Thursday, March 31, 2016

Some Signs

There are some signs of good things ahead,
A crow scolds trying to in habit last year's nest,
Housing prices have increased everywhere and you
Don't always get what you pay for.
People still smile and say hello,
That's huge in this economy,
Everything you've ever subscribed to or given support
To has come due at the end of this month,
It's not even April 1st, so it can't be whisked away,
Tough choices,

But pre-schoolers still parade in front of your window,
They continue to grab heartstrings,
(Does the heart have strings?)
There are no strings attached, no?
My waistline remains the same, the Giants will play for keeps
Next week and I get to buy a 2016 Fishing License,
Afternoons lengthen,
Rain will continue, for a bit,
but some signs, linger and glow,
good things ahead.

Monday, March 21, 2016

A Collection

We met in the morning.  Almost 10 years now.  Most every morning.  10 years now.  It's the time before the day really begins.  The brief stop; the respite.  We share thoughts, ideas, concerns and minor victories and setbacks.  Sometimes we read.  But we share books too.  Movies, politics, religion (sparingly) and outrage.
The old guy mostly writes alone in  corner.  Who reads his journal, I wonder?  It appears meticulous. Neatly drawn characters on expensive paper.  Personal, to be sure.  But created in public.
There are families.  Children grow and romp inside this oasis.  They begin withdrawn but soon their conquests are shared experience.  They are seen and heard.
Once a couple got engaged at one of the tables.  The stage was set, and the ring produced.  Photos, smiles, and coffee all around.
The city planner who talks about his wife, though she never appears.  Teachers, retired and active share lesson plans and critiques.  Readers, gamers, textures, and wayfarers all occupy the space.
Street people stop over.  They get a cup too.  Somehow.  They have names like "feather" and "overalls."  They appear and reappear.  The winter gets cold and wet.  The windows steam up like our glasses when we enter in December.

There is a retired pastor, and a guy with an NRA cap.  Deals transpire over mobile users who are too loud and too self-serving.  People share tattoos, oatmeal, and weekend plans.  Lots of out of towners enter because they know just what to expect.
The aging folk princess writes a new song.  The I T guys speed through having conversations with everyone and none simultaneously.
Often, people just sit and stare.  At the dogs and sirens going by.  At the freezing rain, an occasional snowflake, the sudden rainbow or fleeting sunlight.  They catch a glimpse on one another and force tiny smiles.
The educator from Nigeria. the one from Vermont.  The guy who sits in the corner and sketches.  The special needs couple who just want to participate.  Writers abound.  The well-read columnist from the hometown paper sits right behind one of them.  If they only know.  Odd couples.  All sorts.  If you can imagine it, I've seen them there.  We all have a day to begin.  We all want a boost.  What goes along with a coffeeshop that closes.  This illegitimate gathering will need to reinvent itself.  It's not about the coffee.  Neve was.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Polar Opposites

The current Presidential election season is affording us many new things.  Aside from the apparent hostility on the Republican side, there are a number of other firsts that have so many people on all sides of the political spectrum questioning how we got where we seem to be.
In all the descriptions and proposed explanations we hear the word polarized. Yes we are quite polarized as a nation.  Nothing new.  If we know our history, we know the long story of our differences. We know the wars, battles, and tragedies that have resulted.  In fact, a peak at the conversation and costumes currently on display reveals that we haven't really made all that much progress.

The candidacy of Donald Trump and his megalomaniac, narcissist, brash toying with the media and his followers has only revealed what was always there.  The racism, intolerance, and dumbed down analysis of the problems and challenges facing this country play perfectly into the hearts and minds of the hateful.  Their pain becomes displaced onto those most vulnerable.  The manipulated smile, they cheer and now, increasingly they lash out.
What if we took our polarization to heart and did something about it?  What if we created two countries out of the two poles that separate us?  Not really a blue state and a red state, but two separate countries where cultural values would be agreed upon.  One might have a government where  there is no gun control and abortion is illegal.  One might have a government where health care is provided for all and education is free.  How much happier would we be?  Would all the stress that results from our current division be eliminated?  Tempting, no?
It's been suggested many times.  Boundary lines have been drawn and artist conceptions, complete with new names, abound.  Who gets what?  Who would go where if we follow through on a national divorce?  Perhaps our values would prevent us from even getting beyond these basic steps.  How fascinating, though to live in a country that is truly united.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


I just found out my favorite coffee shop is closing.  I'm in shock.  I'm angry.  I'm disappointed.  I'm miserable.  But I'm not surprised.  My brand began in the Bay Area and like many solid businesses that valued quality, pioneered the spread and enlightenment of quality, politically viable, affordable (for most) products.  We're not talking Starbucks here.  Their coffee is vastly inferior to what I'm talking about.
What hurts so much is that it's not just about the coffee.  In fact, it's hardly about the coffee.  I can still get and drink this brand in my home or at a few other spots in my town.  What is really happening here is the destruction of a community.

Coffee shops are like watering holes.  They make relationships, friendships, and provide places to gather.  I often meet my student teachers at coffee shops because they are WiFi friendly, warm, accessible places.  They are conveniently located and always open.
Since moving to Portland a decade ago, I've been to many, many coffeehouses.  This city is well endowed with dozens of superior places.  Some even have what I'd call drinkable coffee.  Many do not.  But one thing they all share is the socialization capacity.  People meet and talk with one another. People share ideas, families, sorrows, achievements.  Often the workers are part of the process.  This is what dies when a coffee shop, recently under new corporate ownership, is forced to close.  The official line is that the rent went up or the lease terms are changing and the volume of business doesn't warrant remaining open in this neighborhood any longer.  Another manifestation of profit over the human condition.  I can just hear some upwardly mobile budding CEO say, "I'm not in the business of caring about people's needs. I sell coffee."  You sell much more, I would offer.  Maybe when the door shuts a window will open someplace else.  It's yet another quality of life issue in this changing world we inhabit.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Look and Listen

I'm not sure when I first noticed it.  But President Obama does say it often.  Still his tone is so very different than most of the current crop of candidates.  And I use the term candidates loosely.
"Look, these politicos are the most immature, insecure, inept group in a good while."  Why the quotation marks?  That's the point.  Have you ever noticed how many times that politicians respond with a sentence that begins with "Look" or "Listen?"  I have.  Seems like this is a fairly recent occurrence. I submit that it is fairly significant as well.
It's the attitude of using this imperative one-word sentence that bugs me.  Not only is it school yard rhetoric, it's definitely the language of power.  It's a commandment for you to stop what your doing and see things my way.

If you were ever in an English class that went deep with parts of speech and types of sentences, you might remember the classic one word sentences that were usually exclamatory.  Stop!  Don't!  Look! and Listen!  Remember how these were diagramed?  (You) / Look!    It's commanding you to do something, not that there is always something wrong with that.  But the way politicians avoid a direct answer to a question, it gives them a leg up on districting their response while seemingly authoritative.  Just my view, but see if you don't feel a bit put off when instead of giving you something specific in the way of a courteous response, someone tells you, no commands that you look!  As if you need to see something.  Now in the case of an oncoming car or any other physical threat, I will definitely look.
And while we're on the subject of sentence structure, this is as good a place as any to reveal and share the all time sentence diagram stumper of my days in high school Language Arts classes.  Mr. Carpenter, my 11th grade teacher gave us this sentence to diagram:  The Private laid out his bedroll over the Sergeant's objection.  Look, it was a real challenge to place that prepositional phrase beginning with over somewhere.