Thursday, August 28, 2014

Pizza, alas

At lunchtime today I got a call from my neighbor across the street...the one with the Saturday doughnuts. Her three boys had friends over for the day, she's ordered pizza and had a bunch left over. Did I want some?

Yeah, sure. Didn't have any plans for lunch. I haven't had pizza in some time, years in fact, with good reason.

She had Domino's deliver, she had several of these:

Sigh. I remembered why I haven't had pizza in a few years. I spent too much time in Italy in that time, and had pizza there.

I was a frequenter of Shakey's Pizza place in Bend growing up. It was fine then, have them put a bunch of stuff on top, it was fine with a coke. But then I went to Italy......

Wood ovens, thin crisp crust, fresh mozzarella di bufala (water buffalo mozzarella), a simple tomato paste and a few basil leaves and a dab of local olive oil. My daughter and I had it for the first time in Venice for lunch. We were served each a pizza, looked at it and took a bite. We wondered why we'd ever eaten anything else. The 22 year old girl across the table looked at it after a bite and said "I want to marry the cook and have his babies". I shrugged. "You've got my blessing." 

But seriously, if you've not had pizza in Naples, Rome, Florence or wherever in  I've been to 'good pizza' places here in the US, in Brooklyn, San Francisco, and they are fine, but they don't match up.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Termination Dust

While most of the country is still enjoying summer (or not, perhaps it's too hot) with a month or more to go, we're getting the first hints of what's to come.

Temps for the next 6 days are forecasted to be highs in the 50's, lows in the 30's. Snow in the mountains, rain in the valleys. It's been almost exactly 60 days since our last snowfall in June.

Still, there is plenty of time left for fall fishing, I can see Ann's flowers on her porch from where I write, and the grass is still green. Mother nature just want's to give us a little reminder she's still there.

Hope the rest of the summer is good for all and sundry.

Monday, August 18, 2014

National Guard, does it address the roots?

This is in response to Missouri's governor ordering the National Guard to Ferguson in response to the continuing protests, after imposing a curfew on the residents, and having questions.

I don't have enough information, I doubt any people not on site do either, to say what happened to the young man who's death sparked the protests. The New York Times reports the initial autopsy shows he was shot six times by the officer, which seems excessive, but the circumstances remain unknown to us.

The National Guard has at best cursory training in crowd and riot control. We have some history of their use for this;  Kent State is obvious, Detroit, Los Angeles. The governor of Missouri had in the past few hours that they would be used for specific duties, to guard the control center of the state police.

I'm assuming they have live ammo. I expect some of them might be as young as 18. It's not the Rangers, older, experienced soldiers. The possibilities of things going south are endless. So instead, perhaps we can look at why a community would erupt like this. Here's my opinion:

It's about race. All these years later, after the civil war, segregation, integration in schools, equal opportunity, it's about race. Nothing has changed insofar as we're dealing with it today, it's aftermath in some cases. We, white people, lead our lives. They, black (hispanic and asian to a lesser degree) live theirs. The two don't often intersect, and when they do it sometimes is awkward.

150 years after abolishing slavery we're still mired in the same issue. We've gone from it being legal to own another human being, able to do what we want with them, not to sudden acceptance. Until 55 years ago, if a white person walked up to and killed a black man, in most states they would be aquitted by a jury of their peers. Their peers were all white, it being difficult to impossible for blacks to participate in either the voting process or and judicial ruling as a jury.

From there, in the last few decades to real estate blockages to blacks, to school boards, city councils, police force being dominatly white in a black majority community: Ferguson.  So here we are, facing the same issues because the white community, in part, has not really changed. They've adapted. Can't block them one way, find another way. The issue of why we (those whites who don't) can't accept them as equals, as we are making slow strides with hispanics and asians, remains unadressed.

How we change things, quicken the change, is beyond me.

Langston Hughes in his poem Harlem, opened with "What happens to a dream deferred?", the last line gave the answer...."does it explode?"

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Just a Fellow I worked with

A few decades ago in my profession I took a considered turn, from clinical to administrative. Turned out it was a bad idea, and the gig I liked less in my 45 years of working. As Director of Clinical Services I had oversee of 9 departments, direction, budgets, personnel, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. There was this one guy, though, that made it easier for me.

I posted about him earlier, about not trying to play practical jokes on a pathologist, titled I think "Don't Screw with a Pathologist". Don N., the hospital pathologist, medical examiner for the county, and a faculty at UW. A little older than me, big, hearty, funny.

I learned recently he'd passed on.

We fished together several times on his boat, out in Puget Sound. Once he took me and a good friend of mine out, we drifted off Seattle jigging herring, and got two small kings, around 10 pounds. When we got back to his dock he offered to fillet the fish, remarking he was 'pretty good at this'. Indeed he was, cleanly doing each fish in a matter of seconds. My buddy remarked on the knife he was using, it was unusual: blue handle, long narrow untapered blade. He looked at it. "Oh, I stopped by the morgue this morning and picked it up, figured we'd get some fish."

A really nice guy, leveled me out a couple times when I was about to commit professional suicide by in-considered demands in board meetings.  

The world is poorer with him gone.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Recollections of a cheap trip

When I was consulting for pharma's I was requested to go to Buenos Aires to assist 5 clinical trial sites that were 'underperforming', the pharma had put this clinical trial at the front of it's plans, and it was a huge trial. Around 350 different sites in Europe, the US, Canada and South America, they had invested around 50 million to this point.

This was when pharma's were feeling flush, and this particular one had a rule that any flight lasting over 5 hours would be first class rather than steerage. Off I went on a night flight from Atlanta, landing in BA at 10am. They had a car and driver waiting for me, and I learned this driver would be available to me for my planned 5 day visit. I had planned on spending a day with each site, figuring that would be enough time.

I had arrived on  a Sunday morning in August, towards the end of their winter. The weather was what one would expect of San Francisco in January, 65 or 70 during the day.

The driver took me to the hotel, on the edge of the Recoleta district, it had been chosen by the pharma's local rep, and was within walking distance of most of downtown BA. The lobby was very nice, marble floor and high ceiling.

After I checked in I asked the clerk, a young man in his 20's if the hotel could exchange some money for me. I hadn't had time before leaving. The pharma had asked me to take all the site's out to dinner, they wanted them to feel they were appreciated. I had been told that many restaurants in BA were similar to one's in Europe, and it was usual to pay in cash. I knew each site and several people working, so I had anticipated on spending well over a hundred dollars a night.

The clerk asked how much I wanted to exchange; I had brought 1,000 in cash, all in hundred dollar bills. I quoted that amount...his eyes widened and he told me I would not need that much. I didn't want to argue, so I asked if he could do 500. He hesitated, then said yes, if I would wait an hour or two.

At this time Argentina was at the end of the worst financial crisis of it's history. Prior, the exchange rate with the US had been fixed at around a 1:1 ratio, dollars to peso's. The 'official' rate was 1:4 at this time. Turns out the 'unofficial' rate was rather higher.

The clerk told me he would exchange dollars for 8 to the dollar if I would wait until he could get the cash from home. I felt a little uneasy about it, but figured that I was in a nice hotel and probably wouldn't be robbed. Other ethical considerations didn't occur to me until later.

It went smoothly, there was a safe in the room so I didn't have to carry it all around with me.

By 6pm I was tired, and wanted to eat and go to bed. I got my second surprise: no restaurants were open at that hour, and wouldn't be until at least 9pm, more likely 10pm. They eat late there.I walked around the area and found a food van selling pizza, it would do. I was asleep by 8pm.

The next morning I met the local pharma rep in the lobby, after coffee my driver took us to the first site.

I met with the site doc and staff, we sat and had coffee and chatted. By noon I was starting to get a bit nervous about the pace of things. No one seemed in a hurry to start going over the protocols and techniques. They insisted on giving me a tour of the whole place. Nice people, the doc at trained at Johns Hopkins.

When I suggested we go out to dinner they agreed. At 2 the pharma rep suggested we go to lunch, off we went to the Recoleta district. Many of the restaurants have outdoor seating.

The lunch took two hours. At 4pm  I looked at my watch and suggested we go back and start in on the protocols.  No, that wasn't going to happen; most of them had things to do at home or elsewhere. It was agreed we'd meet for dinner at 9:30 at my hotel and walk to a restaurant. I went back to my hotel with the rep and talked for a bit. She explained the pace was slower, their average work day was from 10am to around 2pm. The next day she assured me all would go better. After she left I called the pharma office in Connecticut. We agreed that this was going to take at least twice as long as planned.

For the next two weeks I had plenty of time and opportunity to explore BA. My driver was more than willing to take me sightseeing in the mornings and later afternoons.  I also found that the first night when I took a party of 6 to a dinner that lasted two hours that my cash would stretch the stay in comfort. Inflation had not yet caught up to the 'unofficial' exchange rate. That dinner included drinks before dinner, the entree and sides, 3 bottles of excellent Mendoza wine and coffee at the end. The price worked out to around 40 bucks US.

The food there was outstanding, especially if you like beef. They do it as well as anyplace in the world.

The last photo above is the largest group, the bill came to less than 100 dollars.

The Recoleta area looked more Italian than South American, the Italian influence is everywhere. The population of Argentina is less than 10% 'Mestiso', mostly Italian and German and Spanish.

And no trip to BA would be complete without a visit to the famous Cementario, or as I saw it, The City of the Dead.  And it's 'famous' cat population.  A cemetery that covers two square blocks, mausoleums like tiny houses, many had open doors that one could peer inside and see caskets, and stairs leading down into the dark. I went there on a Sunday morning fairly early and walked around. Then I started noticing the cats. All over the place, hundreds of them. Apparently it's a dumping ground for cats people don't want, and a place for people to go and feed them.

Once I got used to the slower pace and having dinner late it was quite enjoyable. The traffic was horrible though, I was glad I didn't have to drive. One thing I noticed the first day we went out was a old Ford Falcon parked. Then I saw another, and another. Ford had one of the main plants back then that produced the Falcon down there, and many of them have survived.

I recommend Buenos Aires highly, as well as the area of Mendoza further north inland.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Just stuff, errata, thoughts

I read a comment recently that started me thinking.......actually it's something I've seen before,  but I was surprised by the source.

So I thought about similar advice, in the same vein. The comment is somewhere in the 'advice' below.

1. You're being bullied in school.
     Advise: Don't go to school.
                  Don't do what you are doing at school, it set's off someone.
                  Maybe they want money, carry a 5 dollar bill.
                  Ignore them, it'll go away.

2. My child is autistic, they get hit by the neighborhood kids because they stutter.
       Advise:  Keep them in the house.
                     Teach them how to keep their mouth shut
                     Ignore them, it'll go away

3.  My child complains that someone on the bus stares at her, and makes rude comments about her skirt being short.
        Advise:   Tell her to wear ankle-length skirts
                       She shouldn't be wearing anything that shows any legs, make her wear pants.
                       Ignore it, it'll go away.

4.  I'm with my child, she's 13, in a mall. We walk by somebody who say's "I'll tap that" to somebody next to him, indicating my girl, I walk over to him. I say "It's gonna get real western in here soon, pal."
       Advise:    I should have just smiled and nodded.
                       I should have turned to my girl and reprimanded her for provoking the gentleman
                      A gentle nudge with a shoe to the genital region would be sufficient. 

5.  A woman is being, quote, "Ogled", and when she, or someone else complained, it was said: "If she doesn't like being ogled she should wear a burka". End quote.......Ok.....
      Advise:     Wear a burka
                       Don't leave the house otherwise
                       Comment, suggesting it was in bad taste, and someone deletes your comments
                       Say it to one of my girls, and take your chances......

Actually, the last one has a lot of supporters. A lot, the Taliban, Al Queda, various Islamic militant groups, the Tea Party in their wildest dreams, most of the current GOP.

Y'know, I've thought about blogs a bit lately........there are some out there that propose various agendas, philosophies, and the one's that are interesting are the one's who have people, in the comments, who go 'wait a minute here....", "no, you're wrong...." and "oh for pete's sake......", not the one's who just validate what you say, and support you for reasons unclear. Those are boring.

It's like life, who liked 'yes' men around them, I like people who think for themselves, and speak their mind, truth to power. My wife wouldn't have it any other way, though she's been gone 20 years now.

We're about, in the next two months, to decide whether or not we're going to continue to have a democracy, or something else.

Let's decide wisely.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

In My Little Town

It's high summer here, a time to savor the last month of warm weather. The view from my front yard up the hill towards the 'M'.

A flower that grows each summer everywhere around here. No idea what it is, but it looks pretty along my fence.

And finally, a place to get a great burger.

Matt's is apparently the oldest 'drive-in' in the state. Summer is the only time that it's dependably open; other times of the year he opens seemingly at random, on whim.

His burgers are about the best I've had, and for 4 bucks a real bargain.

I'll leave you with the headline from today's local newspaper, from the category of 'I can't make this shit up'...

Police: Drunk woman runs naked and jumps into stranger’s pickup


Friday, August 1, 2014

River, the last. The Falls

I did three other stories about the river; all somewhat connected, the same river on the Oregon Coast, the people, the occurrences. This, I think, is the last. 

Someone must see to it that this story is told: you shouldn't think that his man just threw his life away.

When he was a boy there was nothing about him to remember. He looked like anything else-like the trees, the other people, like his dog. Sometimes he would change places with the dog. For a week at a time he was the dog and the dog was himself, and it went unnoticed. It was harder on the dog, but the boy encouraged him and he did well at it.

This is what happened. The boy grew. Visions came to him. He began to see things. When he was eighteen he dreamed he should go up in the Crazy Mountains, near Bozeman, to dream. He went. He was careful hitchhiking, he took rides only from old men, old trucks. He was old enough to be careful, but not to know why.

He got a job down there around Beatty, in Oregon, and I didn't see him for two or three years.  The next time was in winter. It was the coldest one I had ever been in. Birds froze. The river froze solid, all the way across. I never saw that before. I picked him up hitchhiking north, he had on dark cotton pants and a light jacket. He had a brown canvas bag, and a hat pulled down over his ears. I pulled over right away, he looked sorry as hell.

I took him way up north, all the way to my place. He had some antelope meat with him and we ate good. We talked. He wanted to know what I was doing for work. I was cutting wood. He was going to go up to British Columbia, Nanaimo, somewhere in there.

I woke up the next morning when it was just getting light. I could not hear the sound of the river and the silence frightened me until I remembered. I heard chopping on the ice. I got dressed and went down, the earth was like rock that winter.

He had cut a hole a few feet across, black water boiling up, flowing out of the ice, freezing. He was standing in the hole naked with his head bowed and his arms straight up over his head with his hands open. He had cut his arms with a knife and red blood was running down them, down his ribs, slowing in the cold to the black water. He gave a cry, the cry was like a bear, not a man sound, something he was tearing away from inside himself. He climbed out and ran into the timber, long high steps.

He cut wood with me that winter. He worked hard. When the trillium bloomed and the birds came he went north.

I did not see him again for ten years. I was in Montana harvesting wheat, sleeping in the back of my truck (parked under cottonwoods for the cool air that ran down them at night). One night I heard my name. He was by the tailgate.
"You got a good spot." He said
"Yeah. That you?"
How you doing?"
'Good. Talk in the morning."
He sounded tired, like he'd been riding all day.

We worked three weeks together,the next morning someone lost their job, too much drinking.  We baled hay for days, the dust would gather in our clothes.

He came home with me, and he stayed that winter too. I was getting old then, and he was good to have around. In the spring he left. He told me a lot that winter, but I can't say these things. When he spoke it was like when you fall asleep in the woods, the breeze in the pines. You listen hard, but it's not easy.

A few summers later he was in Alaska, working at a farm in the Matanuska Valley. All that time he was alone. Once he came down to see me but I was gone. I knew it when I got home, I went down to the river and saw the place where he went into the water. The ground was soft around the rocks, I knew his feet.

I am not a man of power, but I waded into the river and shouted. "Keep going, you keep going!" My heart was pounding like the falls.

The last time I saw him he came to my house in the fall. He came in quiet as air sitting in a canyon. We made dinner early and at dusk he went out and I followed. He cut twigs from the ash, cottonwood and alder. He brushed me with the branches, telling me I had always been a good friend. He said this was his last time. We went swimming a little, there is a strong current there, I had to be careful.

I woke in the morning, just as light was seeping into the sky. I went to look at his bed, he was gone. I got dressed and walked the path to the falls. I see him all at once standing at the lip of the falls. I heard that bear-like cry, and his hands went out. He was in the air, turning over and over, the last moonlight finding the silver-white of his sides and dark green water before he cut into the river, the sound lost in the roar.

I went back up the path, to a clear-cut area where alders have started to grow. The sun was up, warm to me as I sat down, my back against the remaining fir. Good day to go look for morels, but I fell asleep.

When I awoke it was late. I went back to my truck and drove home, wondering if I felt strong enough to eat venison.