went out to hear live music. I missed out on some great shows at BJ Kelly's, Beiderbeck's, Jo Feds, The Place, Barney Cable's, the EMU Ballroom, the Vet's Club, and the Hult Center, not to mention the shows I'd sometimes hear about happening in basements and other pop-up venues.

So, once I again, I found myself longing to do again what I had never (or rarely) done before.

But, when I was in graduate school, living in Eugene, I always liked living where I knew these things were going on. Looking at the pictures from "Long Live Lenny's Nosh Bar", watching a mid-seventies video about the early days of Whitebird Clinic, cruising through pictures on Steve Ibach's Facebook page of him performing at Taylor's and Mulligan's Pub and other venues and seeing pictures of him with bands, like the Soulsations (whom I never heard), he played in, I really enjoyed myself. 

There's a parallel here between my experience growing up in the Silver Valley and my experience going to grad school in Eugene. 

When certain of my Kellogg friends get together, they can tell great stories about wild things they did.  Goose jumped off a bridge into the chocolate spring runoff waters of the Clark Fork River, a handful of my friends floated the Lead Creek, some of these same guys went on road trips to Montana or Canada or elsewhere after the Kellogg bars closed, went to keg parties up the river, and experienced a host of other things that I never did. I was never wild. 

But I love hearing their stories.

Likewise, I was not a Noshraelite. 

Last month, a bunch of Noshraelites had a reunion party in the outdoor seating area behind Sam Bond's Garage. 

I would have loved to have gone, not because I was anything other than a very marginal presence at Lenny's Nosh Bar. 

I would have loved to hear the stories.

3. So, back to Scott Taylor.

Over the more than thirty years I taught English at the college level, I worked with a few students who stood out to me because they were just looking at the world, thinking about it, and expressing themselves in it in unique ways.

I encountered the first such student back in the fall of 1977, in the first composition course I ever taught.

It was Bill Davie. 

And now, forty-four years later, Bill and I are Westminster Basementeers together, building upon a friendship that began when he was first my student. We've had awesome times with each other and Diane at Bridgit's parents' former residence, in Ashland, Oregon, and in La Push, OR. Back in the 90s, Bill stayed with me several times when performing in and around Eugene and I once took a trip to Seattle, stayed with him, and heard him in concert open for Peter Himmelman. 

The next (not the last) memorable student was Scott Taylor.

Scott and I are not friends and I have no idea if he remembers taking WR 121 from me in either the winter or spring of 1982. It doesn't really matter if he remembers me.

I, however, have never forgotten him as a student who was intellectually and creatively gifted. Sometimes I had students in class whom I thought ought to be excused from the institution's course objectives, should be left alone to write, and whom I really hoped never to impede with a course syllabus and institutional objectives to meet.

Scott Taylor's name popped up in the country of Lenny's Nosh Bar on Facebook, as did a picture of him with Dan Schmid, Curt Hopkins, and others presenting a petition to the powers at Sacred Heart to spare the demolition of Lenny's Nosh Bar (and possibly The Courtyard) in their plans to expand.

With very little effort, I soon discovered that Scott is active online. He has a podcast. He publishes poems, stories, and essays. He is a graphic designer and he has posted examples of his work online. Scott made a video of himself reading an essay about Columbus Day, accompanied by music and terrific graphics, and I recognized his speaking voice. 

I'm not really going anywhere with this, except to say that over the last thirty-nine years, from time to time, Scott Taylor's work in my class, conversations I had with him in Eugene, and a night I saw him involved in a group performance art show at the Honors College pop into my mind.

When that happens, I wonder how he's been doing.

Thanks to Long Live Lenny's Nosh Bar on Facebook and a little clicking around, I now know more and am very happy to know where I can go to enjoy his work and that he is churning out so much good stuff. 

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 08/25/2021: Heel Test, That Bagel is Everything, Vegetable Soup and Noodles

1. Yesterday I felt flat. Today I was round! Much better day. 

I wanted to give my sore heel a not too demanding test today before the shoe insert I ordered arrives on Friday.

I parked the Sube near The Bean and walked a few blocks to the Avista bill pay drop box, deposited my payment, and walked back. I had taken the shoe insert that came with a pair of New Balance shoes I don't wear much any longer and put it the left shoe of my regular shoe for added cushioning. I'm not sure if it helped, but my walk was nearly painless and, as much as a short walk can be, invigorating.

2.  Back at The Bean, I ordered an Everything Bagel toasted with cream cheese. My discovery a few weeks ago that I find The Bean's Everything Bagel tastier than any Everything Bagel I've had in my past is a boon. In addition, the baristas who toast the bagel and apply the cream cheese put a perfect amount of cream cheese on the bagel. I've ordered bagels other places that applied a thick layer of cream cheese and I enjoy a more moderate amount -- and that's what they do at The Bean without me saying, "And a light amount of cream cheese, please". 

I brought the bagel home, enjoyed it with some club soda, and, indeed, my mood and my waist became a little rounder.

3.  On Monday evening and then again on Tuesday morning, I put the leftover bones, the carcass, from Sunday's chicken into the Dutch oven along with onion and celery with the purpose of making soup stock.

Well, I didn't have the lid all the way on the pot Tuesday morning, the liquid boiled dry, and my stock was ruined -- and I had a messy Dutch oven to clean up.

Today, with the temperature staying in the high sixties and lower to mid-seventies, it was cool enough for me to make vegetable soup using Kirkland chicken stock from a box.

I sautéed onion and celery together in our smaller Dutch oven, poured a box of stock over it, and cleaned vegetables out of the refrigerator: mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli, frozen corn, and frozen green beans. I cooked it all slowly. I had a half a box of stock in the fridge, poured it in a pot, added some water, brought it to a boil, and then cooked a small batch of Amish Made Wide Egg Noodles.

This soup brought me great pleasure, not only because it was delicious, but I love it being cool enough that I can prepare and enjoy eating soup again.

Footnote: When the noodles were cooked, I spooned them out of the pot. In the pot, then, was a rich blend of starchy egg noodle chicken broth and I poured it into a canning jar and drank it. 

I was ecstatic that I didn't pour the water and noodles into a colander and let that golden starchy broth go down the drain. 

Drinking a glass of this liquid felt fortifying.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 08/24/2021: Flat Day, Purring on My Chest, Puzzle Success

 1. I've maintained really good energy and stayed on an even keel for many months now. 

Today, however, I felt flat. I wasn't depressed. I know all too well what the dark days of depression feel like -- and it's been twelve years since I've experienced that, thank God. But for the first time, I'd say, since about January of 2019, I just didn't have much oomph today and I was a bit listless.

What caused this flatness?


At least nothing I can pinpoint.

I'm much less concerned with the cause (as if there were a cause), though, than I am with doing what I can to snap out of it.

I'll report back tomorrow.

2.  On a kind of flat day like today, when, as is her frequent habit,  Luna attaches herself to my chest and goes into deep purring, it's a comfort.

3. I texted Debbie around 6:30 and told her I didn't feel like being on the phone. Instead, for the first time in months, I got out my book of American Ingenuity acrostic puzzles and worked a puzzle. It turned out to be a quotation about the history of corn flakes and it had the name "Kellogg" in it twice as well as "Battle Creek, Michigan". I successfully completed the puzzle, felt like I'd sort of accomplished something today, and called it a night. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 08/23/2021: Luna Undercover, Hugh Drops By, Good Fortune at Radio Brewing

1.  Even though the nights are cooling down significantly, when I went to bed Sunday night, I turned the window fans on low just because it felt a little bit stuffy in the bedroom.

Having the night air come into the bedroom cooled things off considerably and it had been many months since the bedroom had been chilly.

Well, Luna noticed.

I don't know what time in the morning it was, but she began to lightly paw my face. Usually it's her way of wanting me to get up out of bed and feed her some wet food in the kitchen.

Not this time.

Luna wanted under the covers.

Then it came back to me. Back in the early days of Luna's residence here in the house, back in February and March, Luna loved me to lift the covers so she could crawl deeper into the bed and sleep right next to me.

It looks like those days are back and I'm really glad.

2. About a week ago, Hugh Crozier messaged me that he and Marc Sorenson would be in town to pick up some huckleberries from a friend and he hoped we could get together.

I managed to shoehorn him in, despite my busy busy schedule (ha!) and, late this afternoon, he came by the house and we fell into easy conversation about a wide range of things. Until December of 2019, Hugh and I hadn't seen each other since the summer of 1966 as he finished out the Little League season before moving to the Seattle area. 

Thanks, though, to Facebook, we got back in touch, met up in Spokane in 2019 and then, about a year ago, Hugh and Carol (his wife) and Stu joined us for family dinner out on the back deck of my house. 

3. After we'd yakked for about an hour, we decided to head up to Radio Brewing for some beer and food. Upon arriving, we saw that Marc had caught up with Jay H. They were at the bar. Hugh and I grabbed a table. Hugh ordered a flight of beers and I ordered a pint of a German lager, a guest tap at Radio.

We continued talking about all sorts of things, each ordered a Korean rice bowl, and, after a while, Jay had to split and Marc joined us at our table and conversation reached a new level of excellence! Radio Brewing closes at 9:00 and at around 9:20 as employees were cleaning, arranging chairs and tables, we suddenly realized that for we were actually closing down a bar! Although it was quite like our younger days of closing a bar down at one or two in the morning, we had fun acting like we were young again and were closing this place down. 

What a great evening. 

Sure, we talked about the old days in Kellogg, but we talked about more current things, too. 

I'm feeling fortunate. Last Thursday I had a great time eating and drinking a few beers with Stu, Lars, Byrdman, and Freddy and tonight I got to do the same with Marc and Hugh. Sunday I had an awesome family dinner with Christy, Paul, and Carol. Earlier on Sunday I enjoyed a superb discussion with Bill, Diane, and Bridgit on ZOOM.  I mean everything in my life and in the big world  is not exactly as I might wish it were, but it sure makes these times of grace, light, and mirth with friends and family all the more special when we can get together, in person or online, and make them happen. 

Monday, August 23, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 08/22/2021: Comic Spirit and the Epitome of Sound Education, Cooking Chicken and Dressing, Superb Family Dinner

 1. At 10 o'clock this morning, Bill, Diane, Bridgit, and I each cozied up to our laptops and enjoyed the next of our fortnightly salon on ZOOM. Back in April, along with Val and Colette, we started an informal study together of the literary genre of comedy. 

When these friends asked me if I'd return, informally, to my role as an English instructor and I agreed, I wanted to explore the genre of comedy with one another primarily because the word comedy is so different in a literary sense from the way we use the word commonly. Commonly, comedy basically means funny. No problem. 

But, traditionally, works of comedy, yes, might be funny, but the word comedy in the literary sense is used to describe stories that focus much less on the individual and much more on community, on our social existence. Traditional comedies often tell stores about brokenness being healed, waking up the spirit of goodness, the joy of communal life (meals together, dancing, making music, joining forces to help others, especially to help expose destructive lies or misunderstandings and replace them with clarification and liberating truths). Whereas tragedies explore the limits imposed on life by the inevitability of death, comedies explore what is eternal, ever living, life sustaining in human life.

I began my presentations with attention to the different formal and structural aspects of comedy.

But, in our last two meetings, I moved our attention more to the spirit of comedy -- or the comic spirit.

A month ago we explored the spirit of comedy by reading, feeling, and discussing the mystical poetry of Rumi.

Today, I turned our attention to the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh and his book Being Peace.

Primarily, I wanted us to join together and contemplate and discuss the concept of Tiep Hien or Interbeing. 

Interbeing is not a belief.

It's a way of understanding what's fundamental in reality and fundamental to human existence.

Reality is a web of interconnectedness. I've been reading about this fact in the natural world of whales, beavers, and salmon, reading books about ecological relationships.

Interbeing probes the reality that the foundation of human existence is not in individualism but in the way we "interare". Connectedness is the ground of our being.

I have thought throughout this project with Bill, Diane, Val, Colette, and Bridgit that our examination of comedy -- our discussions about Shakespeare, Walt Whitman, Mary Oliver, Enchanted April, and other books, poems, movies, and plays that are, in the literary sense, works of comedy, was all leading us to see that comedies, by and large, are always leading us to see life in terms of relationships, interdependence, community, and interbeing -- and that the health of us all, mental, spiritual, and physical, depends largely on how we steward our interdependence, our connections to one another. 

You wouldn't think it, but a deeper exploration of comedy takes one right to the heart of some of our country's deepest conflicts. The American spirit, seen traditionally, is a spirit of individualism, of personal freedom. 

The spirit of comedy, the experience of mysticism, the fundamental insights of interbeing go against the grain of the American spirit. 

So, inevitably, as this project concludes and as we look forward to getting another project underway by watching The Hollow Crown, a British made for television enactment of Shakespeare's Richard II, Henry IV, part 1, Henry IV, part 2, and Henry V, we have grappled together with big questions: What is the foundation of human existence (original sin? individualism? interbeing? [for starters])? Can we improve our lot in life by acting on behalf of one another (as comedy suggests)? What contributes to human renewal, reconciliation, healing, restoration? 

And, always before us, whether our project is comedy, Shakespeare, or one of our wide open, open ended, jumping all over the place discussions, we always seem to come back to a fundamental question: What does it mean to be an American? What is America? Why is America the way that it is? 

Why do I think what we do every two weeks is educationally sound?

We don't arrive at answers. We listen to each other. We share our experiences and our observations. We continue to search, explore, weigh, land, take off again, and let our minds be occupied by our discussions all through the two weeks that pass until we meet again. 

We consider questions afresh. We puzzle over subjects. We trust each other. 

We are doing every two weeks what I tried to make happen in every course I ever taught and it's thrilling to experience it working the best it ever has in our little group of Westminster Basementeers.

2.  After we bade one another farewell after a spirited two hours or so on ZOOM, I got busy sprucing up the house and eventually cooking my contribution to dinner tonight.

Eventually, I turned my attention to the food. I put the chicken in the oven. I decided not to stuff the chicken with the dressing I made. Instead, after the chicken had roasted for about an hour, I took it out of the Dutch oven, poured the liquid fat that had puddled up into a bowl, lay the stuffing/dressing on the bottom of the pan, put the chicken on top of it, and poured the liquid fat over the chicken.

My hope was that putting the chicken on top of the dressing would give the dressing some of the chicken's flavor and would moisten it as liquid fat continued to accumulate under the bird. 

It worked. 

Once the chicken's interior had reached the proper temperature, I put it on a cutting board and wrapped in it aluminum foil and let it rest until Christy, Paul, Carol, and I had finished our cocktails -- then I would carve it.

3. I decided on Friday that I wanted tonight's meal to have a general Middle East/Mediterranean focus. Usually we have green or cabbage salad with dinner, but I plunged into this Mediterranean cookbook of mine and looked for other kinds of salad. One caught my eye: it is a Moroccan-style carrot salad. I thought the sweetness of the carrots, the citrusy brightness of the orange segments and lemon juice, and the earthiness of the cumin, cinnamon, and cilantro would go perfectly with the Palestinian chicken. 

I was right. Carol made the Moroccan carrot salad and it was perfect.

I also wanted some kind of vegetable side dish and my latest issue of Cook's Illustrated featured a recipe for Briam, an olive oil rich roasted vegetable dish from Greece. In part, it's a potato dish and I thought the potatoes would pair well in texture and taste with the other parts of dinner and I really liked how the Briam recipe combined potatoes with green peppers, tomatoes, and onions (Christy used leeks instead of onions). I loved the Briam. I loved how the chicken, dressing, salad, and Briam all complemented each other and worked together to make a delicious dinner.

I thought a small dish of ice cream or sorbet would finish this meal off aptly, so, for dessert, I offered both RaspberrySorbet and Rum Tres Leches. I liked how light this dessert was and I found the sorbet especially refreshing.

We ate outside.

Thank God.

It had been since Patrick and Meagan were here in June that I'd hosted any kind of get together on the deck. Even though the cushions to the patio chairs are getting ratty and even though the wild, untended gardens in the backyard don't have the beauty and grace of Christy and Carol/Paul's beautifully groomed gardens, we seemed to put these drawbacks aside and we had a fun time eating, talking, laughing, and enjoying another great evening together. 


Three Beautiful Things 08/21/2021: Return to Food Prep, Red Ale with Debbie, Cat-Themed Glassware

 1. Because of the heat we've experienced since the end of June and because I traveled some earlier in June, I honestly don't remember the last time I did anything in the kitchen beyond boil water, sauté or steam vegetables, and fry some eggs or potatoes.

So, tonight, it was particularly satisfying to get a real cooking project underway in preparation for Sunday's family dinner. 

Earlier, I'd bought a whole chicken, and, using a recipe from my book, Zaitoun: Recipes from the Palestinian Kitchen, I started to prepare the entree, Roasted Chicken with Raisins and Pine Nuts. 

My effort, however, would be called Roasted Chicken with Raisins and Sesame Seeds. 

To begin, I gathered the marinade ingredients: olive oil, allspice, sumac, fresh squeezed lemon juice, crushed garlic cloves, salt, and pepper and combined them in a bowl. I put the chicken in our larger Dutch oven, poured the marinade over it, covered the chicken in the pot with plastic wrap, and put it in the refrigerator to sit until Sunday afternoon.

Then I made stuffing for the chicken, knowing Sunday would be busy with a Zoom get together in the morning and house cleaning to do before family dinner.

The dressing was simple. It called for pine nuts, which I didn't find at Yoke's, so I subbed sesame seeds.

To make the dressing, I decided not to use onion but chopped up celery instead and cooked it in olive oil about ten minutes until it was soft. I added crushed garlic, cinnamon, and allspice to the celery, stirred it up, and cooked it for a few minutes. To this mixture, I added the sesame seeds and raisins and cooked this mixture until the sesame seeds began to brown. I added chicken stock to the pot along with jasmine rice, brought it to a boil, and then covered the pot and cooked this stuffing on a low heat until the rice absorbed the liquid and the stuffing was done. I put it in a bowl with a lid and refrigerated it.

I loved doing these preparatory things in the cool of the evening and left myself in great shape to finish cooking my part of family dinner on Sunday afternoon.

2. Not only do I not remember when I last cooked a meal that involved more than steaming, boiling, or frying, I also have no memory of when I last bought a six pack of beer. I'm almost positive that I haven't bought a six pack since Debbie left for New York a year ago. I simply don't drink much beer, or anything else, when I'm alone at home. I like to drink alcohol socially; I'm not legalistic about this, but, most of the time, I rarely drink alone.

But, for some reason, today I picked up a six pack of Wallace Brewing's Red Light, their red ale. 

It's cooler out. We've had some rain. I wasn't looking for a lighter beer to refresh myself from the heat nor was I looking to drink either a juicy or a hoppy IPA. 

I wanted a maltier beer, a sweeter beer, a slightly warming beer.

So I bought a sixer of Red Ale -- a very, in my humble opinion, underrated, overlooked, and under appreciated beer style. The Red Light Ale came through winningly. 

Debbie called me before I started my kitchen project and she was blissing out on a New England 2IPA brewed near Valley Cottage at the superb District 96 Brewery, and I wanted to join the party and poured myself a Red Light Ale.

We continued our ongoing discussion of how and when we might join up back east to pile into the new Camry and drive with Gibbs back to Idaho. We didn't really get anywhere with this discussion (no problem!), but it's fun to think about what we might possibly do once the time comes for Debbie to return to Idaho.

After our conversation, because I do like to have a little drink on hand while I cook, I took out a small glass, filled it with ice, poured myself some Trail's End bourbon, added just a splash of club soda, and topped it off with orange bitters just for fun and this was a really pleasing little pour to sip on until I finished cooking the dressing.

3. Should I buy some cat-themed glassware? Would it be kind of fun to make an impractical purchase but pay homage to my pals Copper and Luna and have some cocktail glasses or beer glasses with images of cats etched in them?

Well, I haven't decided, but, on a lark, I made my first ever plunge into the world of Etsy and looked at a wide variety of cat-themed glassware. I was most attracted to glasses with no writing on them and thought the glasses featuring black cats in silhouette looked handsome. 

I think I'll poke around a little more online and see what all I find and, yes, I think some cat-themed glassware sits out there in my future somewhere. 

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 08/20/2021: Jumping Around in Kathy Brainard's *DB and Me*, Witch's Brew, Pet Care Talk

 1. Today, my copy of Kathy Brainard's book, DB and Me arrived. Upon opening the package, I did much the same thing I did when her sister's book arrived. (Roberta Brainard Garner's book is Pay the Piper.) Rather than start right at the beginning, I jumped around, reading parts all through the book. Eventually, I read Roberta Garner's book straight through, beginning to end, and, last night, before going to sleep, I started to do the same with Kathy Brainard's book. Kathy's book seems to be about two things: first, it's a story about her mother and, second, it's a book about Kathy's writing of her mother's story. She's approached this project from different angles and so this book is presented in a variety of storytelling methods: straight narrative, jazzy word riffs, self-reflection about the writing process, transcripts of interviews, the outline for a screenplay, and others. In other words (and I use this word neutrally), it's an unusual or unorthodox approach and I'm looking forward to reading it straight through and, as we used to say, grooving on its various narrative approaches and its content.

2. I sure like to mess around in the kitchen with variations on that old hot lunch offering called Witch's Brew. I. haven't been to the store for a while so, when I got hungry this afternoon, I got out some onion I had chopped a couple of days ago and some mushrooms. I got those cooking and added part of a can of kidney beans to them. I boiled some penne pasta and then combined it all and covered in with Parmesan cheese. It was kind of an emergency meal -- I was pretty hungry but without much to easily cook around the house -- and it worked. It was delicious well beyond what I thought it would be. 

3.  I don't know when I'll leave Kellogg and head back east, meet up with Debbie and Gibbs, and join forces to drive back to Kellogg. 

This is, as they say, a work in progress! No problem!

My concern, though, no matter when I travel to see and then travel with Debbie and Gibbs is how Luna and Copper will do when I'm gone.

I might be totally wrong, but here is what I've observed and experienced over the last seven months. Unlike other cats I've lived with in the past, Copper and Luna seem to rely much more on my company (or is it simply human company?) in order to be contented. They each have their own way of expressing this. Luna often likes to be either very near me on or right on me. When she wants to be on me, she attaches herself to my chest. Luna also, however, likes to trot upstairs and lie on our futon near the east window. She also doesn't have nearly the desire to be outside that Copper does.

Copper never attaches himself to me, but when we are in the same room, he relaxes nearby, whether on a quilt on the floor by the front door, on our sofa, or in a chair near where I'm sitting. If I go to the Vizio room, he joins me and finds a spot on the floor near the chair I sit in. Unless he's outside at night -- this is an off and on habit of Copper's --, when he's indoors he loves to sleep near my feet. Luna likes to sleep near my head -- and she loves to wake me up for food or water or just to be mischievous about three times per night. 

I'm not quite sure whether Luna acts out if she feels anxious about my absence.

I know Copper does, though, and he acts out by not using the litter pan.

Why am I writing all of this? 

In part, I'm getting things straight in my mind.

Mostly, though, this description is leading to a get together Christy, Paul, Carol, and I had tonight over at Carol and Paul's house.

I guess you could say it was pet concerns night for Christy and me.

Mainly, Christy is figuring out how to calm down Riley's exuberance, especially when people visit Christy and he wants to enthusiastically jump up on them, put his paws on their chest, and dash excitedly from person to person. 

So we discussed Riley.

Then we talked about the care for Copper and Riley when I am gone.

We decided that we'd try this approach: when I'm gone, Christy, Paul, and Carol will come over to the house and spend time with Copper and Luna -- feed them, tend to the litter pan, give them time outdoors, let them back in, etc.  To me, the idea is to cut into the time Luna and Copper are alone in the house.

Other cats I've lived with did fine with long stretches of time alone. I might be wrong, but I don't think Copper and Luna do well without human company (or is it my company? We'll see.). 

In a perfect world, I'd know someone who would and could spend nights here, but I've let go of that possibility. 

We are going to see how it works for Copper and Luna to have company off and on during the day and into the evening, possibly. 

I'm indescribably grateful that Paul, Carol, and Christy are willing to help me out this way. 

I'll be ecstatic if this approach works well for Luna and Copper. 

I'll be keeping my fingers crossed. 

Friday, August 20, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 08/19/2021: Ziggy Zoggy at Republic, Wanting to Do Again What I Never Did, Jacki Burkhart's Poker Success

1. If you read this blog, whether regularly or from time to time, you know that I've been dealing with chronic kidney disease for over sixteen years. You also know that I was very ill in 1973 with toxic pneumonia and that I was hospitalized in 2009 with bacterial pneumonia.

As a result (but I think I'd be this way even without my medical history), I'm cautious about exposing myself to the Covid virus, not wanting the virus to get in my system and go after my respiratory system or my weakened kidneys.

With the recent surge of Covid activity, I've been very selective about where I'm willing to go outside the home. 

So, when Stu and Byrdman went to work to arrange a get together for them, Lars, Craig Burkhart, and me, I was grateful that the plan was to go to the Republic Kitchen + Taphouse in Post Falls and take advantage of their roomy outdoor patio seating. 

I was fired up to get together with these guys -- we were all Kellogg Wildcat basketball players (well, I wore a uniform), played a ton of ball together at the YMCA, played baseball in Kellogg, and have a lot of shared history beyond sports.

I was also fired up because I was pretty sure that Republic Kitchen + Taphouse was serving a kellerbeir on tap, one of my favorite styles. It comes from Silver City Brewing in Bremerton, WA.

I love its name: Ziggy Zoggy Party Beer. 

When the Troxstar and I met up with Emily Sauter at Notch Brewing in Salem, MA back in June, Em gave me a pint can of kellerbier from Fox Farms Brewery where she is employed.

I will be eternally grateful to Em for introducing me to this beer. 

I was especially grateful today. Ziggy Zoggy Party Beer was, given my taste, perfect. Republic served it ice cold, a necessity for lagers, and it was light, crisp, and, I thought, had a nice hint of lemon. 

If Ziggy Zoggy were available at Yoke's, I'd be all over it!

2. Even more awesome than the beer, our food, and our attentive server (who played Pink Floyd on the patio music system just for us!), was yakkin' with Lars, Stu, Byrdman, and Fred (aka Craig).

Our conversation got me thinking about the seismic change in my life that occurred when I was so seriously injured at the Zinc Plant in July of 1973.

By being injured and then moving away, I missed out on playing slow pitch softball and men's league basketball in the Silver Valley and in CdA.

Lars, Stu, Freddy, and Byrdman all played and for years now I've vicariously joined them in the different leagues by listening to the awesome stories, many of them on the field of play, and many others at post-game watering holes like the Kopper Keg,  Johnny's Bar and the Back Door Tavern. 

Telling stories about these softball and basketball exploits always brings up the names of great high school athletes who played in North Idaho 50-60 years ago, so it's fun to recall great players from Lewiston, Moscow, Sandpoint, Post Falls, Sandpoint, Bonners Ferry, Wallace, Mullan, Plummer,  Coeur d'Alene, and elsewhere.  

I'm happy with the way my life turned out. 

Nonetheless, I feel some pangs of -- hmmm -- what is it? it's not regret -- is there a word for feeling nostalgia for something I never did? You know how you feel when you miss some one who you used to spend a lot of time with? Or how you miss a place where you used to live? Well, I have some of those same feelings for men's slow pitch softball and men's league basketball in North Idaho, even though my slow pitch "career" was only two months (cut short by the accident) and I never played men's league basketball. I feel like I want to do something once again that I never did in the first place. 

Go figure!

3. I could have stayed at our table listening to Pink Floyd, soaking up stories, and drinking Ziggy Zoggy Party Beer all afternoon, but, alas, our get together ended.

I returned to Kellogg and did a little bit of clicking around on the World Wide Web.

First of all, Byrdman and Stu included me in a follow up discussion they had online about high school basketball in the Spokane area when we were in high school. 

Next, I followed up on some news Freddy shared with us that I didn't know about. 

His daughter, Jacki Burkhart, is a dental hygienist in Oregon and studies and plays high stakes poker on the side.

She entered and won a poker players' essay contest in 2018. The prize was entry into the PokerStars Player Championship where she finished in 38th place and won $86,400. You can read about her success in this interview with her, here

The interview is good, but, in my opinion, what you really want to do is read her winning essay. She writes beautifully about how she learned to play cards which leads to her telling the story of discovering that her mother was (and is) afflicted with Alzheimer's disease.  

If you'd like to read her essay, it's here

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 08/18/2021: A Little Packing, Green Curry, Fresh Bedding

1. I realize the announcement that we in north Kellogg live in the Level I evacuation zone is precautionary. All the same, I started packing a suitcase and thought more about other things I'd put in the Sube if conditions worsen and we moved up to Level II. 

2. It was cooler in Kellogg today and so I decided to prepare a favorite meal that required a bit longer time cooking on the stovetop. I made myself a green Thai curry with onion and eggplant and served it over jasmine rice. I've been yearning for the sweet, spicy, lime-y taste of this curry for much of the summer and it was a real pleasure today.

3. I added another very simple pleasure to my day: I put fresh sheets on the bed. Yes, I had to leave those fresh sheets a few times because Luna insisted on food and Copper wanted to go outside, but, for the most part, I slept blissfully. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 08/17/2021: Get Ready Evacuation Notice, Superb Family Dinner, The Ground Keeps Moving

1. The fires in the Coeur d'Alene River's North Fork basin grew substantially because of windy conditions on Monday. Today, the U.S. Forest Service placed several places, including north Kellogg, where Christy and I live, in the Level I, or Get Ready, evacuation zone. My response to this is, first of all, to take it seriously -- I've begun gathering things I will pack up the Sube with, should we be put on Level II. Second of all, I'm staying calm, sorting things out, staying informed, and keeping in mind that many places have stayed on Level I status for weeks at a time. So, that seems to me the balance to strike. Don't be in denial and proclaim it's all bullshit. But, don't act like the world is coming to an end either. I can only do what lies before me and right now what lies before is organizing some things to take out of the house, if need be, and keeping an eye on future Forest Service or Sheriff Office announcements. 

2. We had family dinner tonight at Christy's house with Christy, Carol, Paul, Molly, and me in attendance. We agreed that if fire danger reaches Level III here in north Kellogg and we have to evacuate, since Carol and Paul live south of I-90 and south of the CdA River  (and are not in the green zone), we would do all we can to make it work to all stay at their house. 

Having settled that, we got down to the business of enjoying dinner. We started with chips and salsa and I introduced the family, thanks to Terry Turner, to a gin drink that is the predecessor of the martini: it's called a Martinez. The recipe I used called for equal parts of gin and vermouth (some asked for sweet, others dry), a small amount of maraschino liqueur (I subbed Amaretto -- later, I thought Cointreau would have been good), and a couple dashes of bitters -- I used orange. I garnished the drink with a slender orange slice since I have yet to master the orange twist the recipe called for.

I stirred the drinks in my cocktail shaker, strained them into small glasses, and everyone enjoyed them and, I think, we reached a consensus that the Martinez should be more than a one-time cocktail within our family.

Next we plunged into the main course, a salmon and bacon Cobb salad.  Christy piled a platter high with salad greens, hard boiled eggs, cherry tomatoes, and other ingredients and set out bowls filled with black olive slices, bacon bits, chopped up salmon, and pickled cauliflower. We each assembled and dressed our own salad. I loved this main dish - it was crispy and fresh and I loved the variety of ingredients. Carol brought a bowl of fresh cut fruit (I loved it) and Christy set out a few bottles of wine for us to enjoy. I drank a glass or two of peach ginger white wine and not only loved its taste, but I thought its lightness paired perfectly with the salad and fruit.

Carol loves the green creamy minty Grasshopper, so Christy made us each one as a dessert drink. Carol also brought over a plate of delicious Payday bars left over from her 40th year high school reunion over the weekend. 

We had vigorous, wise cracking, sometimes solemn conversation. I pleased myself, if not the rest of the family, by getting the date and time right this week  and by not falling asleep at our family dinner's appointed time -- no small accomplishment! 

3. My cell phone played the Galaxy ring tone soon after I arrived home from dinner and Debbie was on the horn. I'd say, as of tonight, things are so up in the air as to when Debbie might return to Idaho that we are setting aside, for now, any talk about travel. We had a very good talk about this, about uncertainty, and about our acceptance of our situation. I hate to, in fact, I refuse to, think about what our lives would be like if we resisted the reality of our married life right now. Maybe at no time in my life have the words, "That's bullshit", uttered when a person isn't getting their way, rung more hollow to me. Life isn't stable. We kid ourselves when we grasp for stability and some kind of normalcy. I'm not saying I like it, but I can't live well day to day if I'm in constant rebellion against the way things are always changing, in small or larger ways, or stewing over things beyond my power to shape to my desires. To maintain equilibrium, I've got to do my best to accept and move forward with the flux in life. It's easier said than done. This acceptance includes grief. I just try to keep the madness at bay that I've experienced at other times of instability in my life. 

As King Lear says: 

O, that way madness lies; let me shun that!
No more of that.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 08/16/2021: Luna Is in Good Health, Warding Off Anxiety, Relaxing Food

 1.  I'm probably a helicopter cat care taker when it comes to Luna and Copper. I had some concerns, starting Saturday, about Luna's "performance" in the litter box and wondered if she'd come down with a UTI. If so, it would be her second one since she moved in with me. I made an appointment at the vet late this afternoon. Dr. Cook, after performing a urinalysis, reported the news was all good. Luna's diabetes has not returned. The sample showed no sign of urinary tract infection. It's possible the sample showed some sign of inflammation, so, as a precautionary measure, Dr. Cook gave her an injection of antibiotics. No medicine at home. I just need to continue to jump in my helicopter and hover over Luna and make sure she is doing all right. 

2. I'm trying to keep my minute to minute, hour to hour attention on taking care of things in the small world of my household: taking care of Luna and Copper, trying to keep the kitchen cleaned up, getting ready for family dinner, trying to work out cat care for Copper and Luna when the time comes to meet up with Debbie back east and return home (the timing of this is very much up in the air -- I get it and am at peace with the uncertainty). But, the big world outside my also compels my attention and a lot of my concern. The Deceitful Fire southwest of Murray, up the North Fork of the CdA River, is largely uncontained. Evacuations have begun. Friends' properties are possibly in the line of fire. 

The grimness of the local situation adds to the grimness in the larger world as the delta variant continues to spread and as the USA extracts itself from Afghanistan, among other things.  I try to stay focused on things in my life I can directly affect. For many, many years, I thought that not to feel anxiety was a sign of apathy, but I am coming to see that I can be concerned about fires and the pandemic and US actions abroad, among a galaxy of other terrible things in the world, but I don't have to live in a state of agitation, preoccupation, and restlessness about them.  I live better, am healthier, am a better friend, a better sibling, a better reader and writer, if I can maintain some degree of internal equilibrium. So, that's what I try, not always successfully, to sustain.

3. Does it help me to quiet myself by popping a big bowl of popcorn and sitting quietly in the living room and enjoying it with a few swigs of club soda? 


This evening, I didn't feel like stimulating myself by reading or watching something on the Vizio, so I made popcorn. Some foods are comfort foods -- for me, popcorn is relaxing food and it worked. The house was quiet. I was still. And I ate popcorn. I topped it off with more relaxing food: a Heath Bar coated Klondike bar. I slept peacefully afterward. 

Monday, August 16, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 08/15/2021: Reach Exceeding Grasp, Salmon Superhwy, Gin Yakkin'

 1.  One definitely positive thing about staying indoors so much because of the heat and the smoky air is that I am getting a lot of reading done. Today, I finished another book, Jim Lichatowich's Salmon, People, and Place.  Lichatowich's book is just the kind of book I enjoy reading. He is an advocate for ecological relationships. So were the authors of the last two books I read, Fathom and Eager. Lichatowich zeroes in how we live by stories. If the story we live by regarding salmon is fundamentally an economic one, driven by making money, we'll look at salmon populations in one way. If the story we live by is ecological, driven by understanding the web of natural connections in specific places that support salmon and encourage them to thrive, we'll look at salmon populations differently. 

I don't know a lot beyond what Lichatowich wrote and what Bruce Brown wrote in Mountain in the Clouds about salmon depletion and restoration. That said, I'll just say that I enjoy reading ecological writers emboldened by idealism, who push their readers to imagine a more balanced ecological world and who advocate for ideas that might ultimately be unrealistic in a world as driven as ours is by treating the natural world as a commodity. 

Back when I was just twenty years old, a course I took at Whitworth introduced me to Robert Browning's poem "Andrea del Sarto", a dramatic monologue in which Browning puts these words in the mouth of the del Sarto, an Italian painter of the High Renaissance: "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp." 

Jim Lichatowich's vision, the world of restored salmon habitat that he reaches for is, at this point in time, reaches beyond the grasp of current practices in the world of salmon management. 

I like that Lichatowich reaches beyond current practices and that he's impatient, grouchy, idealistic, and philosophical -- and I don't know, maybe impractical -- as he argues for a vision of salmon recovery shared by other people in his field, but that goes against the grain of many contemporary practices.

2. Master angler, conservationist, and my lifelong friend, Terry Turner, knows I've been reading Lichatowich's book and he recommended I check out the website of a project he's been involved in called the Salmon Superhwy (https://bit.ly/3xLLy2F). It's an organization dedicated to restoring access to almost 180 miles of blocked habitat throughout six major salmon and steelhead rivers of Oregon's North Coast. Terry directed me to a Salmon Superhwy video. It's here. I also took some time to read up on the group's work to replace a culvert with a bridge on Clear Creek in the Nestucca River watershed. You can read up on it, too: right here

3.  Debbie and I had another session of phone gin tonight. I was happy to hear that in Valley Cottage the air is free of smoke and, at least this evening, the temperature was mild and she was enjoying being out on one of Josh and Adrienne's decks. We didn't get any closer to making a solid plan for when we'll get together again. We both have things to figure out. It's no problem. We just keep talking, dreaming, wondering. We know that one day things will fall into place. 

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 08/14/2021: *Pay the Piper*, Haunted, Copper the Leaper

1.  I finished Roberta Brainard Garner's book, Pay the Piper: Growing Up in North Idaho today. I very much enjoyed how Roberta wrote her book in a series of short chapters. Some focused on family history, others on Roberta's varied experiences in the Silver Valley and beyond, and others on episodes in her family's life. While Roberta writes plenty about her father, many of the books episodes are focused on her mother, on Dorothy Brainard's complicated, free wheeling, law breaking, chaotic, indulgent, and energetic life. Dorothy Brainard is the book's central character, whether Roberta is writing about things Dorothy did or sorting out the influence and impact of her mother on her life. Throughout the book, Roberta reflects on her own life's many paths. I'm tempted to describe these many admirable paths, but I don't want to spoil the book should you read it. Suffice it to say that Roberta married a good man (Bruce) and together they raised two brilliant children, confronted and overcame difficulties in their life, but also enjoyed many good things as result of their hard work and willingness to face certain problems head on. Throughout the story of her adult life, Roberta keeps us in contact with Dorothy Brainard and we experience both mother and daughter come to their own reckonings regarding Dorothy's complex life. 

2. I've been trying and trying to figure out how to write what I'm about to say, but, as of now, I don't have the right words. I'll just say that reading Pay the Piper was difficult for me, not because Roberta Brainard Garner made it difficult, but because when I read about the Kellogg I grew up in, it haunts me. I recognize that I had a lot of great times growing up, especially at the YMCA, playing baseball and basketball throughout my youth. I had, and still have, great Kellogg friends. I grew up in a solid and loving family. I loved the many activities I was involved in in addition to sports, especially music, a little bit of theater, and Boy Scouts and DeMolay. I enjoyed working at Stein's and, despite the terrible working conditions, I had a great time working at the Zinc Plant. But, despite all this, there are ghosts from those days that haunt me. I feel it. I can't really explain it. Roberta's book, to her credit, awakened them again.

3.  I was under the impression that when he goes outside, Copper stays in the back yard. This morning, around 4:00, however, I heard two cats scream at each other between our house and next door neighbor Jane's house -- not in the back yard.  I went outside to investigate and discovered that one of the cats was Copper. He came toward me and leaped through an opening in the upper part of the cast iron gate, the gate that keeps dogs confined in the back yard, but not the graceful leaping Copper. I'm not sure who the other cat was. I couldn't see in the early morning darkness. Copper came in the house, hungry, but no worse for wear, and now I am disabused of my fantasy that Copper stays put in the back yard when outside.

I don't know about Luna. 

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 08/13/2021: Indoors, Kellogg History, Dream Big --- Why Not?

1.  Well, fortunately, it's comfortable and cool in the house because I simply don't want to be outside when the temperature rises to the mid to high 90s and with the air so smoky. I resist complaining. Complaining sours my disposition and I prefer not to be sour, if at all possible.  Instead, I do all I can to enjoy all that is available to me in my immediate environment -- and there's a lot to keep me occupied and happy in this house. I'm fortunate that I'm not a restless soul.

2.  I spent much of today exploring some Kellogg history. Some questions came up as I was messaging with Stu and I contacted Roberta Brainard Garner about a few things and later posed a few history questions to Sharann Watson. I got out yearbooks. I read passages from Roberta Brainard Garner's book, Pay the Piper: Growing Up in North Idaho and Stu and I got things pretty well straightened out. I don't know where my memory is starting to fail me and where I don't know things because I didn't pay attention when I was young.  It would be a huge help, and I'm dreaming here, if all the past issues of the Kellogg Evening News were scanned, archived, and available online. That would help answer a bunch of questions!

Since buying Pay the Piper, I've enjoyed jumping around in Roberta's book, reading passages out of order and focusing on specific time periods she writes about. Today, however, I decided to switch my approach to her book and start at the beginning and read straight through -- and I'm enjoying it, just as I enjoyed jumping around.

I'll add one more thing here: the questions Stu and I had rose out of me telling Stu that Roberta's son-in-law is the master brewer at Sacred Waters Brewing in Kalispell -- Stu's daughter and son-in-law were going to a concert in Kalispell Friday night. Mentioning Roberta brought up some questions and I had fun pursuing the answers -- harmless questions -- what year did Roberta's sister, Wendy, graduate? And other stuff like that. Nothing momentous. 

3. Debbie called this evening and we expanded our thinking regarding possible things we might do when we see each other again. Debbie brought a powerhouse stout from Firestone Walker to our conversation (I haven't been able to nail down its name) and I poured myself a Trail's End bourbon with ice and water again. Who knows what we'll actually do when the time comes to resume our in-person companionship? But it's a lot of fun to put a variety of ideas on the table. 

Friday, August 13, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 08/12/2021: Keeping Luna and Copper Happy, Books in Place, Phone Whiskey

1. It may not seem that beautiful to you, whoever is reading this, but, for Copper, Luna, and me, it's a beautiful thing when I empty out and dispose the old litter out of their pans, wash out the pans, and replace the old litter with new. I got that job done today and crossed my fingers that Copper and Luna would accept the litter I purchased today. Yoke's didn't have the litter I've used for several months. I bought a different kind. So far, though, so good. I found evidence later in the pan that one or both of the cats found the new stuff to be just fine.

2. The bookshelf in the living room is now restocked and, to my astonishment, I think I had room for every book I want to have close by. I'm sending a few books out the door and returning some books that belong to Carol. I'm maybe just a little bit too giddy that this reshelfing project has worked out so well. Now I have some shelf organizing to do in the Vizio room. Given the pace I've been working at, that should only take me about ten days!

3. For much of the time Debbie has been in New York, we've talked to each other about once or twice a week. That's changed. I like it. We are on the phone more frequently.  Tonight, once again, we had another good conversation and cocktail. Debbie stayed with gin. Today I had bought a bottle of small batch Trail's End Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey aged in Oregon oak barrels. I wanted to make my drink last and I wanted to decrease its alcohol level a bit, so I didn't drink it neat, but enjoyed it over ice with some water. I'll drink some of this neat very soon. 

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 08/11/2021: Good Kidney News, I'll Have an Everything Bagel, Phone Gin

1. Because my lab work results arrive to me online well ahead of my appointment with Dr. Bieber, I read the results in advance and so today I was all but certain of what he was going to say when we met. 

I was right. My numbers remain stable and a couple of them reflected, in a positive way, that I've cut way back on eating meat. I'm not strict about this -- I eat meat outside the home and will fix some meals with meat at home when the temperatures cool down -- but limiting my consumption of animal protein is better for my renal health.

I also know some edema has set in. I'm retaining a small amount of fluid in my lower legs and around my ankles. Dr. Bieber and I have discussed this development in the past and today he didn't find any real increase and no need to start me on a diuretic. Likewise, my blood pressure is slightly higher than I'd like, but not enough to warrant an increase in the dosage of my medicine. 

I've written it before and I'll write it again now. 

You don't want my kidney numbers. 

You don't want your kidney function to be at 15%.

But, I'm getting a lot out of good work out of the kidney function I have left and I'm not currently losing ground.

Things are stable. 

Therefore, I'll return in November to see how things look then.

2. I lived near the Bagel Bakery in Eugene for many years and could also buy their bagels in different places around Eugene. I loved most of their bagels, but never really enjoyed either the onion bagel nor the everything bagel.

Well, my taste it is a changin'!

The Bean here in Kellogg sells plain and everything bagels from Sweetwater Bakery in Post Falls.

On a lark last week, when I ordered a toasted bagel with lox, cream cheese, capers, and onion, I took a chance and had it made on an everything bagel.

I loved it. 

I'm not sure what makes Sweetwater's way of making the everything bagel so tasty to me, but I'm totally on board with it.

So, today, to add further enjoyment to having seen Dr. Bieber, I stopped in at the Bean and ordered an everything bagel toasted with cream cheese, brought it home, and my love affair with this bagel grew.

3.  Well, this afternoon I cooked up some jasmine rice and warmed up the shrimp/sausage foil packet I didn't eat at family dinner last night and it was a terrific meal. 

Later on, Debbie called again and we had fun not only talking and dreaming about some future possibilities in our life together, but tonight we also had an over the phone cocktail party. We both mixed gin with Rose's lime juice. Debbie's cocktail featured Gray Whale gin, mine Crater Lake. 

Ha! We both finished our first cocktail at about the same time and were in synch as we each put down our phones and mixed a second. 

It was fun. 

Actually, really fun. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 08/10/2021: Embarrassment, Family Dinner, Books

1. I can be an embarrassing person sometimes. 

I can also be embarrassed by things I do.

Today, I don't know if my family found me an embarrassment, but I was certainly embarrassed.

I got hungry around 3:30/4:00 this afternoon and fixed myself some penne pasta with butter pepper and the fancy hard cheese I got at Costco that I can never remember the name of, grated.

Eating this food put me to sleep and I had just awakened when, around 5:20, I got a text message from Christy. She and Carol wondered if I was running late for family dinner at 5:00. Then Christy backed up her text message with a phone call.

Well, in my mind, I wasn't running late at all. 

I thought our family dinner was on Wednesday! 

I'd told Debbie it was on Wednesday. In message with Stu, I'd told him we were having family dinner on Wednesday. When I ate a bowl of pasta, I did so thinking family dinner was on Wednesday.


It was today. So I shook myself awake, told Christy I wouldn't be making the cocktails I'd been assigned, vaulted into the Sube and arrived late for dinner.

Much to my embarrassment.

2. So, I arrived for dinner. Paul and Carol teamed up to prepare and grill foil packets of shrimp, sausage, corn, and red potatoes. I brought my packet home. I'll eat it by myself in honor of thinking family dinner was on Wednesday! Carol made a terrific fruit pie and Christy fixed a really delicious strawberry after dinner drink. Tonight's dinner also extended the celebration of Molly's birthday. This was Zoe's last night in Kellogg, so she joined up. I also got to meet Carol and Paul's new puppy, Cleo. Paul and I played a round of corn hole in the back yard. We all talked together about a million things and had a fun time together.

3.  I am slowly, not very surely, working to reshelf our books. We have more books than shelf space right now and I am slowly, not at all surely, trying to figure out how I want to deal with this fact. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 08/09/2021: Salmon and a Heating Pad, More Dream Talkin', Two Hours of *Dark Side of the Moon*

 1. Once in a while, my right lower back seizes up. It doesn't immobilize me, but I walk around like Grandpa McCoy (Walter Brennan) and it somewhat limits what I can do around the house. Heat seems to help relax my back and, while I read more about the poor health of Pacific Northwest rivers, wild salmon habitat, and the industrial attempts (mostly hatcheries and fish farms) by humans to keep waterways stocked with human raised salmon, I kept a heating pad pressed against the offended area of my back and that gave me some relief.

2. Debbie and I had another good dream conversation on the phone regarding things we might do once we live together again. It's fun to put possibilities out in front of each other -- and who knows what will actually happen?

3. Instead of watching a drama in the Vizio room tonight, I watched a Classic Album episode and a second hour long program on Prime Video, both focused on Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. That album gets better and better each time I listen to it and listening to the band members talk about it increased my enjoyment even more. 

Listening to the band talk about Clare Torry's vocal performance on "Great Gig in the Sky" and, in the second program, listing to Clare Torry be interviewed about her experience in the studio, led me to call up the Alan Parsons Project album, Eve (1979) on YouTube and listen to Clare Torry sing the lead vocal on the track "Don't Hold Back".  I loved her work on that song long before I began to pay attention to Pink Floyd and long, long before I realized that Clare Torry sang on both Dark Side of the Moon and Eve

Monday, August 9, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 08/08/2021: Shakespeare in the Westminster Basement, Superb Phone Calls, *Foyle's War* and Rye Whiskey

1. A while back, Bill and Diane asked me if I would be willing to make some comments on ZOOM about the first cycle of The Hollow Crown, a British adaptation of Richard II, Henry IV, parts 1 and 2, and Henry V. In October, we Westminster Basementeers will start having some discussion of this series -- and, inevitably and gloriously, wider discussions of Shakespeare's plays and an even wider discussion of what Shakespeare's work moves us to talk about outside the plays in the lives we lead. This isn't school. No one is under pressure to watch the series. Our joy comes not in completing assignments, but in talking about big questions and we'll be able to do that no matter what! 

I don't remember, to be honest, the last time I made comments about Shakespeare as a way to help others see what Shakespeare might be up to in his works. For so long, in my life, it seemed like that was almost all I did -- teaching courses in Shakespeare at Whitworth, the Univ of Oregon, and Lane Community College and being involved for about fifteen years introducing plays and leading discussions at Shakespeare Camp in the summers. 

I last taught a Shakespeare course about fifteen years ago. I included a Shakespeare play in the syllabus when I taught Intro to Drama (maybe twice). The last time I "taught" a Shakespeare play was in the spring of 2012. 

So, today, I had to wonder: Can I still do this?

Well, to quote the late great play by play man Keith Jackson, "Whoa Nellie!" 

I sure could.

It felt great to say a few words about how this tetralogy explores Henry Bolingbroke's seizing of Richard II's crown, thus breaking the rite of succession. This rupturing event was, in the Queen's words to the Gardener, "the second fall of cursed man." It felt great to say a few words about Shakespeare's exploration of time and broken time. It felt great to say a few words in anticipation of Prince Hal's declaration early in Henry IV, part 1: "I'll so offend as to make offense a skill, / Redeeming time when men think least I will."

It felt great to do all I could to open the way to discussing the way Shakespeare is exploring national issues in the face of the belligerent transfer of power from Richard II to Henry Bollingbroke (Henry IV) while at the same time exploring the inward lives of these kings, of exploring them as public power figures and as private men who are first and foremost flawed and feeling human beings. 

So we have a framework we can work within (and outside) of. We have some big questions before us. We Westminster Basementeers are fully aware that these matters Shakespeare dramatizes, the nature of leadership, the transfer of power, sharp division in the country, chaos, and confusion are all things the USA is also experiencing at this moment in history. 

Shakespeare's history plays are never exclusively about the past. Just as these plays were giving Shakespeare's audience a way of exploring Elizabeth I's and James I rule by looking at events, for them, that happened about 200 years earlier, so these events, for us, that happened over 600 years ago, cast light on our country's current turbulence and division. 

It'll be really fun, come October, to dig deeper into these plays, as presented in The Hollow Crown, with Bill, Diane, Bridgit, Colette, and Val.

Our discussions are transcendent.

2. Debbie called me again this evening and we continued to discuss our situation, the way we've been apart from one another for nearly a year now, and about what we might do when living together again, at a time still to be determined.

Not long after Debbie and I wrapped up our excellent conversation, Jeff Steve called. He was nearing the end of a quick trip up to CdA and called to say hello and we had a great discussion of what's happening in our lives these days, our respective responses to the pandemic, and the expansion of our spiritual lives over the decades. Between First Presbyterian Church in CdA and Whitworth College, and several mutual CdA friends dating back to the 1970s, Jeff and I have a lot of shared history and we have great talks about how we have worked out our spiritual lives relative to Christianity and other spiritual traditions. I'd say we are both spiritual expansionists (if there is such a thing), explorers of many spiritual paths, open to all kinds of possibilities. Because this is true for both of us, we have scintillating discussions, generous ones, and I enjoyed very much how we talked about things tonight. Jeff recommended that I read The Autobiography of a Yogi and I might just do that before long!

3. It was getting a little late, for me, when Jeff and I wrapped our conversation, but I wanted to watch some drama in the Vizio room.

I took out a canning jar, packed it with ice, emptied the last of the fifth of Basil Hayden rye whiskey I had on hand into the glass and added a little water. 

I made this cocktail last for the entire 90 minutes or so while watching the second episode of season four of Foyle's War, "Bad Blood". 

It's a mighty episode centered simultaneously on the murder of a decorated war hero on a beach and the sudden and mysterious illness of the war hero's wife and of Christopher Foyle's driver, Samantha.

At the same time, then, while Foyle investigates the murder (which a police officer friend of his thought was solved), he also comes to discover that a military experiment with biological warfare has gone awry, causing the mysterious illness the widow and Samantha are suffering.

For me, this was an especially enjoyable episode of Foyle's War. The main story lines were accompanied by several fascinating subplots, all of which tied together. Some of them seemed to point toward further development in future episodes.

I'm very happy I took a night off from film noir, neo-noir, and Robert Altman movies and returned, after a long absence, to another brilliant episode of Foyle's War

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 08/07/2021: Long Awaited Walk, Yakkin' with Debbie, Watching *Key Largo*

 1.  The temperature was lower today. It was not smoky out. After a month or so of staying out of the heat and the smoke and not walking, I took a comfortable walk to the Yoke's pharmacy and back home again. I was relieved that my legs held up well. Upon returning home, I was a little bit out of breath as I walked  through the front door. I took two naps after this walk.

2. Early this evening Debbie called me. We had a very good, lengthy conversation. She was sitting out on the deck, enjoying some botanical gin with Gibbs at her side. We rambled all over the place in our conversation. We dreamed a little bit about the future, but didn't make any plans. We'll reunite when the time is right and by that time that table on which we have been putting conversation topics for years will once again be fully covered with any number of things we have to discuss. 

3. I decided to take a break from Robert Altman and from neo-noir movies and watch the 1948 film noir movie, Key Largo, directed by John Huston and featuring Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, Lauren Bacall, Lionel Barrymore, and, in an Academy Award winning performance, Claire Trevor. During the movie I enjoyed an ice cold gin and tonic and a bowl of popcorn.

In keeping with the noir tradition, this is a dark movie, much of it dominated by a cruel, sadistic mobster on the lam named Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson). Johnny's foil is Frank McCloud (Humphrey Bogart), a disillusioned veteran of WWII who hasn't quite landed on his feet since returning home. Rocco's sadism forces McCloud, who professes to no longer believe in anything beyond self-preservation, to decide whether he will only act on behalf of himself or confront the evil of Johnny Rocco. 

Much of the movie's action is claustrophobic, confined to the Key Largo Hotel where Johnny Rocco holds its wheelchaired owner (Lionel Barrymore) and his daughter (Lauren Bacall), along with Frank McCloud, hostage during a hurricane. 

I enjoyed watching this seventy- three year old black and white movie. Unlike so many movies I've watched lately, Key Largo was not filmed on location, is dominated by a melodramatic music soundtrack, and leaves no doubt about who the good guys and bad guys are in the story. 

The neo-noir movies feature flawed heroes. Sometimes they are anti-heroes. The neo-noir films are naturalistic, profane, and feature detectives or cops working to discover some truth who don't necessarily see clearly what's happening in their world. Others feature marks who get duped in some kind of scam  (e.g. Body Heat) and are in over their heads. These neo-noir characters lack the kind of straight arrow sureness of what they face that, say, Frank McCloud does in Key Largo. Yes, Frank McCloud has a decision of conscience to make, but it's a matter of whether he'll rise to act bravely in a situation he fully understands. In the neo-noir movies, things are never this clear. 

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 08/07/2021: Lab Report Reflects Stability, Papers Filed, The Split Moods of *California Split*

1. Right now, I'm on an every three or four month schedule for lab work and a visit with nephrologist Dr. Bieber. 

The time has come again to see him, next Wednesday, so Thursday I had blood drawn. 

Today, I just happened to open my email box and already notification had dropped in from Labcorp that my lab results were ready. 

So, I faced a moment of doubt. 

Am I ready to face this report? 

How about if the decline I figure must happen some day in my renal health has started? Do I want to face up to that possibility now?

Quickly, I cast my anxiety aside and answered myself: "Yes. I do want to face it."

I logged in, went to the "Results" page and clicked on "View".

The report came up.

With one exception I'll ask Dr. Bieber about on Wednesday,  I could immediately see that everything was good. All the numbers that have been in range over the last many years were still in range.

The number that all my docs talk about with me the most is the GFR. It indicates the percentage of my kidney function. Every time is see the doctor, our hope is that this number is remaining stable, or improving. What we don't want to see is a big dip.

There are five stages of kidney disease. Stage 5 is the most serious. Often patients at Stage 5 must go on dialysis. Stage 5 kidney disease is determined by a GFR at 15 or lower.

Back in January, my GFR slid to 12, but I was feeling good and my other numbers were very good. My kidneys weren't function at a high percentage of function, but they were getting the job done. There was no need for dialysis. 

My GFR increased to 15 in April, an encouraging surprise.

Since April, my kidneys have remained stable.

My GFR in this latest report was, again, at 15. 

For me, this number was a great relief.

I've made it through another period of time between exams without experiencing severe symptoms of kidney disease and with feeling pretty good day to day. 

I have a few things to check out with the doctor, but at least these numbers mean that won't dread my appointment on Wednesday.

2. I spent much of the day finishing up a filing project and am fairly pleased that I have placed every document and other piece of paper into the folder it belongs in. 

For now, the paper side of our life is in good shape.

That, too, is a relief.

3. I hope I continue this habit I've recently taken up.

In the evening, I pour myself a not very strong cocktail in a pint beer glass and watch a movie.

Tonight, after a trip to Yoke's, where I bought a container of Double Fudge Brownie ice cream, I returned home, scooped some ice cream into a glass, added milk, hand stirred it into a milk shake, and added some brandy.

I took my drink into the Vizio room and rented Robert Altman's 1974 gambling movie, California Split, featuring Elliott Gould, George Segal, Ann Prentiss, and Gwen Welles.

I've never been able to summon up the language to describe what it is I enjoy so much about Robert Altman's movies.

I don't have that language today either.

Nonetheless, I'll take a few stabs at explaining what I experienced watching California Split.

I enjoyed how this movie was almost plotless. It moved fluidly, but not exactly randomly, from scene to scene, creating a world occupied by hustlers, gamblers, outsiders, a thug or two, and two sex workers. The prostitutes, Barbara (Ann Prentiss) and Susan (Gwen Welles) are roommates with Charley (Elliott Gould) and their household is a safe haven, stocked with Fruit Loops, beer, and the latest issue of TV Guide. It's a comfortable place where Charlie, Barbara, and Susan relax, comfort each other, and plan out their next hustle. It also becomes a harbor for a magazine writer named Bill (George Segal) who meets Charlie at a poker palace where they get drunk, assaulted, arrested, and become buddies.

The movie glides between scenes in the house, horse race tracks, parking lots, Bill's place of employment, and card rooms, not so much building a plot as creating a portrait of vacuousness, impotence, ennui, and desperation overlaid with a brittle veneer of enthusiasm and thrill seeking.

It's in this tension between the kinetic pursuit of success at gambling and conning and the underlying emptiness of it all that drives this movie.  It's Altman's vision of the aimless and unfulfilling lives his characters lead that gives this movie its sobering power, but not in morose ways, not in cliched ways. The underlying emptiness of it all seeps into the movie while we are laughing at hilarious scenes, feeling tension about gambling success, and feeling tenderness toward Barbara and Susan as they try to ward off the hollowness of their sex work and the absence of love in their lives by extending support to each other. (They are not cliched "whores with a heart of gold". They transcend this trope.)

Altman's movies never follow any single line of development. Scenes of great variety emerge organically. These scenes create atmosphere, moods, feelings.  In this movie, the melancholy mood is enhanced by a woman in a casino lounge singing standards like "You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You" while playing the piano, serving as something like the Chorus in Greek tragedy, deepening the movie's feeling while, at the same time, commenting on action at the same time -- and some of that action is, on the surface exhilarating, in apparent contradiction to the songs. 

I always have the sense watching a Robert Altman movie that, as a director, he sets actors free to improvise, follow their instincts, create the movie as it's being filmed. Elliott Gould is the perfect actor for this kind of filmmaking and his portrayal of the energetic, fast and non-stop talking, always hustling, resilient, unsinkable Charlie is a perfect foil to George Segal's more glum Bill Denny, who longs for thrills, but has deeper yearnings, and possibly, touches some of those same kind of feelings in Charlie, even as Charlie, by his perpetual motion and chatter, works to varnish over them. 

I must enjoy, when watching movies, the experience of being knocked off balance, of not always knowing what's happened or what's coming, and of experiencing a melange of moods and feelings. Altman's movies do this.  I think Robert Altman is always trying to get to the darkness of the American experience, to get at what lies underneath American optimism, its people's sense of greatness, its love of glamor, glitz, and pageantry: in short, the gloomier landscapes of the American Dream.