Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Poverty of Wealth

One of the the many goads to my conscience comes in the mail ten times a year.

It’s called the Washington Newsletter of the Friends Committee on National Legislation, which is affiliated with Quakers.

The July/August issue addresses poverty and inequity in this country. The slender. eight-page newsletter does lays out the problems clearly and concisely.

In this country, 34 percent of the nation’s private wealth is held by 1 percent of the nation’s households. And 90 percent of U.S. households share just 28.7 percent of the weath.

It gets worse. The poorest 40 percent struggle to survive on 1 percent.

In the same issue, the editors offer a nine-question “poverty quiz.” You can download it, and its answers by going here.

To me one of the most telling facts about the people who run this country and its economy is revealed in the answer to question 9:

Question: At the 350 largest public companies, the average CEO’s total direct compensaton was $11.6 million in 2005 (my note: the average is much more now). How long does it take the average CEO to earn the annual (the emphasis is mine) pay of a full-time minimum wage worker? (a) two hours (b) six hours (c) one day

Yes, one of those is the correct answer.

Those who perpetuate this sort of inequity, who place their own extravagant personal interests so far ahead of the basic needs of others (health, education, housing), are the very same people who control our political system, our media, our country and our destiny.

Can there be any doubt why there is a “populist” resurgence in this country? And why so many are saying, "Bring it on!"

Also in the July/August issue:
• “Slow the Rush to Corn-Based Ethanol”
• “Habeas Corpus is Essential to Due Process”

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Words of War; Words of Peace

I’m just back from picketing against the war (and Bush and Cheney and the Democrats who caved and killing and ignorance and, and, and ).

A rag-tag six of us were down at the busy, commuter-clogged corner of Sunset Boulevard and Capitol Highway from 5:30 to 6 this evening.

A few hundred cars cruise by, headed into the sultry August weekend.

A few drivers honk encouragement. Some give the thumbs up. Most glance at the signs then stare steadfastly straight ahead, avoiding eye contact. They are weary.

One, on a motor bike, flipped me off, which I found oddly uplifting.

I’ve been brandishing the same signs for several weeks. “On to Plan B: Impeach,” “War is Wrong,” “Leave Iraq to the Iraqis,” “Get Out Now!”

My slogans are getting stale. Time for a change, but to what?

Certainly events have changed while my signs have remained the same. In light of the latest giveaway of our privacy, I like the bumper sticker “You can’t take my rights, I’m using them.” But watching the dazed, home-bound commuters, I’m reminded of how few Americans use or even care about their rights.

No pithy new phrases come to me. Maybe I need something that strikes closer to home. “Hillsdale for Peace” or “100 Oregonians dead. For what?” Or, “Don’t call home; call Wu.” (The brevity of U.S. Rep. David Wu’s name is a sign writer’s Godsend.)

The most troubling part of this wrestling with new words was having the time to think about it but still coming up empty.

What if events changed in a bomb-blast instant? What if there were a catastrophic domestic terrorist attack?

What do our signs say then? “Peace now, more than ever!” “We told you it wasn’t working!”

Or do we leave the field at the corner of Sunset and Capitol to atavistic avengers with their signs: “United We Stand,” “These Colors don’t Run,” "America, Love it or Leave it!" etc.

What happens to the peace movement if the fear mongers are right, or if this nation is shown to be as vulnerable as Bush’s critics say he has left us?

Standing on the corner with my “War is Wrong” sign, I suddenly felt the fragility of it all — of the peace movement, of hope, of humanity, of life.

Maybe my new sign should read “End the Fragility!”

Would the commuters still honk? Would anyone give me the thumbs up? Or flip me off?

Or would they just keep driving, eyes on the road, headed for home?

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Salt Spring Island Redux

When Diane and I went to Salt Spring Island last month, we were with our dear friends Cathy and Jerry Zimmerman.

I described our experience in an earlier post. Now it is Cathy's turn. Cathy is a wonderful writer and editor for the Longview Daily News in Longview, Washington, where, an eon ago, I joyfully worked at what was, at the time, one of the last family-owned newspapers in the land.

Cathy shared her version of our Salt Spring Island experience with her readers recently. Here it is with some more of photos I took of this enchanted refuge off the east shore of Vancouver Island.

"Listen to the quiet'

By Cathy Zimmerman
The Longview Daily News

SALT SPRING ISLAND, British Columbia — I almost hate to write this story. The temptation is to keep a recent vacation discovery secret. But there's also the urge to rhapsodize about it, and then of course the word is out at a gallop.

The word is this: In addition to its sleepy, unspoiled pleasures, Salt Spring Island percolates with variety and surprise.

mainland and Vancouver Island, Salt Spring offers rustic resorts, charming B&Bs and anThe largest of the Gulf Islands nestled in the Strait or Georgia between British Columbia's elegant inn. We enjoyed hiking at a coastal park, canoeing on a pristine lake, strolling and snacking in a harbor village with cool shops and restaurants, and visiting the rural studios of some of the dozens of island artisans.

Salt Spring — nicknamed the Banana Belt because it's in a rain shadow — is dotted with sheep farms and has 10 designated bicycle routes. Its Saturday market has inspired magazine articles.

And history buffs will want to read about the 3,000-year presence of First Nation peoples, the freed slaves from the United States who settled in the mid 1800s, and Japanese and Hawaiian pioneers who contributed their chapters to island life.

In short, it's a natural, recreational and cultural gem.

* * *

My husband and I and another couple, Rick Seifert and Diane Moskowitz of Portland, stayed at the Cusheon Lake Resort, in a log cabin overlooking the lake. We split the week's rental of about $1,200.

Fourteen cedar cabins and two chalets share the use of several docks, each with Adirondack chairs, as well as an open area with a big brick fireplace for outdoor cooking, a volleyball area and a small fleet of canoes and rowboats.

Our cabin had two good-sized bedrooms, a bathroom and a big living area with a fireplace and a well-equipped kitchen. A high deck across the front of the cabin overlooked the lake.

The resort's slogan is "Listen to the quiet," and we did.

The family-friendly cabins have no televisions, and visitors are asked to keep any music turned down. No motorized boats are allowed on the lake, and swimming is fine in the warmed-up waters of summer.

Twice, a deer and her two fawns fed on grass 20 feet from our deck. A bald eagle took a lazy turn around the lake. And one evening we saw the resident beaver chugging through the water.

Salt Spring has several other lakes, most of them smaller than Cusheon. St. Mary Lake, at least three times the size of Cusheon, has its own resort on the north end of the island. Aside from the resorts, there are numerous single homes for rent and a surprising number of B&Bs: 33 at last count.

Hastings House, a luxury country estate on 22 acres overlooking Ganges Harbor (again, see photo), has an 11th century Sussex-style manor house, restaurant and spa. Patricia Schulz includes Hastings House in her book, "1,000 Places to See Before You Die." With rooms and suites from $360 to $795 a night and cottages from $625 to $910 a night, we saw but did not stay.

More than 10,000 permanent residents live on Salt Spring, but the narrow roads were never busy. Ganges, the island's central town, felt lively but not overrun.

* * *

Books, samba and creme freche

The peace and quiet of Salt Spring made me feel so relaxed I joked that I felt drugged.

We did rouse ourselves for some hiking and a couple of trips into town. We stocked up on groceries at an unpretentious emporium packed with deli treats and gourmet items, from fresh fish to creme freche.

One evening, we listened to live Latin music at the Tree House Cafe in Ganges, where trios and bands were booked for outdoor concerts every night the first week of July. The cafe serves delicious, innovative meals in its tiny historic building and at outdoor tables tucked under the generous canopy of a tree. We also had good food at Calvin's Bistro and the Tide's Inn.

Three independent book stores in Ganges are distinctly different; we spent time in all of them. Almost everything is independent on Salt Spring, including clothing stores, bakeries, a shoe store and a big toy shop.

Thanks to a local ordinance, we saw no fast food outlets or chains. The only brand name we saw was "Sears," on a small catalog outlet in Ganges.

Several locals were stumped about where the town's name came from, but I discovered on the Web that Ganges was named for a British naval ship built in Bombay, India, of Malabar teak, which visited Salt Spring Island in the 1850s.

The town makes for a fun couple of hours. But if you're seriously interested in shopping, you'll have to hit the back roads — not to find a mall, but to visit dozens of art galleries off the beaten track.

* * *

Art among the trees and hills

Salt Spring makes it easy to find its artisans. Free maps show the locations of 32 galleries, offering pottery, wine, goat cheese, fine wood turning, folk art, baskets, photography, French linens, hand-sewn toys, wool, glass art and jewelry.

We visited Salt Spring Island Cheese, a working goat farm. On the charming, immaculate grounds, we sampled cheeses and crackers, took a short walk around the outside of the cheese-making rooms to watch the process, and sat on a terrace.

At French Country Fabric Creations (pictured here), proprietors have built a country house that is right out of Provence, complete with expansive rows of lavender in front. A separate shop with a loft displays bolts of cotton from Provence and table linens sewn by the owner.

One more foray took us to Blue Horse Folk Art, a stunning gallery on the edge of a country pond. Blue Horse sells paintings, Raku vases, lamps and carvings of birds. An outdoor coffee garden is shaded by towering red-limbed madronas.

* * *

One island, many peoples

I was interested in Salt Spring history, so we visited the graveyard (photo below) near Vesuvius Bay Road where some of the African-American and Japanese pioneers are buried.

We were surprised to not find many signs of the original inhabitants, however, aside from a pictograph on a boulder near Fulford Harbor.

According to "Salt Spring: The Story of an Island," by Charles Kahn, aboriginal peoples of Salt Spring go back 3,000 years. Salish groups frequented the salt springs on the north end and planted fields of sweet camas root. Today, little remains of their villages.

According to Kahn, the sites were abandoned for several reasons. A smallpox epidemic spread by infected Europeans in 1769 "killed so many aboriginal people that not enough remained to maintain villages," he writes. Another factor were fierce wars between the Salish and Kwagulths that drove some Salt Spring natives to the mainland, where descendents now reside as Lummis near Bellingham.

The First Peoples who were still there in the 1800s clashed with newcomers, according to the Heritage Map of Salt Spring Island.

"About half of the first settlers were African-Americans from San Francisco who had come to Victoria in 1858 seeking a place to live where they had the same rights as everyone else," the Heritage material says.

By 1895, an Anglican minister listed a diverse population of 450, including "160 English, 50 Scotch, 20 Irish, 22 Portuguese, 13 Swedes, 4 Germans, 34 Americans, 90 Halfbreeds, 40 Colored or partly colored, 6 Sandwich Islanders, 10 Japanese, also 1 Egyptian, 2 Greeks, 1 Patagonian."

* * *

The Bull Whisperer

Our study of history involved plenty of mental exercise. For a physical workout, we chose a hike at Ruckle Provincial Park.

Winding in and out of forest to beautiful coastal views, the trail was sometimes hard to follow, and we ran into German tourists who were lost. After comparing maps and heading them off in the best direction, we kept going. In a wooded spot along a bordering farm, we ran into four or five shaggy cattle. One with long horns sat right in the middle of the path. Our friend Rick approached the bull and told him calmly that we needed to pass.

The animal stared, stirred, heaved himself up and lumbered off.

The remainder of our stay, Rick got the title of Bull Whisperer.

Salt Spring fed so many of our needs. It's only a day's drive/ferry ride from Longview, but the island lifted us out of space and time. Among the lakeside reeds, we watched dragonflies dart and sparkle. Roadside stands offered lemonade and cookies and trusted us to leave payment in a jar. At the end of a hot day's hike, we sipped chilled Chardonnay at a picnic table in our bare feet.

Go back? In a heartbeat

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

It’s the community, Jake

Yesterday I found myself at lunch with a friend who is in charge of "brand management” at a medium-sized, growth-oriented bank that is working hard at distinguishing itself from the rest of the bank pack.

I won’t share names.

Anyway, this bank has a lot of things going for it, including my friend. Let’s call him “Jake” to make him more real. It turns out that Jake, who lives in Hillsdale, is pitching Hillsdale as a site for a new branch.

We ate at the Three Square Grill, which fronts on his Hillsdale banking competition: Key Bank and Bank of America. Our family patronizes both branches, but we hardly have warm fuzzies about them.

Warm fuzzies are parts of Jake’s thinking. A bank, he tells me, should be a community hub, like a corner grocery, like the Third Place (after home and work/school).

Starbucks has gotten a lot of mileage out of the Third Place concept, but I sense the coffee behemoth may have run the “place” into the ground, especially when local community-attuned entrepreneurs can capture the special feeling of a unique “place” so much better.

So I listened to Jake’s pitch about his bank and its brand and where it is all headed — community-wise, as it were.

I’ve probably given as much thought to what it means to be a community and to build a community (this community in particular), as anyone around. So when Jake finished talking, I gave him my non-professional thoughts about banks (and ambitious corporations) and my brow-furrowing thoughts about community.

Community and corporations are diametrically opposed, I said, so for both to be successful in the same place, somebody has to change. Turns out communities are changing (Thanks to hyper-local media, they are discovering themselves, for starters), but not in ways helpful to corporations. So corporations need to ride the community change wave.

More than that, they need to help facilitate that change and make it a stated, well-publicized goal.

What has the Bank of America ever done for Hillsdale? What has Key Bank done for Hillsdale? Precious little besides take and use our money. Both are oriented to individuals (hey, this has been an individualistic society) and not to the immediate community, which is evolving in importance. Think communitarianism.

I remember making the pitch to Hillsdale’s banks for ads for The Southwest Community Connection when I started it back in 1994. I suggested that by placing an ad in the community newspaper, the bank would send the message that it was part of the community — that it supported an institution (The Connection) that was important to community building.

I got three responses.

One, “corporate” (and often an ad agency in east of the Mississippi) makes those decisions.

Two, it’s too much trouble dealing with small-circulation, individual publications.

Three, we buy in mass media in mass markets. It’s not just easier that way; we get more eyes for the advertising dollar.

Message: Forget community; it’s all about reaching the individual, autonomous customer, disconnected from his or her surroundings.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

But back to Jake, the brand manager. I suggested that communities have their own brands. Don’t replace theirs with yours — meld them.

Explore what it means to “be a part of the community.” The bank that is most embedded in a community will be the bank that gets the community’s business. (A good example is Edward Jones Investments, which puts community-involved agents in small communities — exactly like Hillsdale and Multnomah Village.)

The most important location for a business is not physical but emotional. Identify with, appeal to and support the community’s “heart” — its schools, its creativity, its farmers market, its neighborhood association, its open spaces, plazas and parks and its efforts to make them all better.

If a community embraces a bank as “its bank,” it doesn’t matter if there is enough parking (think internet banking) or whether the place faces on the main drag. I urged Jake to rethink some of the constraining traditional parameters for where to site a storefront bank. The question isn’t so much where in the community a bank is as what in the community a bank is.

Deeds count far more than appearances.

Names: Community comes first. The sign on the bank shouldn’t be Key Bank or U.S. Bank. It should be, in BIG letters “HILLSDALE, Key Bank” or “HILLSDALE, Umpqua.” Note the clever insertion of a comma, as in “Portland, Oregon.” The implied message is that Umpqua is a state … a state of mind, but the community comes first.

On this point, “The Bank of America” has a problem. “Hillsdale, Bank of America” screams contradiction. We want, in essence, is a Bank of Hillsdale.

Growth. Corporations live or die on growth; but growth can also kill. I told Jake that each bank branch opened shouldn’t be seen as enlarging the corporation, but as helping another community, and doing it from the inside out.

And that’s my final point: New branches shouldn’t be imposed on communities. They shouldn't arrive as strangers or new-comers. The siting process shouldn’t be a question of them (the community) and us (the bank). If Hillsdale is a prospective branch site, long before the doors open, the bank needs to involve the community and explore ways to address its needs as part of the siting decision. Community buy-in and emotional “ownership" means the community is part of the planning.

When our conversation ended, Jake picked up the tab. “It’s on the bank,” he said.

I hope the bank got its money's worth.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Typewriter Huggers

Larry McMurtry, where are you when we need you?

That’s the lament of collectors of exquisite Hermes 3000 portable typewriters.

It’s been a year and a half or more since McMurtry publicly praised his Hermes 3000 at the 2006 Golden Globe awards ceremony. McMurtry had won the award for his “Brokeback Mountain” screenplay.

His praise, kicking off his acceptance speech, drove eBay prices of Hermes 3000s into the stratosphere. Prices were stretched out beyond $150. Every coffee table in Castro Valley and the East Village, it seemed, needed a Hermes 3000.

Recently in the typewriter community, we have witnessed the prices plummet back to earth.

But $10? That was the price of one listed over the weekend on our Portland Craig’s List. I happen to know that the price for a pair of Hermes 3000 platen knobs, fragile things often sought by collectors, is at least $25.

So, despite owning three Hermes 3000s already, I called the seller and arranged to see the Hermes at the only mutual time available, 8 a.m. this morning.

I arrived in the mist and drizzle of a Portland morning at a remote northeast Portland neighborhood. I rang the doorbell to a seemingly deserted cottage, waited, waited and waited and was just about to leave when the door opened on the owner, a young East Indian man.

He retrieved the typewriter in its case from the garage and proceeded to try to get the lid off. It wouldn’t budge. He worked away at it, but the slip-on top stuck fast. He had taken a photo of the typewriter that had appeared in the Craig’s List ad, so I knew for certain that there was a Hermes 3000 hidden beneath the lid.

Finally I said I would offer him $5 for the typewriter, giving new meaning to the term “sight unseen.”


Larry McMurtry eat your heart out.

I was within three miles of Ace Typewriter, where owner and friend Matt McCormack knows all things typewriters. I’d have to kill time until he arrived at his shop, but that was easy enough. I prowled the aisles of Fred Meyer and bought a small portable outdoor table that will be the subject of a future post.

It took Matt about two minutes to pry open the lid to the Hermes with a tongue depressor. The typewriter was nearly perfect. These machines are like Swiss watches. Smooth to the touch, but rugged.

That said, the lid remained balky. Matt quickly surmised that the typewriter had been dropped but only the aluminum lid suffered, from a slight bend. Unless a user wanted to carry around a tongue depressor (a curious notion), some solution had to be found. Matt noticed that the entire lid was just a shade askew, but if you grabbed the opposite corners — a kind of hug — while pushing the open lever, the typewriter would pop free.

I wrote Steve Brannon, a fellow collector, who had expressed an interest in a Hermes 3000, and whimsically posed the question: “Have you hugged a Hermes lately?”

He wrote me back an e-mail titled “Typewriter Hugger.”

I plead guilty, and so does he. So do all of us who love these old machines, even if they aren’t worth more than $5 a pop — at least until some celebrity writer gives credit where credit is due.

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Outtakes from Issue #2 of the Hillsdale News

I'm giving a preview of issue #2 of the Hillsdale News for a couple reasons.

First, if you haven't visited the Hillsdale News site please do. If you are interested in Hillsdale, you might want to add your name to the subscription list so that issue #2 and subsequent issues of the e-newsletter come to your in-box.

Second, I wanted to share photos that I didn't have room for in the newsletter but which illustrate how beautiful our trails and community are.

The first two photos are from the story about Nicolai Woods. The story itself is at the end of this post (in italics).

The next two photos are of the new Stephens Creek Nature Park bridge, under construction and completed.

Both projects, it should be noted, result from neighborhood volunteer effort, one of our greatest riches in Hillsdale.

Finally, as a bonus, I'll throw in a photo of my scooter, which is becoming my principle mode of summer transportation. A poor man's convertible.

Here's the Hillsdale News (issue #2) story about Nicolai Woods.

Neighbors who banned together to preserve a parcel of wilderness next to their homes near Fairmont Boulevard have marked the accomplishment with a new sign.

Several neighbors (pictured here) and two staff members of the Three Rivers Land Conservancy installed the sign at the entrance to the newly named Nicolai Woods on August 2

The woods are named after neighbor and attorney Tom Nicolai, who donated his legal
expertise to put together the complex land deal. Thirteen families and individuals contributed $224,000 to buy the 1.6 acres abutting the north side of 18th Drive trail.

The trail, maintained by SW Trails, joins 18th Place with Fairmount Boulevard.

After the purchase, the neighbors donated the property to the conservancy. The deal closed last December. The Nicolai Woods group is enlisting other neighbors and trails volunteers to help maintain the property.

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Typewriter winner found!

For some reason (still under investigation), Deb Wolff's e-mail informing me that she holds raffle ticket 266860 never reached me.

So add finding typewriter raffle ticket winners to the list of many bizarre occurrences that happen in the Hillsdale Farmer's Market each Sunday.

"I won the typewriter!" were the first words out of Deb's mouth when I ran into her at the market today.

No, she didn't have her stub with her but I have no reason to doubt her.

First, the farmers market is where everyone is honest (and, yes, "all the women are beautiful and the children are above average").

Second, I have been checking with likely winners among those I could remember who bought tickets at last Sunday's Hillsdale Benefit Book Sale. The winning number came early in the big wheel of tickets so I could focus on early ticket buyers. (I know, I should have asked purchasers to write phone numbers or e-mail addresses on the portion of the ticket in the drawing jar. Call it a rookie raffle organizer's mistake.)

So at next week's market, Deb will exchange her winning ticket for a great old portable Royal typewriter. Along with the typewriter, Deb also wins a certain caché: Hemingway used a Royal Quiet De Luxe just like it.

The raffle raised $93 for Hillsdale Alliance organizations, which include the farmers market, the schools, Neighborhood House and the neighborhood association, to name a few.

Congratulations, Deb!

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