Saturday, September 08, 2007

Your turn ....

I’m taking a week off and I’m turning The Red Electric over to you.

About 40 of you visit the site each day. Sometimes more (one day 90 visitors wandered through — I'd written about the Portland Timbers and the "Timbers" tag drew a crowd of fans); sometimes fewer (last week the count dropped to 22 for a couple days leading up to the long weekend.)

I hope you continue to visit during the next eight days while I’m "gone."

Feel free to click through past entries if you are new to the place.

Make yourself at home. If there were a frig, I’d tell you to help yourself.

Any changes on the site, will be in the comments section below.

Please, take the opportunity to comment — to tell me what you think of the place.

What brought you here?

If you’re a regular, what brings you back?

Are there particular topics that interest you?

Are there subjects you’d like to address? If so, have at it.


I could check the site while I’m gone, but I’ve decided not to. I hope that when I return, some of you will have taken me up on my invitation.

As you know, the place to comment, and read comments, follows this post.

Thanks, and enjoy your “stay.”


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Friday, September 07, 2007

More on the Wild Oats store closure

The big news around here today is that Whole Foods, which now owns Wild Oats, has decided to close our Hillsdale store.

The store is the anchor of the Hillsdale Shopping Center and, really, of the whole Town Center.

I got a little insight into the Whole Foods corporate culture talking with store manager Robert Ostrochovsky. Robert, who has done great things with the store, could say nothing for the record. He referred me to one Denise Caruso, who is the regional PR person for Whole Foods. She was out of the office, according to the answering machine. She had four hours to get back to me and never did. If she ever does, I'll let you know what she knows, if anything.

Anyway, I've talked to several leaders in the Hillsdale community and have put together a story for The Hillsdale News. If you are interested om where all this might go from here (think Hillsdale Community Store), you might want to check out the site.

Since posting the story a half hour ago and sending it to those who have signed up to receive the Hillsdale News as an e-newsletter (you can do that on the web page), I've already received offers to help.

Whole Foods may have just done us all a big favor.

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Sorting books and the journey inwards

I spent most of the day cleaning out my study before the floor refinishers arrive Monday with their sanders.

While sorting and packing, I found joy in rediscovering books I had let slip from my consciousness. It was like a day of encounters with old friends.

One, a favorite during my Peace Corps training at Columbia University, caught my eye and drew me in — again.

It immediately reminded me of the recent revelations from Mother Teresa’s surprising, questioning journals.

Dag Hammarsjkold was also a prominent figure of his time, the Secretary General of the United Nations. His “Markings,” a remarkable and similarly surprising book when it was published in 1964, was consisted of his poetic journal entries.

Today, when I picked up “Markings,” it fell open to this:

The longest journey
Is the journey inwards.
Of him who has chosen his destiny,
Who has started upon his quest
For the source of his being
(Is there a source?).
He is still with you,
But without relation,
Isolated in your feeling
Like one condemned to death
Or one whom imminent farewell
Prematurely dedicates
To the loneliness which is the final lot of all.

Between you and him is distance,

He will see you withdrawing,
Further and further,
Hear your voices fading,
Fainter and fainter.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Being required to volunteer

As George Orwell pointed out long ago, the English language is under siege, and it is up to us to fend for it.

(Among his many alerts was "Animal Farm's" "All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.")

The signs are everywhere.

The next time a store offers you a “free gift” take it on yourself to ask the clerk whether the store is also offering gifts that aren't free.

Or consider “recall back” or “foresee ahead.” Leave it at “recall” and foresee.” Likewise “past memories” and “future predictions.”

This is all by way of introduction to Renee Mitchell’s column in today’s Oregonian.

Although the column tells me a bit more about Renee’s domestic life than I want to know, the column makes a good point about the need for men to get more involved in the lives of their young sons.

The sticking point for me came in this sentence about Detroit schools: “Parents are required to volunteer at least 16 hours each quarter.”

“Required to volunteer”?


Volunteers, by definition, aren’t required to do anything. That’s why they are called “volunteers.”

If I’m not mistaken, someone who is “required to volunteer” is called a slave.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Haiku: Less takes longer

The Portland Japanese Garden's Haiku contest (alert: deadline Oct. 8) inspired me to try my hand at this minimalist verse.

That old caution, "I'd have written less if I had more time," certainly applies.

It so happens I found time — deep in the night.

The two haiku that follow took three hours to write. At 34 syllables, that works out to more than five minutes per syllable.

Here's what the time produced:

Chosen forest trail,
Sure as bark and root and map,
Turns — and disappears.

• • •

Off shore, a rogue wave
Fells a granite monolith
As I comb the beach.

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Monday, September 03, 2007

A wedding sanctuary

I’ll spare you photos from the wedding, portraits of friends and family you likely don't know.

But the setting, my God, the setting.

Edson Creek campground is a 40-minute drive south of Bandon, golfing sandbox for the super-rich.

As teenagers, the young wedding couple and their friends spent days in the big sun-washed Edson campground glade. Then as now, they were watched by towering firs. They grew up together in the nearby highway-hugging hamlet of Langlois.

Getting to the camping glade, now wedding sanctuary, meant fording sparkling, gentle Edson Creek.

An ablution.

The wedding unfolded slowly, a gift of sylvan, creekside hours.

Day one: Meeting new extended family and friends, two rehearsal run-throughs. The minister/choreographer, chewing gum and, arms waving, blocking out ceremonial moves like a football coach. An enchilada rehearsal dinner. On the side, the dare of fire-breathing salsa.

(Stay over in Bandon at a two-story rental. Six relatives and a friend. Two bathrooms. A solitary walk to Bandon's boulder-henged beach. Three bags of Erin’s low-sodium popcorn, a bottle of Covey Run Merlot. A communal box of See's Chocolates. Backgammon/Scrabble. Sen. Larry Craig’s televised resignation.)

Day two: Route 101 again. Re-ford the creek hubcap deep. Return to glade, pre-ceremony mingling and reacquainting. Place finding.

A hush. The music, anticipation, the bride's entrance, a muffled sob, a proffered Kleenex, sacred blessings, the vows, rings. A kiss.

The wedding picnic (four-bean salad, barbecued beef), children's games, roasting and toasting, cake cutting, the couple’s farewell — he, pant legs rolled, hoisting her sack-like over a broad shoulder, sloshing bride-laden-ecstatic across the ford to a week’s honeymoon in Napa Valley and beyond.

Laughter rising through the trees.

A small eternity at Edson Creek Campground.

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Sunday, September 02, 2007

Impeachment slogan baffles hundreds

If I was going to get the attention of a few hundred motorists at our Friday evening Hillsdale peace vigils, I decided I needed to freshen my message.

“Get out Now!” and “On to Plan B: Impeach” were getting stale.

So with very little thought and too much whimsy, I scrawled out:

“Impeachment: Sur La Table! Nancy”

Because I arrived at the busy corner of Capitol Highway and Sunset Boulevard early, before my fellow protesters, my new sign had no context.

There I was alone, waving a really weird sign.

Drivers who cared enough to notice seemed mildly perplexed.

What’s that? Some kind of shill for Sur La Table, the up-scale cooking utensil store in the Pearl District?

James Beard meets Robert’s Rules of Order?


Nancy who?

Thankfully, my fellow demonstrators soon arrived with their same-old, same-old, but lucid signs. "Support our troops. Bring them home!" and such.

Motorists began honking encouragement again.

I was about to give up on my sign when a woman behind the wheel gave me an expansive thumbs up along with a bumper-to-bumper smile.

Astonished, I pointed at the sign and looked at her quizzically — just to make sure she got it.

Yes, she nodded demonstratively. Two thumbs up. YES!

I continued to hoist the sign. Eventually two other drivers broadly shared their approval.

It was a stretch, but they got the reference to (just in case you didn’t) Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. They knew that she had declared impeachment was “off the table,” and they understood the translation from the French to be “on the table.”

Yes, yes, and YES!

So it was fun while it lasted, but, let’s face it, it’s all too clever by half.

So what next?

I'm thinking, I'm thinking ....

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