Time's running out. 2009 has a day left, so it's time to take stock a bit. No, not to worry, this isn't one of those year in review pieces. The media doesn't even wait till the end of the year to do that anymore. How many times must we see Tiger's women, the White House party crashers, or hear the impassioned pleas of John and Kate?
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Time's running out. 2009 has a day left, so it's time to take stock a bit. No, not to worry, this isn't one of those year in review pieces. The media doesn't even wait till the end of the year to do that anymore. How many times must we see Tiger's women, the White House party crashers, or hear the impassioned pleas of John and Kate?
Sunday, December 27, 2009
This morning there was a wonderful story in my hometown newspaper. "Newspaper," you remember what that is/was? I find that I enjoy buying one out of the little street racks because they will soon be gone. Anyway, the story, by one of the best feature writers in Portland, was about a very poor North Portland high school that is on the rise again because of the efforts of some alumni from way back in the day. They dusted off their letterman's jackets, their yearbooks, and their memories and went to bat for the old school, encouraging clean up efforts and renewed interest in the school's needs given the current state of the economy.
Monday, December 21, 2009
In all the gift frenzy of the last couple of weeks, I was quickly reminded of the kind of gift that comes unexpectedly. Being an urbanite most of my life, I tend to spend winter fantasizing about warmer weather adventures to come. Living in Oregon has only fed that habit. On very rainy days, like this one, I dream of cloudless mornings where the smell of sage and fir trees surrounds me like the water in a stream. I imagine the underground springs that feel my favorite rivers. I picture myself seeing the water for the first time since last fall and releasing a sigh of relief that the water levels are healthy. I think back to those gray wet days of splashing through the city of Portland. It's all worth it when the summer comes and there is plenty of snowmelt, the rivers are running high and clear, the mountains are green. Living in Oregon means seeing more wildlife too; even in the city. I once saw a bald eagle while walking over the Broadway Bridge. But yesterday, I chanced to look up and hear a swoosh. Directly above I saw a formation of geese heading south. Their perfect V slithered over rooftops and then angled down, over and away. The formation lost precision. But only for a second or two. What a wonderful gift.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
It's certain now. The mountain has taken three more. And in the wake of the most recent climber deaths on Mt. Hood an argument rages. Why isn't it mandatory for all climbers to carry a simple tracking beacon? Pitted against each other are folks who think that the small signaling device, which rents for $5.00 would not only save more lives, but would also same the cost of search and rescue/recovery missions. They don't forget that it was not too long ago that a helicopter full of rescuers crashed on the mountain in a vain attempt to find missing climbers. Seems like a no brainer, but the adventurous do make a few points that merit attention.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Tanzan and Ekido were once traveling together down a muddy road. A heavy rain was still falling.
Coming around a bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to cross the intersection.
“Come on, girl” said Tanzan at once. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her over the mud.
Ekido did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. Then he no longer could restrain himself. “We monks don’t go near females,” he told Tanzan, “especially not young and lovely ones. It is dangerous. Why did you do that?”
“I left the girl there,” said Tanzan. “Are you still carrying her?”
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
I have a terrible habit of not only listening to other people's conversations, but entering them on occasion. I wasn't always this way. With age, comes wisdom, right? Sounds nice, but I know it's really the teacher in me. I've guided too many discussions, wanting them to be like works of art, hoping the right question or response will trigger something more, something deeper, something uncomfortable, something thoughtful. If I think I can be helpful, or offer advice on something they are struggling with, I'll speak up. If someone has something on the tip of their tongue and just can't remember a person place or thing, and I can help, I will.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
The picture in the window catches my eye. It's old. World War II ad of some kind. I'm standing on the sidewalk looking in the window of a furniture store, but I don't see anything but this old advertisement. Too small to be a poster, it must have been taken from a magazine from the time. In the picture a GI sits in a trench with a small Christmas tree perched on a mound of dirt. I mean small. It's about 2 feet tall with small pieces of red yarn tied on for ornaments. The soldier is reading a letter, I think. I don't know because I can't take my eyes off a huge ammo clip for an automatic weapon that rests near the tree as well.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
We finally got the key to the attic door. It opens to reveal a rough-hewn stairway that winds around to some storage space in the top of our house. That key opening that door is what initially sent me into my closet. All I needed to do was go through a few storage bins to make sure they could sit in the attic for the next few months. I threw out a broken picture frame in one, and decided to leave some artifacts from the last English class I taught in another. That's when I saw my childhood stamp collection; not the book, that's still packed somewhere, but a box from a now defunct department store that my mom gave me when I was 10. Inside the box were a Band-Aid tin and an empty Marlboro flip-top box, (both good for storing loose stamps, lots of small envelopes with collectable postage and even more torn off corners containing stamps mostly from Mexico and Japan, that my dad used to bring me from work. He commuted with a man originally from Mexico and worked for Sony. My stamp book was full for those two countries.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
In the Men’s Room
at Portland Meadows,
Frank Sinatra is always singing.
Through the white porcelain, up and around the mirror splashed
sinks, over the din of flushing urinals,
Frank Sinatra sings,
Into this private party, rat-pack, brassy big band braggadocio
Comes a post parade of wily winners and lowly losers.
They unzip and position themselves to The …. Party’s …. O ver.
Outside, in the real world, missing people bubble up in rivers,
seven-year-olds die in drive-bys from Maine to Mexico,
a board of education president commits suicide,
Islamic terrorists stare back through wooly manes, rifle sight eyes, and layers of cotton clothing,
But in the Men’s Room, at Portland Meadows,
Frank Sinatra is always singing,
Fly me to the moon,
And let me play among the
Post Traumatic Stress Disordered,
Children of a lesser dog
In the Men’s Room, at Portland Meadows,
A Chicana with glistening black hair, wipes sinks, clears the floor of abandoned exactas, trifectas… personal handicapping.
In this beige-tiled cocktail lounge, patrons void, then avoid the “lady,” tucking in shirttails, jiggling flies, deciding they’d better wash their hands now.
Outside, the planet hatches more headlines,
Sex scandals, sweet and sour Tweets,
An ape rips a face,
An addicted horseplayer rips a ticket.
Stick around, there is always another race, somewhere,
A play among the stars,
And in the Men’s Room at Portland Meadows,
Frank Sinatra is always singing.
Luck be a Lady Tonight.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
This is the time of year to be very careful. Some say it coincides with the moon in Scorpio. I'm not so sure about that, but I do know that the last couple of weeks in November are prime time for the strange and dangerous.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
He never knew that he was a veteran. All he knew was that he'd traded in his life tinkering with an education, a girlfriend, and wondering about a future for an army uniform. No Germany, no Korea, no local military base; Vietnam, just Vietnam. It was 1968, we were down to one Kennedy, no more Dr. King, escalating death tolls, and hundreds of thousands in the street. All he really wanted was to get away. Tie up that relationship that would have never worked, get a chance to smoke and drink without being hassled, maybe learn a trade, and consider himself a man.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Panel 12 East
ROW 1 DAVID GREGORY¨WALTER JOSEPH JANKOWSKI¨MICHAEL WALTER KOLEMAINEN¨PHILLIP DALE JOSLEN¨HARRY WILLIAM JUNTILLA¨
ROW 2 DANIEL JOHN ILLI¨TED T LOCKLAR¨ELEFTHERIOS PANTEL PAPPAS¨LEROY BURKS Jr¨RONALD A VAN SESSEN¨
ROW 3 LAWRENCE R COSTELLO¨CHARLES CHAPMAN CLARK¨MARION LEON DRAPER¨RICHARD JOHN EDRIS¨CHARLES N CARSON Jr¨
ROW 4 RONALD ALBERT FROMM¨DAVID LEE HALL¨DAYTON LEO HARE Jr WILLIAM GARCIA¨ANDREW HERMAN HODGE¨
ROW 5 JOHN ERNEST JOHNSON¨JAMES LEE HOLCOMB¨ROBERT IRVIN JOHNSON¨TIMOTHY HOLSTER¨EDWARD PAUL AUSTIN¨
ROW 6 JUDD WAYNE KENNEDY¨JOSEPH PAUL MACHALICA¨DONALD KAY LAKEY¨JOHN FRANCIS KNOPF¨JOSHUA THOMAS JONES¨
ROW 7 DANIEL TIOFILIO MARTINEZ¨WILLIAM G MENDENHALL¨ALLAN ARLYN MILK¨MICHAEL LAVERNE PUGH¨THOMAS MICHAEL MOORE¨
ROW 8 GARY LYNN SUBLETTE¨MICHAEL HOWARD STOFLET¨ROBERT LE ROY SHUCK¨JOSE ANGEL VAZQUEZ¨KLAUS WARRELMANN¨
ROW 9 BILLIE ALVIN ALLEN¨CHARLES EDWARD BROWN Jr¨RANDY BLAKE WRIGHT¨GEORGE ROBERT WEAVER Jr+JERRY PAUL WITT¨
Saturday, November 7, 2009
It's nice to have a dose of pure joy to end this week. Bad enough it poured all day, the leaves clogging the street drains, the water in small ponds over the curb, the freeway full of hydroplaning fools. This week the health care bill took a few more jabs, the media convulsed repeatedly on missing children, new serial killers, and then the coup d' gras, the mass murder committed by an Islamic army psychiatrist. Hollywood has nothing on reality.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
One big player in determining how safe any school or environment can be is the Code of Silence. On a high school campus, this unwritten law enjoys health and wealth. The deliberate choice to remain silent in the face of moral outrage thrives in an era of collective "don't ask don't tell." How ironic, in this era of instant messaging, that the code of silence still supports so many egregious acts. Yet this glaring contradiction can become a savior. It just might be the key to preventing crimes of group-think that outrage and threaten so many.
Friday, October 30, 2009
I suppose it's just a matter of time until something or someone you know well shows up on tabloid TV. Given so many cable news (?) outlets, so many versions of "talk" shows, and so many TV personality types looking for something to talk about daily, something close to home will show up eventually.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
Sad day. I just heard about the death of Soupy Sales. Not sad for long. It's impossible to talk or even think about Soupy without laughing.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
This morning on my local Public Broadcasting station I listened to a portion of a call-in show on class size as a crucial issue in education today. I'm sure some figures were recently released placing Oregon among the states with the highest class sizes. I'm sure too, that some socially conscious producer put together a panel of "experts" to discuss the issue and invite listeners at home to call in and make comments.
I admit I only heard a portion of the program, but I feel compelled to comment on what I did hear. OK, I'll go straight to the point; what got my goat was a panel member who had taught for a little while and is now a "policy wonk." When this person was asked why she left the classroom, her answer skillfully moved from never giving any specific detail to a description of how policy was her real calling, to some other murky mumblings about other murky things. My point: how can someone who has never taught more than at least one decade be qualified to discuss the issue of class size? Granted, it only takes one year in the classroom to learn that the number of bodies under your charge has major consequences. Sure they can spout figures and studies, but my feeling is if they are still questioning whether or not class size matters, they' haven't a clue.
Emboldened by my surging frustration, I placed a comment on the OPB web site.
I fear I'm becoming a curmudgeon. It seems as if I have this strong drive to react to things I hear in the media, especially about education issues. Maybe it's become my role. If so, I need to think about how to continue to play this role without alienating the people I'm trying to reach. It's just rather difficult to keep my cool when the issue, like most in education today has a lot to do with political will. Why do we continually have to convince ourselves that we deserve good schools? Most educators I know have come to realize that people who study the issues and sit in think tanks all day mean well, but their efforts rarely effect change.
More and more I'm coming to believe that there is a strong parallel between education reform and health care reform. Put simply, what do we care about more...health or profit. Who do we care more about people or insurance companies? In our public schools today, what do we care about more, test scores or educating people. Who do we care more about...teachers or policy makers.
Monday, October 12, 2009
By the time I got to Wordstock, Portland's very own literary festival, it was Sunday. I'd carefully underlined all workshops and author presentations about memoir, because, let's face it, I'd still like to market my book in this economy. Seeing and hearing, and hopefully talking to some writers who had scored book deals would be inspirational, fun, beneficial. Most of what I thought might be useful was slated for Saturday. In the final analysis, I was not willing to give up the opportunity to watch some of the Breeder's Cup prep races, and, of course, Zenyatta win her 13th consecutive race.
So here I was on Sunday, touring the booths, the book sellers, the opportunities from self-publishing, to all manner of MFA programs. At noon, I noticed a pairing of authors that had both recently published memoirs. Giulia Melucci and Andy Raskin are both Brooklyn born writers, but that's where the comparison ends. Both have books out about their love lives. Raskin's is a clever book called The Ramen King and I: How the Inventor of Instant Noodles Fixed My Love Life. Aside from learning much more than I could have ever imagined about he history of Top Ramen and its wealthy, recently departed inventor, I have no clue how the sodium laced, just add water favorite saved anything. Raskin announced that his present girlfriend was in attendance, so he wouldn't be reading any letters from his ex-girlfriends found in the book. Apparently he had a problem with fidelity in his many previous relationships (he appears to be in his late 30s) and the business philosophy of the Ramen king was better than any therapy available at the time. We'll never know. Maybe it was a clever guise to make us buy the book.
The other writer, Ms. Melucci, was all too eager to give us every detail, as described in her book, I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti. She's an attractive, slightly zoftig 42 year old (I looked it up) who details, with recipes included, how she cooked for and lost all the marriage potential she ever found, fed, f'ked and frightened away. In the middle of her reading, she announced that the mother of one of her ex-boyfriends was present. She was pleased and from the reciprocal reaction of the older woman sitting in the front row, they still were great friends. "He's let me down too often," she said, "but he's read my book and OK with it."
In the selection she read to the 50 or so in attendance, there is a scene recounting her first meeting with "Mitch." Much like a blind date, they agree on a coffeehouse and meet for the first time. Giulia describes how they are in line, ordering a beverage, when he takes out some money. She counters with a $10 bill, saying "here's some money." He takes it.
During the Q and A session that followed, a young woman took the mic and offered a comment: "You should have known right then, when he took your money, what kind of person he was and that this relationship would never work." Applause. Probably right. Certainly had I been in that position, I'd have paid for the drinks. But I kept wondering about the entire area of dating etiquette in this post-feminist era. I remember a time when men were getting a strong message that women were independent, that they often preferred to pay their share on a date, especially if it's a first date. These equity issues also spilled over to opening up car doors, and other suddenly "sexist" forms of male behavior.
Many men my age get this. We understand that having someone pay for you all the time is not always preferable. I clearly recall wondering, when I opened a car door for a date, whether or not this would be judged as a good or bad thing. Feeling the cognitive dissonance of this issue, I remained after the presentation was over and managed to get my question heard by Ms. Melucci. "Giulia," I asked, when did the feminist movement decide that it was OK for men to pay all the time.?" I also added that I get what she's saying, and that my concern was not about the money, I simply wanted to know what the latest thinking was on this issue. I figured that since she worked for a number of publishers, had a book deal for her first book, and was a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, she'd be the perfect person to inform me.
"It's post-feminism," she said, and then shot me a look that dismissed my question as anything but serious.
I think I know why marriage is eluding this writer.
I went home and looked up the term "post-feminist dating." Apparently I am not alone. And not just men what to know what's going on. A number of women acknowledge 3rd wave feminism, but still are concerned with a generation who are all too willing to sacrifice the consciousness that was raised and overcome a few decades ago.
Friday, October 9, 2009
" By 2042, whites will no longer be the American majority. As immigrant populations -- largely people of color -- increase in cities and suburbs, more and more whites are moving to small towns and exurban areas that are predominately, even extremely, white. Rich Benjamin calls these enclaves "Whitopias" (pronounced: "White-o-pias").
A couple of days ago I listened with ever increasing interest to a program on NPR featuring Rich Benjamin, the author of the new book Whitopia.
Benjamin a black journalist, went to live in 3 enclaves that are overwhelmingly white communities. Places like St. George, Utah or Couer d 'Alene, Idaho. His book looks at this phenomena and without any heavy handed message, simply asks some questions about how the changing demography of the U.S. will impact our lives.
By the way, Benjamin was treated very well in these all-white communities, enjoyed playing golf, talking to people, and moving about without any problems.
After the program I logged on to the NPR web site and began to read the many comments that came filtering in. Lot's of spirited dialogue. Most folks took offense at there being something wrong with communities that don't seem to care about diversity. I was a bit surprised. Any notion that we are living in a post-racial America died right there on the computer screen.
"What's wrong with people living where they want to live? You liberals and bleeding-hearts can go on and live in your "diverse" crime-infested, trashed communities all you want; just stop guilt-tripping me about this. What about a blacktopia? or a browntopia?"
(Isn't that a ghetto?) If it is, there's not too much topia about it.)
Lots of fear,
Lots of anger,
Very little knowledge and understanding of American history, in my view.
One of the people who commented on the NPR site did mention another important book. She cited Sundown Towns, by James Loewen. The were (and still are) towns which had laws that no non-white person could remain after the sun went down. Now some folks find this rather hard to believe. They need only study history to document this claim. This puts a different spin on the reason why people decide to live where they do.
Taking a peek at other sites and discussion boards about Whitopia, it's clear that the systemic segregation in this country is not an important issue for many people.
How does that bode for the future? No wonder there is a cultural war. No wonder our schools are so segregated.
This story contrasts sharply with the murder of a black honors student in the meanest streets of Chicago last week. Lots of finger pointing there. Imagine, some folks blaming the teachers in that community. When so many young people are aimless, violent, without moral emotions, without families, it's a no brainer.
When I see the departure of so many tangible things like books, newspapers, school budgets, music made by musicians on real instruments...
I wonder about life in 2042.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Spent the first two days of October on the Metolius river in central Oregon. This was my first time between July and December. I've seen the Metolius on triple digit days and covered with a white winter ground cloth. October brings the changing of the seasons to this miraculous topography. If you don't know the Metolious, be advised. It is like no other region in the world. It's silent beauty put the awe in awesome. With that comes it fragility. Nonetheless, the river and it's environs are protected by those who inhabit the area and the small hamlet of Camp Sherman. They know what they have; they get it.
For fly fishers, the Metolious is uber unforgiving. That's part of it's charm. It takes more than luck or skill to catch fish there. It takes time. As in years. Even in the small tributary, Lake Creek, that I love to fish, I encountered nobody who caught anything. All were happy just to be there. If the fishing is difficult, the scenery more than makes up for the disappointment. This year was unlike any other I've seen in the last 10 years. The river was full of Kokanee salmon. Visible in holding patterns near the banks, they are the result of rigorous regulations and the political will to restore the area to it's original state. The locals were ecstatic. After the salmon spawn, their eggs will feed many of the resident redside and bull trout populations, and the decomposing flesh of the spawned out Kokanee will enrich the aquatic insect life. Win, win.
The water and the air felt like they were both in the 40s. Aside from some small stream spawned trout (first photo) who enthusiastically rose to a dry fly (why do 4 inch fish rise to a fly almost as big as their heads?) the Kokanee had other things on their mind. They fed on invisible plankton and couldn't be bothered with anything thrown their way.
It wasn't until Friday afternoon, when the sun came out from behind marbled clouds that I noticed a small hatch of cream-colored mayflies. Katie was with me, placing her folding chair on ground that would support, lifting her head up from reading Wally Lamb long enough to suggest a seam in the water or a location free of backcast interference.
"I want to try a small mayfly pattern," I said. "There is a small hatch happening and I think I have something that would drift well in the right spot." We moved a final time. The stream leveled out nicely to a broad swift section with subtle eddies and swirls. On about the fifth cast, we were rewarded with a spunky Redside bending the rod and trying to duck under overhanging vegetation right off the bank. I brought him in and asked Katie to hold the rod while I fumbled for my camera. This fish was a shock of bright red and gold with black spots. He had no plans to be photographed and let me know right away. Shaking free of the hook, he tumbled back into his pristine world leaving me as abruptly as he took my fly. Left with only his striking image I'm reminded, again, that these waters are like no other. The mystery continues. I so wanted to enjoy his coloration all winter long. Instead, I'm satisfied that we both made it home safe.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Why I Don't Write Music
I can only suggest what the world needs now.
one thing that won't make the list is another song where tomorrow rhymes with sorrow.
Sometimes when I sit and stare out the window it looks like it's raining, even on clear cloudless days.
I look harder,
it rains stronger,
Then, lifting the blind, I'm confronted with a warm day,
in the distance,
three folks sipping wine, puttering in flower-beds, and digesting monthly statements.
Yet in my view, rain continues to tease, continues to streak across my eye's horizon, continues to tempt me to write a lyric.
No rain, no song.
I wonder about things like holes in my Jeans. First the pockets unravel,
the small one for change is most vulnerable, Five years to wear through the knee,
even a thin wallet takes out the rear right, and then the bottom of the right front stares back.
While I consider the comfort of another pair, someone is paying twice the price for a new pair with holes worn like mine.
At 2:29 am I awake and finger the grain of my past. Crimes compacted decades ago, horrific as a poisoned river.
tagged boxcars sneaking and snaking,
Train whistle sounds again, this time in questions:
What if only one language existed?
Would that make any difference in how anyone lived this life?
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Driving back from the Bay Area last Sunday, a funny , as in peculiar, thought hit me. It was smack in the big middle of the toughest part of the drive: the section between Vacaville and Redding. This is mostly agricultural flatland. Towns like Dunnigan, Artois, Winters, Corning, Red Bluff, Anderson, and Redding. I know I've forgotten some, but no matter, they are all very similar, hot dry, dusty, conservative, with the requisite gas stations, motels, and "restaurants." The choice is either the usual fast food suspects like KFC, McDonalds, Subway, with an Arbys or Carl's Jr. thrown in here and there. Occasionally there is a Bill and Kathy's restaurant, a Pilot truck stop, or an Indian casino, usually with feathers in the name.
As if traveling through these towns isn't torture enough, some folks there go out of their way to place grotesque billboards by the highway extolling their political beliefs. I'm used to the usual reminders that Christ died for my sins, and the blood spattered anti-abortion diatribes that rest under large Oak trees in this stretch of Northern California. But this time I was treated to something new. A real reminder of just how far we haven't come.
The sign read "Produce the Birth Certificate." We all know what this is about. "Birthers" are attempting to spread their manure in California's agricultural factories and fields. Then it hit me. What if it were the reverse. What if every time you had to drive through these rural desolation rows the messages foisted on you were quite different. "Produce the Health Care for Everyone" for a starter. Maybe we could put graphic pictures of clogged arteries next to all the fast food advertisements?
This isn't going to happen anytime soon, but every time I go to some outpost of civilization between major cities I notice that there are more people my age with my politics around every corner. It's just a matter of time.
A former colleague of mine used to have a poster in her classroom which read "Unless we read, we live but one tiny life." I think there was a picture of a young girl reading a book with a sparkling collection of images, archetypes, and colorful people swirling inside a thought bubble. I have always found this notion comforting...until...recently when I learned that a friend of mine has an 80 something mother who is an avid reader, but about as repressed, depressed, obsessed, a real mess...of a person as can be. This woman is the kind of person that sucks the energy out of the room. Her face, as bluesman Taj Mahal once sang, is "in a permanent frown." Her family is way too fucked up to mention in this brief space, and I do not want to write about hypocrites, racists, dsyfunctional, illiterate, ignorant, privileged, useless, pathetic, misanthropes. This woman apparently reads widely. What happened? Why the tiny life? I know, I know, maybe she has another life like most in her family. It doesn't seem possible in this case. Can a person read for a lifetime with no apparent positive impact? You tell me.
Friday, September 18, 2009
I was telling a friend of mine the other day that attempts at breaking up the present configuration of our United States are not new. Like the ideas about dividing California into three distinct states, re-inventing the U S of A comes and goes all the time. It's actually very useful as an educator to turn students loose with a vivid imagination, some maps, almanacs or online equivalents, and plenty of paper, markers, and pencils, and let them have at it.
Demographically, economically, and politically we are very separate nations. The salad bowl is much more accurate than the melting pot. Levels of culture shock exist within our national walls. I remember working with three distinct groups of educators 10 years or so ago and confronting the fact that it would be very difficult for me to teach in Georgia, if at all. Even many I met from Michigan were not where I was philosophically as a Bay Area teacher at the time. "What country are you living in," almost passed my lips on a few occasions.
That's why when I hear, "We want our country back," these days, I'm ready to give some of it up. Go on ahead, I think, incorporate yourself into a nation where abortion is illegal, and the death penalty reigns. Build yourselves mono-cultural schools, find some legal citizens to put the food on your table, clean your homes and offices, and work for less than minimum wage. Invite the newly retired former governor of Alaska to be your leader; she's available. Y'all can have all the guns you want, you can drill till you can't drill any more. While you are at it, you might want to send your sons and daughters to as many Asian wars as you desire. You can make your own health care proposal without worrying about who you might have to share a waiting room with or whether or not aliens are sucking up all the resources. Knock yourself out, might as well build some more prisons, install cameras anywhere you can, and don't forget to add a few more radio and TV "news" shouters.
It's tempting just to make a red state/blue state division. It would definitely be faster. I vote Aye! The only problem is that the red states would have much larger percentages of mosquitos, the obese, creationists, and non-readers. The blue states would have 80% of the fresh water, the best vinyards, the best universities, and certainly the best beaches.
Hey...Let's do it!
Monday, September 14, 2009
It’s fascinating to see the variety of tattoos on display these days. But something just crossed my path which, I swear, looked more like my Aunt Dorothy’s dinnerware from 1953. A malaise of semi-tropical flowers in semi-tropical colors. One person’s floor is certainly another person’s ceiling. This on the same day as a conversation I had with a woman in a coffeehouse earlier. It was one of those “I’m talking to you and telling you everything about my life whether or not you are interested moments. At first I thought she was just autistic or perhaps had Asperger’s syndrome. Her voice was a few decibels louder than most and it was clear she had no sense of social borders, social decorum. Big deal; I’ve got time on my hands these days. So after her spiel about a drug addicted boyfriend, how she’s waiting for God to send someone to marry and how her 7 year old cat is her only friend, she left as quickly as she enveloped me. Something about having to deliver motorcycle parts to someone somewhere. I really don’t want to know any more.
Whenever I'm out walking I love the fact that most people that pass by are other humans that share this planet whom I've never seen before. They are people I do not know. I often look right at them. To many, it's unnerving, but occasionally someone smiles or nods or somehow breaks the plane of distance and image. And then there are those folks like the pair I saw this afternoon. Both walking on the same sidewalk towards each other. Both on cell phones. Neither one saw the other; it's a wonder they didn't trip over each other.
In related matters, looks like a real crisis in civility is underway. From calling the President of the United States a liar in the halls of Congress to Serena ranting over a bad call by the line judge to Kanye West being Kanye West, the media’s all over it. “Is this the death of civility?” they ask. Honey, it died a long time before last week. Still we parce the meaning of these latest events.
Maybe it's all about the need to tell people what you think and where you are every moment of the day. Pitiful. And yet there are those who declare all these tirades brilliant. The all publicity is good publicity school of thought. Here I invoke Marshall McCluhan, "the medium is the message."
Sunday, September 6, 2009
This little flap about having elementary school kids listen to a speech by President Obama isn't little; it's huge. There is much here. For starters, it mirrors the fear and paranoia (they are not the same thing) that some so-called conservatives harbor. I truly wonder what they think they are conserving? Reactionary? Yes, definitely. If nothing else, it highlights the irrational thinking that many teachers face daily when dealing with either parents, spineless administrators, or opportunistic politicos.
Another laughable dimension of this episode is the use of the words "lesson plan" to describe both Obama's intention and their worst fears. Most of these folks wouldn't know a lesson plan from a bed pan. Are they that insecure about their own political beliefs that they must censor the President of the United States? In some ways my use of the word laughable is terribly inaccurate. It's not funny; it's pathetic. It is such convoluted thinking. It reflects all the worst values that strangle any glimpse left of an American dream, an American promise. But I digress, I forgot that these folks are still clinging to the notion that the President isn't a citizen of the U.S. Somebody should tell them that we ALL came over here in a boat. Even Native Americans if you go back far enough.
If you look carefully here you can see the racism, the intolerance and the ignorance. It's like putting on polarized sun glasses and looking into a trout stream. Suddenly, shadows in the deep dark become visible forms. In this case, no spotted Rainbows or Brookies, what you get is old myths, worn out notions of "Socialism" and the unthinkable: health care for all.
I'm fascinated by a central contradiction here about the role of the government in people's lives. Back in the day there was a little story that opponents of the draft used to tell. "If a government representative came to your front door and told you (not asked) that he was taking your dog, most people would have a fit. But when they take your son, where's the outrage?" Many of these folks who rail at their government about health care, funding for education, and now the simple act of a President urging kids to stay in school, are unconscionably silent when it comes to questioning that government in the arena of foreign policy. Fear is at the bottom of it all.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
My writing group, The Guttery, had it's first reading last night at the Blackbird Wine shop's First Wednesday series (http://The Guttery.com) I had pushed for this quite a while and it's very gratifying to see that it all turned out so well. Aside from the recognition we got... items in a few of the local papers, listings on the web, and lots of friends showing up, I still can't get over the look on their faces as they accepted the applause offered. A real Sally Fields moment there. Yes, guys, they really, really like you.
Only 5 of us read last night, so that means that the other 5 have yet to experience this thrill. Hopefully that will come. As the date for the reading came closer, I could sense the anticipation and excitement from some of my colleagues. We spent a couple of group days critiquing our "performances" and even practiced with a mic once. It was well worth it. Given that I've had the most experience in front of groups and performing, I was able to pass on some of the things I learned while doing "An Evening with Woody Guthrie."
I must confess, a small part of me felt like that teacher again. Watching...hoping...loving...smiling...admiring...enjoying.
It was good to find my teacher, public reader voice again too. If you couldn't make it, not to worry, you can see a nicely edited version right here:
This morning at about 8:00 I checked my email and saw that Tola had sent everyone in the group a thank you and an idea. I saw, too, that he sent it at 2:38 am. Winding down, I guess. His idea involves a reading series that we sponsor, regularly.
On a personal note, I received some nice responses in the audience to the Preface of my memoir that I read. One guy told me, "you really had me." Felt good. Especially since I received a rejection form letter in the mail that afternoon. There are so many ways to say we're not the right agent/publisher for you. I'm coming to believe it's up to me to get my book out there. The internet is more than happy to oblige, so now it looks as if the next step is to explore those options.
I've noticed lately that as so many print magazines are dying, many more online versions are cropping up.
It's a great way to garner exposure and build up a resume. Let's see, Bruce Greene's work has appeared in Rudolf's Diner, Bay Area Writing Project Digital magazine, The Blood-Horse online, and...(Coming soon to a digital zine near you)