Saturday, January 10, 2009

"Get a Life" Band to strut at Obama's big parade

I'm running the following story in The Hillsdale News, to be published next Monday, but, let's face it, it's just too big to wait until then.

Prepare yourselves for a shock as you watch the big inaugural parade in the nation’s capital on Tuesday, Jan. 20.

Hey, isn’t that? Could it be…?

Yes, it is!


It's The "Get a Life Marching Band"!

The local, fun-loving fixture at the Multnomah Day’s Parade and other strange events in “Weird City” has been invited to, well, join the parade. This is indeed "change we can believe in."

Patti Waitman-Ingebretsen, captain of the band’s famed, somewhat-high-stepping baton twirling unit, reports the band is pumped for the celebratory parade.

The band has performed mostly in parades in Oregon and southwest Washington. But it has also marched in San Antonio several times, inexplicably, and strutted its stuff at Disneyland and Disney World, and the Tampa Gasperilla Parade.

Next stop after the inauguration will be the San Francisco for Chinese New Years parade in Feb 2009.

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Friday, January 09, 2009

Warning: Major Contraction Ahead

For those surprised by the sudden fall gasoline prices, James Howard Kunstler has a telling line in the epilogue to the 2006 edition of his eye-opening book “The Long Emergency.

“You might think that oil producers would benefit unequivocally from ever higher prices, but the hard lesson learned over the 150-year existence of the industry is that reasonable price stability has greater value than price-jacking because price-jacked economies tend to fall into recessions, cutting demand for oil.”

Although the current recession (impending depression?) was caused by the loosey-goosey, unregulated mortgage market, the stratospheric price of oil made matters worse.

Kunstler explains, that in the past, the oil industry has try has “stabilized” such soaring prices by calling on “swing producers” who boost output and drive down prices.

Of course, this assumes “swing producers” exist.

In this post-oil peak environment, when world-wide oil depletion is real, we no longer have “swing producers.” Accordingly, oil prices will trend upward again even as consumption slowly but surely drops.

If that seems like the beginning of the much welcomed transformation to alternative energy and a happy ending to our various environmental and economic crises, Kunstler says, “Not so fast.”

But I’ll let him tell you about his unremittingly gloomy predictions for 2009 and beyond. They make for the same sober reading that “The Long Emergency” did.

If Kunstler is right, expect wrenching changes in life as we have known it here in this once consumer-crazed, credit-mad world. Welcome to the new world of shared living spaces, home gardening and INvoluntary simplicity.

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Funny business in the 'hood?

Some weeks back my neighbors alerted me to some funny business at the big white house at the corner of SW 19th and SW Boundary.

The house is just a block from my own.

The neighbors told me that when 91-year-0ld Warren Cummins died in late September, his entire estate, (which turned out to be worth nearly $900,000 including his big white rancher) was left to a caregiver. She had been on the job only three months.

As it turned out, nothing in the estate was left to Warren's step-son, Fletcher Johnson, or to Warren's three adopted children. Warren's wife had died in 2007.

The situation first caught the attention of the neighbors when the caregiver, Patricia McIntosh, moved her family into Warren's house. Later, not long after Warren had died, both McIntosh and her husband purchased new cars. Warren's Cadillac was gone, presumably a trade-in.

Something didn't smell right and my neighbors wanted me to look into it.

I know this kind of story takes time to investigate, and I didn't have enough to spare. I called my contacts at Willamette Week. They put me on to reporter James Pitkin, who dug into what had happened and what the inevitable legal fall-out has been.

The results of his reporting appear in today's issue of Willamette week. It can be found here on-line.

It's a solid piece of work. I've thanked James for doing it.

Still, the story needs to be followed. Why, for instance, is the house now vacant if Patricia McIntosh did nothing wrong as her attorney maintains? Where is the McIntosh family now? Is there reason to suspect foul play? Is this more than the civil case it has become?

I'm encouraging Pitkin to stay on the story as it unfolds — and neighbors to stay alert.

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Monday, January 05, 2009

A Cascades New Year

Three days and three nights in the Cascades spliced the two years.

Hunkered, we were, between past and future.

A four-mile walk around Black Butte Ranch. The sprawling vacation development strives to fit into its natural setting. A noble human attempt that inevitably comes up humanly short.

Take it for what it is, not what it seeks to be.

Muted houses, mostly vacant, stand off from the road. Pedestrians separated from cars. A detailed trail map. Open space. Vistas. Hidden lakes. Ponds. Paved and plowed paths that follow creeks and contours.

We saw no for sale signs marking these get-away homes. A guess is that such commercial intrusions are as prohibited as garish exterior paint. Who wants to think of foreclosures, bankruptcy and tangerine siding while on a mid-winter get-away?

Black Butte Ranch in these sober times is a happy-face Potemkin mountain retreat.

A numbing windstorm whipped through the Cascades on this New Year’s weekend. It closed the Santiam Pass. No trucks or SUVs got through. We managed without The Oregonian with its news of the new year and reflections on the old.

Ah but the Scrabble, backgammon and books. So many books; so few words for a “Q” when you don't have a “U.”

Our walk was too far yet not far enough. Our muscles ached from effort while our eyes hungered for more.

Between the pain and delight. our mountain ramble was enough.

Just enough.

We stomped through the snow-muffled, wind-whistling wood, too thinned to hide hulking dwellings.

At our own rented threshold, we tramped snow from our boots, then settled next to hearth and fire and reached for the warmth of books and hopes for the new year.

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