Monday, September 26, 2011

I think it happened something like this… #6 - Boredom

#6 - Boredom

The guys grew tired of record stores, sporting goods, and watching girls. We ended up in a stationary shop. Wandered while the lone clerk reluctantly followed. I picked up a stapler, wove through the shelves, turned a corner, slid it behind some envelopes, and bolted.

The clerk met us at the exit. “I think you forgot to pay for that stapler.”

“What stapler?”

“The one you picked up.”

“You accusing us of stealing? Go ahead. Call the cops.” We smirked, shrugged, offered up our empty pockets.

He feigned looking, backed off. “Get out. Don’t come back!”

We laughed and walked away.

Monday, September 19, 2011

I think it happened something like this… #5 - Russell


His puffy red face and misshapen mouth were the result of beatings and non-existent teeth. 

He collected bottles and scavenged garbage while mumbling threats to imagined people. He’d pedal fast, bent over the frame of his rusty, crooked bike. Kids would chase and taunt, but never really tried to catch him. Nobody wanted the game to end.

We heard rumors that he lived in a shack near the market. Some older kids bragged to a wide-eyed audience that they sure showed him. “We broke in and trashed the bum’s place.”

I stayed clear of Russell, out of fear or pity.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Going Local

Let’s start with “God bless America.” Might as well tick people off from the beginning. I find it a narrow, selfish, arrogant view. It can be cloaked in the language of deep traditions and loyalties, but it is shortsighted. If God is in the business of blessing, I can only hope that that blessing is extended to all. None of us actually deserves the blessing of God and, certainly, my tribe has no more claim to it than others.
And what does this have to do with the world of “going local?” I’ll try not to ramble too far, but here’s my pitch.  Going local sounds so good. It’s trendy, cool and, dare I say, hip? It makes for great conversations and allows participants to feel superior to those uninformed or disinterested, and yet, uncritical acceptance of this movement ignores several important questions.
I live in a small city surrounded by prime farmlands. Seasonal fresh produce abounds and the farmer’s market is the place to be. We have our balance of an older downtown and mall/strip mall district. The infusion of the mall in the 80s killed downtown for a decade or more. But, it eventually came back. Small shops, offices, galleries, coffee shops and restaurants mix with the offices of the mayor and county executive and their minions.
For the most part, the other stuff — the mall and its bastard big box children — are on the other side of the freeway. We talk about IT in a condescending manner. Downtown is US, the mall and all is THEM. We go to their evil empire, but don’t want others to know. We make excuses or avoid the mention of it, but there are things you just can’t get in town.
But wait: don’t all those fast food restaurants, chain stores and their kin employ hundreds, if not thousands, of entry level workers, teens and college students, part-timers, early retirees and others needing work and its benefits? And don’t those people live locally and spend locally? Don’t they thereby contribute to the overall local economy?
My bigger question is this. Is the push for local another whim of the privileged, the current trend d’jour? Is it anything more than another flashy opportunity for those affluent enough to be able to ignore lower prices and free parking? I think — maybe I fear — that the answer is yes.
And what about the global economy and the flat earth? So much reminds me that all are connected. Changes in technology have interwoven people in dynamic ways beyond geographic addresses. Who my neighbor is and what defines my neighborhood are not the same as in former eras.
Here are few of my simple questions and concerns related to going local:
  • Does “going local” feed arrogance or help us experience life more fully?
  • Does it draw us closer to “our” people or actually help us understand and live out life with our neighbors?
  • What are the actual economic impacts? Does it help more share in the blessing of bounty?  Better yet does it expand the net of provisions of necessities of life, for all?
  • If the world continues to become smaller how can we go local without becoming some new-styled isolationists?
Strolling the Saturday market, chatting with friends, eating fresh, bartering, leaving the car behind can all provide a new sense of breaking free — free from the systems and traditions I have been shaped by, possibly controlled by, for decades. I just hope that it is all part of me becoming more of who I was created to be and less a selfish American consumer in new trappings.
May God have mercy on us all.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


9.14.74 Connie & I were married. I wrote this poem in honor of our 35th anniversary 9.14.09. I'm re-posting it today, our 37th.


Sometimes I wasn’t sure
we’d make it
sometimes I wasn’t sure
I wanted to

When we started
I assumed we’d get here
expected us to stay together
but had no clue what was ahead
or what it would take

It’s not a milestone,
like fifty
but well past twenty-five
people notice twenty-five and fifty
appears thirty-five
Iis no big deal,
at least
according to public opinion,

Memories made
and more forgotten
seasons of devotion
and trials of anxiety
grace remembered
and offenses forgiven
and much forgiven again

It is the choice we made
the path we’ve followed
and I would choose it again
I think I do
I hope we do

Monday, September 12, 2011

April Fool’s Day

I am re-posting this poem during this our anniversary (37th on 9.14) week. 

Someone should make a law
That we hold all weddings on April 1st
Because only fools would make
Those promises

Promises to
Put another person first and
Stick with them
No matter what happens

To love
To sacrificially give
All because of a promise;
It’s almost un-American

There are too many examples
Of failure and despair
Outsiders mock it,
Rationalize, and degrade it

Some lie through their teeth
They make the hollow promises
For convenience
To get what they want

But some, the true fools,
Still make the promises
Maybe their youthful zeal
Blinds them to what’s ahead

And some, more foolish yet,
Keep their promises
Not because it’s easy
Or because they meet all expectations

But true fools believe the promises matter
That love cannot be forced
That it’s sometimes found
By two fools

Who learn to laugh together

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I think it happened something like this… #4 - Until Morning

Until Morning

On the best summer days, we’d play with friends all day and sleep outside at night. You might get to have one friend over. Maybe two.

We’d wait for lights to dim and our parents to sleep. The big maple at the end of the block was our gathering place. We whispered jokes and lies in the dark. Coughs stifled laughter. We’d light and flick matches; in later years, we smoked. Sometimes Denny would strip naked and run around the street.

At the sight of a house light or sound of a car, we scattered to our sleeping bags until morning.