The holiday season saw me take the show on the road to Tulsa again this year. Travel day was Tuesday the 19th, a cold, rainy morning in Portland. The plane was late coming in, slow deplaning and boarding, and about an hour late taking off for Dallas, which left my connection for the Tulsa flight dicey. I flew Southwest with its open seating arrangement, so I grabbed the first open seat I found up near the front of the plane. It was a middle seat of course, between a young woman on the aisle who was not petite and a woman more of my generation by the window who was considerably less petite than the woman on the aisle. My travel companion by the window informed me we needed to put the armrest up because it rubbed against her hip. I told her not to worry, we would make it work. And we did, bonding when she dropped things, phone, glasses, and I retrieved them for her because there was no way she could reach down to get them. We enjoyed a pleasant flight together.
The plane touched down in Dallas at almost precisely the moment my connecting flight was scheduled to leave. I breathed easily only when the monitor showed that gods of flight had smiled on me. The Tulsa departure was delayed by thirty-five minutes, which turned into a bit better than an hour. It seems that the plane ahead of my plane was stuck at the gate with a mechanical problem and needed to be pushed away. It took the airport crew awhile to get that taken care of. I did not mind. The delay was better than having the plane leave without me.
Weather was lousy, with thunderstorms in Dallas and all the way to Tulsa. My checked bags came out at baggage claim soaking wet. The first order of business when we arrived home was to throw almost everything in the clothes dryer because most of it was damp. Second order of business was to secure a libation from the tasty assortment Trani had on hand. It may have been a COOP Ale Works F5 IPA. Things were looking up.
My nephew Dan arrived from Minneapolis Wednesday morning, niece Rachel from DC that night, and there we were, including the new member of the Tulsa family. Two weeks before Christmas Trani and Candace accompanied one of her fellow teachers on a mission to adopt a dog. The friend's dog adoption fell through, but Trani and Candace spotted a beast who stole their hearts, a year-old puppy found in a ditch a week or so earlier. She weighs in at seventeen or eighteen pounds, as big as she will get, so said the folks hoping to find her a home, white with cute brown markings. They wanted to give her a name that went with the season. Candace did not go for Mistletoe, so Holly she is. They call her Miss Holly. Part of her appeal lay in the fact that she exhibited a quiet, calm demeanor at the pet adoption place. That changed the instant she arrived at her new home, where she metamorphosed into quite the playful pup. Trani told me that Candace would be getting a dog-training book for Christmas. He hoped he wasn't getting one too.
On Thursday morning we noticed that Miss Holly calmed down noticeably after Trani left for the store. Coincidence?
Thursday was beautiful, bright and warm with temperature soaring into the sixties. I rose before anyone else, showered, dressed, and came out to find Trani getting ready to run. What the heck, I changed into my running clothes and we got in a nice 5½ miles at a pace not nearly as slow as I tend to go when running alone. This proved to be a good move because it turned out to be my only run of the visit. It would be almost sacrilege not to have gotten in at the least the one. And as I say, it was a good one.
The week flew by as such things do. The gang put up with me when I was not at my best after being laid low by a vicious cold that began coming on at the Tulsa Runner Christmas party Thursday night. As we all know, even my best tends to be problematic at times. I spent a considerable portion of Friday and a lesser portion of Saturday in bed reading, napping, and generally feeling like an al-Qaeda camel was sitting on my head. Trani would have plowed through. For me it was the right move.
Ah, the Christmas party. Trani laid out quite a spread for the party that kicked off when the store closed at seven. One of his running pals smoked up a mess of brisket, pork, and beans. People showed up with an array of side dishes. Trani provided regular, chocolate, and tiramisu cheesecake for dessert. And it goes without saying we had an ample supply of beer and wine. Alas, I ate brisket, pork, and beans until I regretted it, then went for cheesecake.
Tulsa Runner attracts quality people and kick-ass runners. Trani probably has something to do with that. The party gave me a chance to renew acquaintances I have made through the years and cherish after their fashion. There is David Jordan, who it so happens has run all three of my marathons, San Antonio in 2010, Twin Cities (Minneapolis-St. Paul) in 2014, and Portland in 2015. David has a number of other notches on his marathon belt as well. Good guy. I met Osbourne back when the store first opened and I ran the cash register during my holiday visits. He is another marathoner, these days more into bicycling and triathlons when he's not working on an oil rig in the Gulf. Terri Cassel is a marathoner of my generation who is competitive in her age group. Terri and Trani race. I run to find the finish. She is me as another fine person who goes out of her way to be friendly when I'm hanging out at the store. Then there is Philip, Trani's main man at the store, Pastor Bill Webb, Ben the Flying Finn, and the rest. It's a fine crew.
Among the evening's highlights was the drawing at the end, conducted by Trani with aplomb, flair, and all the grace he could muster. Prizewinners scored coffee mugs bearing the logos of local businesses with running socks and other goodies stuffed inside. Then came the grand prize: possession of the traveling tights for 2018. About the traveling tights...words can scarcely do them justice, or infamy, as the case may be. I once had a photo of Trani wearing the tights but cannot lay my hands on it. Custom-made for him back in the early days of the store, the tights are silver and black in a kind of garish fish-scale motif bordering on the psychedelic. Attractive they are not. The rules are that the prizewinner must wear the tights in public at least once during the year of possession, either in a race or for a group run with at least eight other participants who can bear witness that they were indeed worn in public. At year's they must be washed and returned for the next drawing. As a family member, I was not eligible to enter the drawing. Whew.
The annual Christmas morning festivities began with us tearing into the gifts under the tree. Some families forego the exchange the exchange of gifts after the children are all grown. We are not one of those families. We enjoy giving gifts to one another, and we enjoy receiving them too. After all, receiving with joy brings joy to the giver. It's the right thing to do.
Trani certainly received his Clemson Tigers license plate thingamajig with joy.
The tag said it was from Dabo (Swinney, head football coach). I suspect this would be news to Dabo. Trani loved it just the same. Now he is waiting for Dabo to give him two more wins and back-to-back national championships for his alma mater, a little school whose campus lies along the shores of Lake Hartwell in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Everyone got the customary book from Uncle Dave except for Rachel, who got a renewal of her Sunday subscription to the "fake news" Washington Post. Other gifts came from the Portland Art Museum members' day sale. The gifts were warmly appreciated, but I fear this was not my most creative Christmas giving. I would like to have done better and aim to do so next year.
A few days before Christmas Trani mentioned that I did not give him and Candace much to work with in terms of what I might want or need for Christmas. It occurred to me afterward that what I really want is to be smarter and more creative than I am. Not much can be done about that. I was more than happy with the customary running shoes. After trying on a number of different shoes Trani brought out for me at the store, I decided to go with something new, Saucony OMNIs. It will be fun to see how these bad boys compare to the Brooks Adrenalines that have served me well the past few years. Also landed a new backpack, running socks, and snazzy underwear, one pair for running, the other for daily use. The family went overboard on the gifts again. They always do.
Let's see, what else was memorable? We awoke to a bit of snow Saturday morning. No one was disappointed when it did not stick around for long despite not warming up much. After Thursday Tulsa was bone-chill cold for the duration. As always we enjoyed an abundance of food and drink, with memorable dining at home and out and about. No visit to Tulsa would be complete without breakfast at Brookside by Day and curry at India Palace. New to me were Mondo's Italian Restaurant where we watched Charlie Chaplin and 3 Stooges shorts projected onto the walls as we dined and drank a very nice house red, and Roosevelt's, "a mecca for beer lovers in Tulsa," with passable bar food and a truly magnificent selection of frosty malt beverages. Candace wove her magic with Christmas dinners, ham on Christmas Eve, turkey and dressing for Christmas Day, with sensational accompaniments, roasted broccoli and brussels sprouts, beans, cornbread, and more. She nailed it all.
Tulsa is no stranger to coffee culture. A 2015 review carries Nordaggio's owner Tor Norstrom's statement that Tulsa has become the greatest city for coffee houses per capita in the country since he opened his shop in 1998 (Scott Cherry, Review: Nordaggio's still serving great coffee in remodeled space, Tulsa World, February 11, 2015). I have not fact-checked the claim. It seems plausible. I did not make it to Nordaggio's this time, but Dan and I made it to Robin's Roast in Jenks, just across the Arkansas River from Tulsa Runner, on Wednesday afternoon. Thursday Dan, Rachel, and I walked to Brookside to hit Shades of Brown, a venerable spot whose artworks, funky-ish bookcase, and mismatched furniture give off a Portlandish vibe.
And movies. I had hoped to join Candace and Rachel for Lady Bird at Circle Cinema. That did not pan out, as they saw it while Trani, Dan, and I hit the Woody Guthrie Center. They liked the film. I should be able to catch it in Portland. Saturday we saw Paterson, which Candace had seen and enjoyed and a friend had recommended to me. I will pass along my recommendation without getting into a full-bore review. This is one nice film, with a fine performance by Adam Driver as Paterson, a poetry-writing bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey.
Sunday evening we took in The Force Awakens at home to prep for the Sunday viewing of The Last Jedi at the megaplex. Coincidentally, Driver plays the Dark Side's Kylo Ren in the two Star Wars movies. Supporting roles in Frances Ha and Inside Llewyn Davis are among his other credits. I saw the first Star Wars when it hit the screen many year years ago, and I caught Rogue One with Dan and Rachel last December. I can go with them. They are fun for what they are. But I still do not what the fuss is all about.
Tuesday afternoon while Candace and Rachel caught Lady Bird the guys took in the Woody Guthrie Center, "dedicated to spreading Woody's message of diversity, equality, and social justice."
The center features photographs, audio and video presentations, musical instruments, Woody's drawings, paintings, and handwritten song lyrics, and much more. This was a pleasure. Truly inspiring and timely.
For all the good times, life goes on, and sometimes the season is bittersweet. Candace's Dad, Dan and Rachel's Grandpop, passed away on Christmas Eve after a lengthy illness. Our thoughts are with them and Candace's family in New Jersey.
Wednesday's return home was uneventful. I passed the leg from Tulsa to Las Vegas reading The New York Times. From Vegas to Portland I divided the two hours between The Brothers Karamazov and a journal entry. Portland was cold and bleak, with a smattering of snow on the ground from some previous day. Thursday morning I road-tested myself with a whomping 1.3-mile run through Laurelhurst Park. The jaunt left me worn out but otherwise no worse for the wear and eager to get back to the routine.
What lies ahead? Trani and Dan are training for Boston in April, Trani's fifth or sixth Boston Marathon, whatever number it is, Dan's first. I think the plan is for Dan to pace Trani, which means he will aim for a 3:15 marathon instead of trying to break 3 hours. As for me, I built up a decent base in the fall and early winter. I look to move on from there when I get past the cold.
The poetry work continues, revising old poems, maybe finding some new ones, and keeping submissions out in the internet aether. Paterson stirred up the urge to return to the desk, to pen and paper or computer, and hack away. The flame burns low and flickers erratically these days but never goes out. I'll keep at the blog. No doubt there will be too much raving about politics and current affairs. I ask readers to bear with me. The 41st Portland International Film Festival is on the horizon (February 15–March 1). Beyond that, who knows. I have no special plans. We shall see what comes.
And that about wraps it up for the Christmas entry. More anon. Keep the faith.
Memo from the Editorial Desk
Check out the Gallery page for more photos from Christmas 2017.