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  They don’t make ‘em like they used to I can’t buy them at the store The Levi’s that I once knew I can’t wear them any more The material is far thinner, It don’t last too long this way The blue jeans that were once a winner, Do not last from day to day.

Context is Everything

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In the early 1970s ethnic studies classes for high school students were less controversial than today. The term “critical race theory” wasn’t used yet and most of these classes were merely an attempt to tell the truth no matter how difficult or ugly. People were ready. Inclusion was long overdue.  Working in a school district with high percentages of black and brown students, I inherited a program called “Minority History.”  This was a one-year course divided into two semesters. The first was an entire semester devoted to black history. The second semester featured teaching units on Native American history,  Mexican American history, Asian American history, and units on Women’s history. Women, as a minority group, was an early attempt to develop and teach a curriculum that dealt with sexism as well as racism.  I found myself in charge of this program because it originally belonged to the woman I student taught under and because I was a recent College grad with an undergraduate major at

It’s About Time

 I need to leave her. Like many relationships it’s complicated. Still, the time has come and I know it. Like myself, we have both lost some of our attraction with age. Things weaken, they occasionally fail, slow down. She has, at times been good to me. The unexpected surprises and poignant moments have not been forgotten. They occasionally make me smile.  They sneak up on dark days and make me think it has all been worthwhile. But, times change. What was once solid begins to crumble. We adapt or we don’t last long. So, I’ll be heading out soon. My long attachment to horse racing has run its course. I need to leave the race track.  In the beginning, she lived up to the billing.  It begins with the horse. Always, the horse comes first. I have always had a visceral reaction to horses. As a thoroughbred trainer friend of mine always said, It’s in the blood.” It must be because it’s as if I can’t help myself in the presence of an equine athlete. The energy, the glossy coat, pointed ears, ri

C’mon Along

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 I have made the 12-hour drive from Portland to the Bay Area more times than I care to admit. The latest came last week.  This time of year, the weather plays a crucial role in determining how smoothly that drive goes. Fortunately, the roads over the mountain passes were clear this time. The rain and fog was ever-present. Though the landscape varies, some characteristics of this trip remain the same. The Oregon part of the trek is often beautiful with sweeping pastureland in the Willamette Valley, and fir and pine forests for hundreds of miles. Rivers are abundant. The Willamette, the McKenzie, the Umqua, the Klamath, and the Upper Sacramento are all visible from the car window.  In the last 5 years, we have not driven straight through, choosing to stop at the halfway point in Ashland, Oregon. Ashland offers a good place to eat and sleep with peaceful views, bookstores, pubs, outdoor stores, and a beautiful park. It is the home of Southern Oregon University, and, of course, the renounc

Otter Obsession

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 Yesterday morning as I put on my Otter socks, a recent Christmas present from my sister-in-law, I realized that people now feel free to give me all manner of Otter things.  How this got started can only be attributed to my experience while fishing the headwaters of the Deschutes River in Central Oregon.  More about that later, but for now, let's look at how and why people get attracted to collecting specific things and why that passion is reinforced by their friends and family in the form of gift-giving. I had a friend once who collected chickens.  She was so obsessed with this fetish that I found myself aware of anything representing chickens every time I went shopping.  Once in a while, but rarely, I gave her a chicken object.  It made me feel good to reinforce this obsession. The same went for an old girlfriend who collected penguins. She had a shelf full but no matter, people gave her penguins all year long.  My best guess is that when a person expresses such a strong feeling

What Lies Ahead

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 This is the time of year when we take stock of our lives. We think about change and make promises to ourselves. Some call it resolutions but by whatever name, we evaluate expectations for our self-improvement.  This is not bad, but it all comes down to lasting power. Still, the opportunity to self-reflect is always worthwhile. The year ahead features both another Olympic Games, and a Presidential election. Both are on shaky grounds. Both will enrapture the media and both are vulnerable to terrorist attacks.  We are also at an inflection point with big concepts like democracy, artificial intelligence, and existential wars that roll on with little regard for those most vulnerable, especially the elderly and children. To these threats, we must add our constant bearing witness to a disintegrating environment and our need to change our behaviors to sustain this magnificent planet for those yet to be, and those yet to come on board with what is demanded. Mostly, the start of a new year is a

Passing People

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 Sometimes it does seem as if we are every age we’ve ever been. When the Fire dept. showed up at my neighborhood “Safer Together” block party and let all the kids climb over their shiny red engine, I  regressed to a 9-year-old. Watch me catch a fish and I’m 12 again. Watching a baseball game with the Giants playing I become all ages. But in the last few decades of our lives, something decidedly different occurs. Expression of those differences becomes problematic. Having spent the better part of my life as a high school teacher, I am comfortable around young people, especially adolescents.  Consequently, I often acknowledge them when walking in public, forgetting sometimes that they don’t think of me as a familiar, albeit trusted teacher they know. When that happens, I get either no response, a cold eye roll, or a rapid look away. Being perceived as a threat or inappropriate may be the last thing on my mind, but it frequently happens. In fact, it seems lately that most people we pass o