Broken Taco Shells, R.I.P.

Counter-clockwise from left: Morgan, Beth, Erin, George, Brian and John.

Counter-clockwise from left: Morgan, Beth, Erin, George, Brian and John.

After four years of bowling in a Tuesday night coed league, the Broken Taco Shells are officially no more.

Three months after we rolled our last frame, we gathered last night in a teammate’s backyard to celebrate the fun we had with a potluck feast that featured grilled chicken and pork, salads, appetizer and a killer dessert.

The way we ate, you’d think we’d won the league championship. Not so. Our last season was our worst — dead last among 15 teams.

But no one was feeling badly about that. No, we were laughing as we recalled stories about other “personalities” among our opponents and the endearing flaws of Hollywood Bowl, the neighborhood bowling alley whose closure this spring forced us to disband

Oh, sure, we could still bowl if we wanted to make the effort to drive to another alley miles away from our 97212 zip code. But no one’s really in the mood for that. It just wouldn’t feel the same. Plus, I think we’re all enjoying having another free weeknight to ourselves.

So, once more, a tip of the hat to my teammates. It was a fun ride.

Nathan and Nuvrei

Coffee + almond croissant = perfection.

Coffee + almond croissant = perfection.

I found myself with extra time yesterday morning so, on a whim, I decided to check out a new-to-me bakery in the Pearl District: Nuvrei.

Pronounced “noo-vray,” the place has been around for 10 years, starting on Portland’s east side. You’ll find it now on Northwest 10th Avenue, between Flanders and Glisan, serving up pastries, sandwiches and all sorts of housemade beverages to the breakfast and lunch crowds. Evidently, their macarons are to die for.

nuvreiWasn’t on my radar until about a month ago, when our oldest son quietly let the word out that he’d been hired there as a café cook. Little did I know what a plum job that’s considered to be, given the reputation of the place. (Check out “Patisserie Review: Nuvrei Bakery.”)

I was delighted, of course, to learn that Nathan had finally broken through and gotten a foothold in Portland’s dynamic and constantly evolving food/restaurant scene. Graduating from college a few years ago into the depths of the recession – when most businesses were hunkering down — made it awfully tough to find work in marketing, his field of study.

nathan

Nathan Rede

Fortunately, his love of music and well-established talent as a DJ kept him afloat while his interest in working in a professional kitchen grew. (We already knew from many a family gathering that he could produce restaurant-quality dishes and full meals.)

He wasn’t at work yet when I paid my spontaneous visit Tuesday. But after sitting down with an almond croissant and a mug of coffee at a sidewalk table, I can vouch for the quality of the food and the inviting vibe of the place.

Gotta plan a return visit soon with Lori. Hopefully, this weekend. And hopefully, when Nathan is the one putting together the food.

The plight of the pit bull

Jamaica: Two-year-old female terrier-American-pit-bull mix, 33 lbs

Jamaica: Two-year-old female terrier-American-pit-bull mix, 33 lbs

A few years ago, when I was teaching a weekend class at Portland State, I would ask my students, “When is the last time you read something that made you question what you believe?”

Not something that made you change your mind necessarily, but something that at least made you reconsider. The point was to draw a link between persuasive writing — as in an editorial or a blog post — and people’s beliefs, which too often go unchallenged.

That classroom question came to mind recently when I read Tom Junod’s essay on pit bulls. Titled the “State of the American Dog,” it’s a first-person account of owning the most feared canine breed in America.

Read the article and see a photo gallery.

We know about pit bulls, don’t we? Bred to fight, bred to maim or kill. Favored by drug dealers and meathead wannabes, who act as if the intimidating, intact male at the end of the leash is an extension of their big, bad selves. In short, a dog not to be trusted.

I had to check myself, though, when my son and daughter-in-law decided to adopt a rescue pit bull puppy from the veterinarian’s office where she works. Patiently, they nursed him to health after a broken leg and introduced him slowly to the other four-legged members of the household – a chocolate Lab and two full-grown cats.

I admit to being leery when they brought him down to visit while he was still on the mend — and I confess to lingering nervousness when we stayed with Jordan and Jamie a couple months ago. Now that he was fully healed, how would he behave around our Jack Russell terrier?

Jax on the move in jamie and jordan's backyard.

Jax on the move in Jamie and Jordan’s backyard.

I needn’t have worried. Jax is as playful and obedient as any dog I’ve seen – probably even more so. I realize he’s still very young, though, and I haven’t seen him in a situation where he might behave aggressively. So I want to believe Jamie and Jordan know what they are doing and that Jax won’t ever be a problem.

With all this as a backdrop, I was curious to read Junod’s take in the August issue of Esquire. The article makes a provocative argument that we as a society are guilty of applying the principles of racial profiling to pit bulls. In the same way that all members of a group are held accountable for the misdeeds of some members of that group, so too are all pit bulls viewed with disdain because of the actions of some.

The reality, says Junod, is that pit bulls have been sinned against far more often than they sin. I don’t doubt that’s true. There’s a reason nearly all pit bulls adopted from shelters are rescues. They have been abused and increasingly discarded, as if they were expendable. They deserve to be seen and judged as individual dogs, Junod argues, not cast aside on the basis of guilt by association with their breed.

Here is the most cogent passage in Junod’s piece. Does it make you reconsider what you believe? It gave me pause.

America is two countries now—the country of its narrative and the country of its numbers, with the latter sitting in judgment of the former. In the stories we tell ourselves, we are nearly always too good: too soft on criminals, too easy on terrorists, too lenient with immigrants, too kind to animals. In the stories told by our numbers, we imprison, we drone, we deport, and we euthanize with an easy conscience and an avenging zeal. We have become schizophrenic in that way, and pit bulls hold up the same mirror as the 2.2 million souls in our prisons and jails and the more than 350,000 people we deport every year.

Every year, American shelters have to kill about 1.2 million dogs. But both pro- and anti-pit-bull organizations estimate that of these, anywhere from 800,000 to nearly 1 million are pit bulls. We kill anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 pit bulls a day. They are rising simultaneously in popularity and disposability, becoming something truly American, a popular dog forever poised on the brink of extermination. There is endless argument over the reliability of bite statistics and breed identification and over the question of whether aggression in dogs is associated with specific genes or environmental triggers common to all dogs: that is, whether pit bulls who bite do so because they are pit bulls or because they are more likely to be intact male dogs at the end of a chain.

But even if you concede the worst of the statistics—even if you concede the authority of a fourteen-year-old CDC report that implicated pit bulls and rottweilers in a majority of fatal dog attacks—one thing is certain about pit bulls in America: They are more sinned against than sinning.

 

Lead photograph: Michael Friberg

Secondary photo: George Rede

Saturday Sounds: James Ingram

Once upon a time, say, about 30 years ago, there was a man with a big voice and a lot of soul. He sang with heart. He sang with passion. He was a class act.

That’s James Ingram. And during his heyday in the ’80s, he was my favorite male singer.

James Ingram

James Ingram

He collaborated with producer Quincy Jones on “One Hundred Ways” and “Just Once,”and won the first of his two Grammys for Best R&B Vocal in 1982. He also collaborated with the likes of Patti LaBelle, Michael McDonald, Patti Austin and Linda Ronstadt, complementing each singing partner beautifully.

In fact, I was lucky enough to attend a Portland concert where he opened for LaBelle and then joined her on stage for “On My Own.” Great performers, both of ’em.

I post this video with a nod to the era of big lapels and with respect to a great singer who I think never really got his due. The Afro is gone but he’s still touring internationally.

Photograph: jango.com

How about a free high five?

Setting a high standard for customer service.

Setting a high standard for customer service.

Remember that blog post a few months ago? That one in April where I pulled into a neighborhood service station to fill up my gas tank, only to find my patience tested by an unexpectedly long wait? That one where I told myself to chill and found myself humbled by a young attendant hustling to do the best job she could?

I finally made it back to that location last weekend. And here’s what happened.

I eased into a spot next to a pump, turned off the ignition and hopped out of my ’67 Bug. Before I could even pop the hood, a young attendant greeted me and asked where to put the gas. (Back then, they put the tank under the hood, so it’s not obvious.)

She took my debit card and set the meter for $20.

“Want to add a car wash today?” she asked brightly.

“No, thanks,” I replied.

“Well, then, how about a free high-five?”

She grinned and raised her right hand. We smacked palms and I stepped back, my mind trying to process what to say next — and how.

“You worked here long?”

“For a little while. Started a couple months ago.”

I paused.

“This may sound a little odd, but was your hair a different color?”

“Yeah, it was darker then. I like to change it up now and then.”

Another pause.

“I think you’ve waited on me before. You were helping some guy with a U-Haul rental and I was waiting for some gas. I was starting to get impatient and thinking about driving off, but I didn’t. I waited and it turned out just fine. I appreciated the great customer service.”

Now it was her turn to process.

“Oh, yeah, I remember. I was in training then.”

“You told me it was your first day.”

“Yeah, it was. I always try to leave my customers with a smile on their face.”

“Well, you’re very good at what you do.”

I told her I’d written about our encounter on my blog. We shook hands and I asked her name.

Nikkie.

She declined to be photographed, but agreed a picture of her nametag would be fine.

We shook hands and I drove off, grateful for the chance to compliment a minimum-wage worker for her million-dollar service. And mindful, once again, to show kindness and respect for those in low-status jobs.

Read the original post: “Patience”

 

101 comments

Call me weird, but I notice numbers.

When the odometer changes every hundred or thousand miles to a new set of zeroes, I notice.

When I look at my digital wristwatch and it spits out 11:11, I notice the pattern.

When the calendar falls on Nov. 12, 2013, I notice that it’s 11-12-13.

So naturally I notice when the comments on this blog reach a milestone. Even if I’m a day or two late.

18569505

My friend, Lynn, registered the 100th comment when she posted a comment on “42” – my recent musings about what I was doing at that age.

Another friend, Rachel, put me over the top — at 101 — when she commented on ‘Beautiful Ruins’: Beautiful Book.

It’s now been six months since I began Rough and Rede II, hoping for a fresh start after 4 years and 10 months of the original Rough and Rede blog. If you’re among those who contributed to the first 101 comments, I thank you for reading and taking time to share your thoughts.

Soon, it will be time to launch Voices of August, my annual month-long guest blogging project. Though I appreciate all the feedback when I link these posts to Facebook, I especially treasure the comments left on the blog entries themselves as there is a permanency to them that you don’t get with Facebook.

As always, thanks for reading, everyone. Keep those comments, coming. I’ll be sure to notice No. 200 and probably No. 222, too.

Photograph: 123rf.com

 

 

 

 

The spoils of victory

poker7-19-14

Next stop: Las Vegas.

If I could, I’d play poker every weekend. There’s something about a game with so many variations of what to play and variables of how to play that I find totally engaging. When do you draw cards? How do you calibrate your bets? When do you bluff? And, yes, when do you fold?

Whether I win or lose is secondary, though lately I’m on something of a roll. Last Saturday, seated in a neighbor’s borrowed folding chair at my own cloth-covered dining table, I was the big winner among a group of five guys. I’m calling it my “lucky” chair now and may be tempted to borrow it again. Not that I’m superstitious or anything.

The other thing about poker is that it makes for a great evening of relaxation. Good food (that is, if pizza, chicken wings and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups speak to you), good conversation and friendly competition make for an unbeatable combination. As the host, I invariably wind up with some leftovers. And this time, owing to a couple of classy contributions, I found myself with some pâté and crackers, cheese, olives and organic grapes. (Thanks, Ed and Bob.)

I’ve got eight or nine guys on my list of invitees so no two gatherings of five players is ever quite the same, depending on who’s in town and who’s available.

Next game up looks to be September — at someone else’s house, for a change. We’ll see if my winning streak continues on foreign territory.

42

the-graduateI hope I’m not stepping it into here, but a short little essay caught my eye this morning. Bear with me.

First, a quote from Tom Junod in the just-delivered August issue of Esquire.

Mrs. Robinson was forty-two. And so if you want to see how our conception of forty-two-year-old women has changed over the last five decades, simply imagine The Graduate remade today, with Cameron Diaz in the part made famous by Anne Bancroft. Or Sofia Vergara. Or Leslie Mann. Or Amy Poehler. Or any of the forty-two-year-old women now gracing our culture.

Second, a quote from Candice Chung, writing in DailyLife.com, ridiculing Junod’s piece as shallow and sexist.

Long before there were listicles on the internet, magazine editors have devised the art of folding numbers into headlines to create intrigue.  And while women’s glossies tend to revolve around stories like “37 new winter looks under $500”, and “17 juice cleanses that won’t kill you”, the brains behind men’s magazines have focused their energy on a different kind of statistics – women’s sexual shelf life.

Third, a paragraph from Wikipedia pointing out that Dustin Hoffman, portrayed as 20 and going on 21, was actually 30 years old at the time of filming while Anne Bancroft was 35. Katharine Ross, cast as 19-year-old Elaine, was 27. (More trivia about initial casting choices, filming locations, etc., found at previous link.) BTW, “The Graduate” was released in 1967, some 47 years ago.

Still with me? These three little tidbits caused me to pause and ask three questions:

Q. OK, so which male celebrities were born in 1972 (and thus are or soon will be 42)?

A. A partial list would include Ben Affleck, Jude Law, Wil Wheaton (the kid in “Stand By Me”), Shaquille O’Neal, John Cho (unforgettable in “Harold and Kumar”) and Eminem.

Q. What was I doing at 42?

A. That would take me back to 1994. Lori and I had been married for 19 years. (Yep, hitched at 22). We’d moved to Portland 9 years earlier. Our kids were then 14, 11 and 6. I may have been in the best physical shape of my adult years, running 10Ks and playing basketball every Sunday morning. After nearly a decade of reporting and editing at The Oregonian, I was about to begin a new job as newsroom recruiter director. 

Q. What were YOU doing? Yes, you, the person reading this article.

A. Leave your answer at the bottom of this post, please, in addition to or instead of what you might say on Facebook.

Final thought: The number 42 also resonates for me as symbolic of the intersection of Major League Baseball and civil rights. After all, it was Jackie Robinson’s uniform number when he broke the color barrier as a Brooklyn Dodger.

Still with me?? Here’s the famous scene:

Photograph: filmposters.com

 

 

Saturday Sounds: London Grammar (again)

Yes, I featured London Grammar just three months ago here in this space, but the more I hear ’em, I more I like ’em.

This British trio is at the top of my playlist these days, thanks to their clean, almost understated sound and mesmerizing vocals by Hannah Reid.

The band is coming to Portland this fall and I snagged a pair of tickets this week for their Nov. 28 show at the Roseland Theater.

They’re on tour now, performing music from their debut album, and I very much doubt they’d perform this song — a cover of the All Saints song “Pure Shores” — when I see them. It would be a pleasant surprise if they did.

Jonesing for data

walter-wabash

Jess Walter reads excerpts of his work during a visit to Wabash College in Indiana.

While the rest of the digital world indulges in TBT, I’m following up yesterday’s post with some fine writing from Jess Walter’s book “Beautiful Ruins.”

“Claire wakes jonesing for data; she fumbles on the crowded bedside table for her BlackBerry, takes a digital hit. Fourteen e-mails, six tweets, five friend requests, three texts, and her calendar – life in a palm. General stuff, too: Friday, sixty-six degrees on the way to seventy-four. Five phone calls scheduled today. Six pitch meetings. Then, amid the info dump she sees a life-changing e-mail, from affinity@arc.net. She opens it.”

 

“P.E. Steve drove a Plymouth Duster with deep bucket seats. He had a gone-to-seed superhero look, with blocky, side-parted hair and a square jaw, and an athletic body just starting to swell with middle age. Men have a half-life, she thought, like uranium.”

 

“Sometimes, during her various rounds of chemo, she had wanted the pain and discomfort to be over so badly that she could imagine being comforted by her own death. That was one of the reasons she’d decided – after all of the chemicals and radiations and surgeries, after the double mastectomy, after the doctors tried every measure of conventional and nuclear weaponry against her diminishing frame, and after they still found traces of cancer in her pelvic bones – to just let the thing run its course. Let it have her.”

Photograph: wabash.edu