Lyle Lovett: A class act

Lyle Lovett in the spotlight as evening falls at Edgefield.

Lyle Lovett in the spotlight as evening falls at Edgefield.

If you were to ask me what I know about Lyle Lovett, I would tell you he strikes me as an American original, with a genre-jumping style that incorporates country, blues, gospel, swing and bluegrass and layers a big band sound over it all.

I would tell you he seems to tour constantly and that he seems to be a genuinely nice guy,  unpretentious and sincere.

After seeing him in concert this week, I can say all that is true.

Attendance was lighter than usual Monday night.

Grab a lawn chair or a blanket or just sit on the grass. It’s all good. .

Monday night was a perfect summer evening on the lawn at Edgefield. Our two low-back chairs were set up to the front and left of the stage. Next to me: a friend attending the outdoor concert venue for the first time. On stage: Lyle Lovett and His Large Band.

For 2 1/2 hours, Lovett and his band entertained a mellow crowd of Portlanders with an eclectic song list and a smooth sound that defies easy categorization but works, really works. Throw fellow vocalist, Francine Reed, into the mix and you’ve got a one-two punch that’s powerful and appealing.

No need to go on at length here, so I’ll share just a few thoughts:

Where’s the crowd? Attendance was light for some reason. There was plenty of room on the lawn and, most surprising, there were virtually no lines for food or beverages or even to get into the venue. Part of the Edgefield experience is queuing up, but I didn’t miss that at all. Why so few people? Maybe because it was a Monday? Whatever. Those who stayed home missed a very good concert.

With my friend Erin Payton. Small coincidence: Lyle Lovett is from Klein, Texas, a suburb of Houston, where Erin sometimes goes for work.

With my friend Erin Payton. Small coincidence: Lyle Lovett is from Klein, Texas, a suburb of Houston, where Erin sometimes goes for work.

Where’s our friends? Lori was just coming back Monday from a weekend trip to San Francisco and had earlier said she’d pass on this concert. I invited our mutual friend, Erin Payton, a charter member of the Broken Taco Shells bowling team, and she readily accepted, being a fan of Lyle’s music. Once we arrived, we looked for another Taco Shells alum, Brian Wartell, and immediately spotted him and his girlfriend, Alexandra, at a table in the shade. We got our drinks and had a pre-concert chat, then went our separate ways to our seats.

How big is the Large Band? By my count, 14 members. A four-piece horn section, two on guitar, one on upright bass (Viktor Krauss, brother of Alison), one each on pedal steel, piano, fiddle, cello and drums (Russ Kunkel, who’s played with Jackson Browne, Neil Young, Bob Dylan and many others) plus vocalists Lyle and Francine.

How good is the Large Band? Very, very good. And versatile. They opened with a long instrumental that allowed each of them a brief solo — even the cellist — and at least three of  them sang lead on one song or another. They shift easily from one style to another and their musicianship is first class. Oh, and they look oh-so-cool with their matching suits.

Lyle Lovett and His Large Band. Great way to spend a weekday evening.

Lyle Lovett and His Large Band. Great way to spend a weekday evening.

What about Lyle? He’s the real deal. Warm, engaging, humble, generous. Whether he’s singing a ballad, stepping aside to let Francine or someone take the lead, or chatting between songs, he makes you feel as if he’s invited you into his living room.

At one point, he asked a fellow Texan, now living in Portland, to join him for a bluesy song where he played harmonica. Check him out: Rich Layton & The Troublemakers.

Which songs did he play? I don’t know all his material, but I do know his playlist included: Here I Am, Church, Don’t Touch My Hat, If I Had a Boat, That’s Right (You’re Not From Texas), She’s No Lady, What Do You Do (see below) and Wild Women Don’t Get The Blues (featuring Francine, of course).

Where can you see him? He’s on tour all the rest of this year. (Dates are here.) He performs every year in the Northwest and Portland is a regular stop. If you haven’t seen him, make plans to see him in 2016.

He’s a class act.

Halfway there

Pirates fans cheer and wave a flag after a 2013 playoff win against the St. Louis Cardinals. Hoping the Bucs can go all the way this year.

Pirates fans cheer and wave a flag after a 2013 playoff win against the St. Louis Cardinals. Can the Bucs can go all the way this year?

The last time I wrote about my three favorite Major League Baseball teams it was to lament the elimination of all three — without a single win among them — from the divisional playoffs last fall.

Detroit, Pittsburgh and Oakland all qualified for the post-season and all three were promptly bounced out after one game. This year, it looks like only one of the teams has any chance of making the playoffs — the plucky Pirates.

Sunday’s slate of games marked the end of the first half of the season and the results are mostly discouraging.

— The Pirates, after last night’s stunning 6-5 win against the St. Louis Cardinals, have the second-best record in the National League with 53 wins, 35 losses. They appear to be a shoo-in for this year’s playoffs and just might have the magic to make a run at the World Series. But they’ll have to get past the Cardinals, their Central Division rivals, and that’s no easy task.

Their best player, and my favorite NL player, is center fielder Andrew McCutcheon, who once again could be a candidate for Most Valuable Player. Assuming they do make the playoffs, it will be the third year in a row after 20 consecutive years of losing seasons. Quite the turnaround.

Only one team gives me reason to hope in the second half of the season.

Only one team gives me reason to hope in the second half of the season: Pittsburgh.

— The Tigers, an American League powerhouse for so many years, appear to be a team in decline, partly because of injuries to key players and partly because of the team’s failure to re-sign their best pitcher.

The Tigers have a great collection of hitters but their pitching — especially their relief pitching — is shaky. Both were on display last week when I went up to Seattle to see Detroit beat the Mariners, 5-4. I thought they might build some momentum, but no. Perhaps the worst loss of the year came just two days later in a game against Minnesota when they had a 6-1 lead entering the ninth inning and gave up seven runs, losing 8-6 on a walk-off home run. Horrible. Inexcusable.

The Tigers have fallen to a record of 44 wins, 44 losses — the definition of mediocre. I think it’s wishful thinking that they will catch fire and turn things around in the second half.

— That brings us to the Oakland A’s, my hometown team. The Athletics have gone from first to worst. They were Western Division champs in the American League last year, but blew a near-certain playoff game to Kansas City, which caught fire and wound up in the World Series against the Giants. Now the A’s are in last place in their division, even behind the woeful Mariners, with 41 wins, 50 losses.

The A’s are known for making lots of trades, but they overdid it this year and wound up with a weaker team. They still have good pitching, but their offense isn’t good enough to carry them.

The All-Star Game is Tuesday night, I’m unlikely to tune in as these sorts of showcases too often produce little drama and no sense of “team.” The game is handy as a marker for the halfway point of the season but little else. This year, I’m realistic enough to lower my expectations for Detroit and Oakland — but I’ll keep ’em high for Pittsburgh.

Go, Bucs!

Photograph: Jeff Curry, USA Today Sports

On the bike

View of the Steel Bridge from the Eastside Esplanade. The bridge accommodates autos, buses, light rail, bikes and pedestrians.

View of the Steel Bridge from the Eastside Esplanade. The bridge accommodates autos, buses, light rail, bikes and pedestrians.

I had every intention of running in the woods this morning and every intention of blogging about a different topic. Sometimes other opportunities present themselves, though, and that’s why you’re reading this instead.

Woke up with a sore back (hold the aging jokes, please), so I decided to hop on the bike since I had to run an errand downtown anyway.

Good choice.

A street artist's homage to the Rose City and its bicyclists.

A street artist’s homage to the Rose City and its bicyclists.

An hour of pedaling over bridges and onto city streets and waterfront bike paths once again reminded me what a simple pleasure it is to be on two wheels, taking in fresh air and share-worthy sights.

Some are obvious: views of the downtown skyline and the Willamette River. Others are less so: a whimsical touch of public art on a bike lane. And others are fresh perspectives on familiar scenes.

Two quick takeaways:

1. You really, really need to practice defensive driving when you’re so exposed on a bike. No duh, right? Not saying drivers are careless. Just saying there is so much potential for bad things to happen because we’re sharing the road. It’s a good practice to make eye contact whenever possible to confirm that a driver sees you and you both know who’s going do what next.

2. No need to get naked to have fun. I passed on the World Record Skinny-Dip, a simultaneous event happening around the world Saturday. U.S. participants included three nude resorts in Oregon and a Portland nudist club.

Without further ado, a photo-heavy post.

A view of downtown from just south of the Moda Center, home of the Trail Blazers.

A view of downtown from just south of the Moda Center, home of the Trail Blazers.

Almost feels like you're on the water when you're crossing the pedestrian deck of the Steel Bridge.

Feels like you’re on the water when you’re crossing the pedestrian deck of the Steel Bridge.

A lot of people had the same idea. Go to Portland Saturday Market.

A lot of people had the same idea. Go to Portland Saturday Market.

Powell's Books, recently named the No. 1 independent bookstore on the planet, attracts former  presidents and bibliophiles from all over the world.

Powell’s Books, recently named the No. 1 independent bookstore on the planet, attracts former presidents and bibliophiles from all over the world.

The Fremont Bridge, viewed from the deck of the Broadway Bridge. The city has 10, soon to be 11, crossings over the Willamette.

The Fremont Bridge, viewed from the deck of the Broadway Bridge. The city has 10, soon to be 11, major crossings over the Willamette.

The south side of the Albers Mill building features a colorful panel of old company products.

The south side of the Albers Mill building features a colorful panel of old company products.

Who knew the McCormick Pier condos had a swimming pool? I do now.

Who knew the McCormick Pier condos had an outdoor swimming pool? .

Built in 1913, the Broadway Bridge was the city's first drawbridge and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Built in 1913, the Broadway Bridge was the city’s first drawbridge and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Take me out to the ball game

george1

Tigers cap, orange shirt, navy blue shorts — in sync with Detroit’s team colors.

Maybe that should read “Took Myself Out to the Ball Game.”

I had a rare day off in the middle of the week, so I planned ahead and decided George should treat George to an early-morning train ride to Seattle and a day game at Safeco Field.

It was a good thing to do.

I got up early Wednesday, skipped my daily exercise and arrived at the train station in plenty of time for the four-hour excursion by rail, a nice alternative to a long day behind the wheel fighting freeway traffic.

Got some reading and writing done, chatted a little bit with the passenger next to me (a journalism grad from Arizona State who had a cool job booking comedy acts at colleges) and caught a short nap.

IMG_0329The train let us off a short walk from the stadium and I snagged an upper-deck seat behind home plate from a scalper. I was all set.

My favorite team, the Detroit Tigers, was in town and this was the final game of a three-game series with the host Mariners. The teams had split the first two games so this was the rubber match.

The Tigers prevailed, 5-4, in a game that had a little of everything: two home runs, two batters hit by a pitch, four double plays, a wild pitch, a passed ball, two stolen bases, one overturned call due to instant review, and a game-winning sacrifice fly.

(Oh, and there was a knucklehead in jeans and no shirt who decided to run onto the field in the second inning, arms spread wide as he grinned at the crowd. He was roundly booed, quickly tackled by security as the crowd cheered, and hustled off the field.)

In the ninth inning, the Mariners had two runners on base and a slugger at the plate who’d already gotten three base hits. He struck out to end the game. Whew.

It was a fun getaway on a glorious afternoon. (Thank you, Lori.) I could have asked a friend or two to join me, but I wanted to keep it simple.

safeco field1

The view from Section 329.

Today’s game made up for last year’s debacle. Two buddies and I drove up to Seattle last summer to watch these same two teams play and I had to suffer through a listless 4-0 Detroit loss. It’s bad enough when your team loses, but to not even score? Sheesh.

Riding back on the train, there were lots of Mariners fans, either subdued in defeat or just plain tired. Talking trash didn’t seem right under the circumstances. Best to ride home in silence, quietly savoring the victory, do some more reading and writing, and get up refreshed the next morning.

In all respects, Wednesday was a good day at the ballpark. Even if I skipped the “buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack” part.

Rockin’ the dogs

George, Lori, Nathan & Simone during a break in the action.  Little brother Jordan couldn't be there this year.

George, Lori, Nathan & Simone take a break from the action. Little brother Jordan couldn’t be there for this year’s international competition.

While many Portlanders spent the July 4th weekend setting off fireworks and sweating through another couple of steamy days, Lori and I escaped the heat (sort of) under a large misting tent as part of a prestigious global culinary event..

Well, maybe that’s a stretch.

The 6th Annual International Hot Dog Competition went off without a hitch at the home of our daughter Simone and her wife, Kyndall.

Kyndall, the always entertaining mistress of ceremonies.

Kyndall, the always entertaining mistress of ceremonies.

It’s a backyard throwdown featuring some of the most creative hot dog toppings you’ve ever heard of. This year, 14 chefs brought their best, assembling homemade ingredients on four or five wieners each so they could be cut into bite-size pieces and shared with a crowd of appreciative eaters. After the samples are consumed, everyone votes for their favorites and and the top three vote-getters are awarded prizes so tacky they’re cool.

This year’s winners? The Raw Dog, featuring ahi tuna and yellowtail salad. The Cornholio, a deep-fried corn dog with a remoulade dipping sauce. The Kim Chee-Hua-Hua, slathered with Korean-style fermented cabbage and fresh, raw vegetables.

Other options included mac-and-cheese with potato chips; a pork sausage gravy (my entry); brisket, pickles and smoky barbecue sauce; a Philly cheese steak with sauteed peppers; and a haute dog made of freshly baked and seasoned dough wrapped around the wiener (Lori’s entry).

The event began in Pittsburgh, where Simone and Kyndall lived for two years, and has continued annually since their return to Portland. This year was the third for Lori and me and, in my estimation, the best event yet.

It’s hard to beat this combination of food, friends and fun.

Simone's MexiDog, with tater tots and jalapenos, didn't fare as well as her winning Shrimp PoBoy entry a year ago.

Simone’s MexiDog, with tater tots and jalapenos, didn’t fare as well as her winning Shrimp PoBoy entry a year ago.

Aside from the hot dogs, there were side salads, brownie squares and creamsicle-flavored jello shots.

People stayed cool under a misting tent (worthy of an award itself) or by dipping their feet in a child-size swimming pool.

Artists, musicians and DJs mingled with government and nonprofit workers, and at least one law clerk and paralegal. Several members of Simone and Kyndall’s all-women dragon boat rowing team were there as well.

Second place (or first loser, as Kyndall refers to it) went to Nathan. Who can argue with the prize?

Second place (or first loser, as Kyndall refers to it) went to Nathan. Who can argue with the prize?

Lori and I were the oldest ones in attendance but felt entirely at ease, having known many of S&K’s friends for years. The affection people have for one another — and freely demonstrate — is lovely to see. Kyndall and Simone are perfect hosts: welcoming and witty, irreverent and inclusive.

Oh, and did I mention the real dogs? There were six, I think, mostly small breeds and one mellow pit bull named Charles Barkley. They all got along great.

The star of the afternoon had to be Uni, the 9-year-old Yorkshire Terrier who gave her owners (our son Nathan and his girlfriend Sara) a heart attack when she ran away from home Friday night, only to be discovered the next day in the parking lot of a dive bar several miles away in an adjoining county.

Had she still been missing Sunday, Uni’s absence would have cast a pall on this year’s party. Thankfully, she turned up, evidently no worse for the wear and tear running all those miles. Little wonder she took more than one dip in the water to cool off her paws.

Next year will be the 7th annual. Hard to imagine this hot dog palooza getting even better, but I’m sure Simone and Kyndall will find a way.

Water, woods & wildlife

Pristine Eagle Lake.

Pristine Eagle Lake.

Nothing quite compares to our little getaway off the Washington coast as a place to chill. During the time we sail away from the ferry dock to Anacortes to the time we arrive at Orcas Landing and then drive out to our place near Eagle Lake, a sense of calm comes over me. My breathing slows, my blood pressure drops and my senses come alive in appreciation of the outdoor scenery.

Afternoon clouds over Redes' Roost.

Afternoon clouds over Redes’ Roost.

En route to our cabin, we see goats, sheep and horses and view pastoral scenes with farmhouses and ponds. We drive through Eastsound, a laidback village of 2,000 residents, cruise through a canopy of tall fir trees in a state park, skirt the shore of a lake and a bay, and then pass by homes whose big yards draw families of deer. Up a hill we go, climbing a dirt road that brings us to Redes’ Roost, a log cabin looking out over the water to a panorama that includes Lummi Island, Mount Baker and Bellingham. (Click here for a map.)

Just writing about it makes me relax all over again.

Last week, Lori and I visited our place on Orcas Island for the second time this year. It was a Monday-through-Friday trip, a little shorter than usual, but still enough to produce fresh memories of one of my favorite places on Earth.

With apologies for any self-indulgence, here’s a taste of the island life.

Iconic Cascade Lake.

Iconic Cascade Lake.

The water

On this saddlebag-shaped island, roughly 20 miles from west to east and 7 miles north to south, you’re never far from sight of the water.  Orcas is the largest of the San Juan Islands, nestled between the Strait of Georgia and Puget Sound. You can’t get to our place without going through Moran State Park. And, in doing that, you’ll pass by picturesque Cascade Lake, the site of summer canoeing, kayaking, paddleboating, swimming and angling.

I ran around the lake one day, an always satisfying experience made even better by my decision to keep my iPod shut off. Solitude + Silence = Something special.

Past visits have included kayaking out of Deer Harbor and Doe Bay, runs and walks around Mountain Lake and short hikes to Cascade Falls and Obstruction Pass Beach. And then there’s Eagle Lake, a feast for the eyes.

Lori & Charlotte on the South Loop Trail leading into the Cascade Lake Trail.

Lori & Charlotte on the South Loop Trail leading into the Cascade Lake Trail.

The woods

At the end of our driveway, a sharp left turn takes us up a hilly road that connects with several trails meandering through the woods. Thick-trunked trees, moss-covered rocks, feathery ferns, colorful foxglove and other wildflowers all combine to create a natural landscape that invites exploration.

Foxglove on a trail above our house.

Foxglove on a trail above our house.

If I’m not running around Cascade or Mountain Lake, I’m most likely running the trails around and near Eagle Lake. Nothing like a corridor of leafy trees to counter summer’s heat or provide a shelter of sorts when it rains.

The wildlife

As I started a run around Eagle Lake one morning, I saw a large bird fly from let to right and settle in a treetop. I slowed to a walk, curious what it might be. A hawk? Nope. A great horned owl. Majestic.

A goldfinch snacking at the feeder on our porch.

A goldfinch snacking at the feeder on our porch.

On another morning at Eagle Lake, as Lori and I set up a board game to play at the water’s edge, we spotted a female bald eagle. As we should, right? I mean, it is called Eagle Lake.

The following day, as I played golf with three other guys, we spotted another bald eagle watching us as we walked the fairway on the No. 2 hole. That white head of feathers is so striking and the bird itself such an inspiring sight.

Back at home, I was delighted to see a goldfinch among the songbirds that came to partake of the feeders. Other visitors included Steller’s jays, rufous-sided towhees, Oregon juncos, pine siskins, robins and hummingbirds.

If I were more of a birder, my list would be a lot longer. But, hey, I’m good.

***

We had dinner at Doe Bay Cafe with our friend, Jennifer Brennock.

We had dinner at Doe Bay Cafe with our friend, Jennifer Brennock.

The trip allowed us to spend some time reading and relaxing, hanging out with our dogs, and seeing friends as well.

We’ll be back again in just a few weeks — our third and final trip of the year. May the next visit be even more satisfying than this one.

The moon over Doe Bay.

The moon over Doe Bay Resort.

The walker

walker-4I’ve seen her around the neighborhood a few times. A heavy-set woman in her late 60s or possibly early 70s. She wears a faded Blazers cap, loose-fitting dresses and athletic shoes. She uses a walker to get around.

I know she lives in a high-rise a few blocks from me, one of those places that takes in low-income and disabled residents. When I’ve run into her, she always says hi and makes a point of commenting on whichever dog I’m walking that day.

I don’t know her name, but I’m going to ask next time I see her.

Why the interest in this woman?

Well, it was a coincidence that in yesterday’s post I wrote about having logged a full month of daily exercise. When I came back from the gym, Otto and I were taking a short walk when the lady came ambling toward us. Once again, we exchanged hellos and a smile and continued on our separate ways.

I couldn’t help but think that as I age, I sure hope to keep at least as active as her. I have the luxury, for now, of excellent health and the means to belong to a health club just minutes away from home. If I so choose, I can run or bike, too.

This morning, I saw her again. Charlotte and I hit the streets before 6 a.m. and there she was, a block ahead, her back to me, pushing along her walker. This time, there was something different. She had a cloth grocery sack attached to the handlebars and stopped at a curbside recycling bin. She bent down, reached in, added a couple of cans and bottles to her sack, then resumed her walk. I paused to watch as she crossed the street and turned south in the direction of the high-rise.

In that moment, I saw the woman in a different light. Evidently, those walks aren’t just about exercise but also about sustenance. I admire her getting out and about in the fresh air — something my late mother resisted, when a simple walk would have done her so much good. But my heart broke just a little bit seeing that every nickel and dime matters to this woman.

Selfishly, it made me realize how fortunate I am, to be able to walk strictly for pleasure. More broadly, it made me think of one of this country’s most vexing challenges — income inequality.

So many of us take for granted the freedoms that come with having enough money to take care of our basic needs and still have some left over for dining out, entertainment or travel. And yet there are those who walk the streets while many of us are still asleep, quietly collecting cans and bottles to supplement their meager incomes.

Next time I see The Walker, I’m going to try to engage her in more than just a hello and how-are-you-doing.

Photograph: Dynamic Medical Equipment Centre

30 for 30

South End Loop connects to the Cascade Lake Trail in Moran State Park. Great place for a run.

South End Loop connects to the Cascade Lake Trail in Moran State Park. Great place for a run.

Well, I pulled it off — an entire month of exercise, with not a single day missed.

That may not seem like much, but I’ll take it. Especially when I didn’t even set out to accomplish it, as I did earlier this year, only to fall short because of illness and injury.

This time around, it just happened on its own. Halfway through the month of June, I checked my exercise log and realized I’d done something every day. If I didn’t call attention to it, I thought, I just might pull it off.

And so I did, with a helpful dose of support from Lori, who put up with me squeezing in one swim on a Saturday evening and then a very early Sunday morning run the next day.

Obligatory selfie after the 4.5-mile run.

Obligatory selfie after the 4.5-mile run.

Here’s how the month broke down (and as I type this, I fully realize these stats matter to one but myself):

10 runs

7 swims

6 weights

4 bike rides

2 yoga sessions

1 round of golf *

* And, by the way, that round of golf on Orcas Island last Friday produced my best scores ever for 9 holes (50) and 18 holes (105). Never before do I remember breaking 120 for 18. At this rate, I’ll be ready to join the PGA tour in, oh, maybe 2025?

A gorgeous day on the links at Orcas Island Golf Course. Saw a nesting bald eagle on No. 2.

A gorgeous day on the links at Orcas Island Golf Course. Saw a nesting bald eagle on No. 2.