Friday, November 13, 2009

Usual Suspects

Every so often I assemble an e-mail list to rally a group of friends and neighbors to some community cause.

Not surprisingly, the names of the same folks end up on the list. I’ve come to think of them as the “usual suspects.” The term, of course, comes from the great film “Casablanca.”

During a recent e-mustering, I realized that the acronym for “usual suspects” is the pronoun “us.”

I must have been in a free association mood because the “usual suspects/us” connection immediately triggered another: Pogo’s famous, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

That momentarily put the brakes on my free association.

Usual suspects (“us”) as enemies? I didn’t want to my list of would-be volunteers to think of themselves as enemies.

Or did I?

On this occasion I happened to be calling on them to devote an hour on a Saturday morning to cleaning up litter. I was inviting them to become enemies — enemies of litter.

My musing had turned the words on their heads. “Suspects” (those we suspect will help) and “enemies” (those who are enemies of a things objectionable — poverty, crime, injustice, litter).

How close a meaning is to its opposite. Perhaps that is why we’ve been taught to love our enemies or to learn that knowing is not knowing.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Turning to The Art of Peace on Veterans Day

All this Veterans Day, I wrestled with dark feelings about war. The rhetoric of the day, despite lofty intentions, all feed the mentality of war, killing and human sacrifice.

When do we speak of peace? How do we find it?

How can we break this war mentality, this plague that afflicts humanity?

At the end of the day I was drawn to and opened “The Art of Peace” by Morihei Ueshiba.

These words spoke to my condition:

“The Art of Peace is medicine for a sick world. There is evil and disorder in the world because people have forgotten that all things emanate from one source. Return to that source and leave behind all self-centered thoughts, petty desires and anger. Those who are possessed by nothing possess everything.”

And this…

“You are here for no other purpose than to realize your inner divinity and manifest your innate enlightenment. Foster peace in your own life and then apply the Art to all that you encounter.”

The character shown here stands for Ki, the energy of the universe. See it first as figure, then as ground, finally as both — as One.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hillsdale Terrace plan slammed

Ray Hallberg, a former Housing Authority of Portland commissioner, nailed it today in the Oregonian in an opinion piece about the wasteful, bureaucracy-driven plan to raze and replace the Hillsdale Terrace housing project in our neighborhood.

Hallberg's words, and those who have comment on-line, echo my own at last week's Hillsdale Neighborhood Association. Throwing $40.5 million at an demeaning, isolated ghetto-like site is an outrageous waste of taxpayer money and an insult to the poor.

At the HNA meeting, I ended up on the short end of a 10-to-2 vote. Five folks abstained. I wish Hallberg had attended the meeting. He might have at least persuaded the abstainers to get off the fence and vote.

Earlier in the day the Portland City Council made matters worse. Not only did the commissioners back the cock-eyed plan, they kicked in $5 million to the ill-conceived project.

Hallberg goes me one better in his column. Rather than build another housing project elsewhere in Hillsdale, as I recommended, Hallberg believes the money is best spent on Section 8 housing. As Hallberg explains, the program "allows qualified low-income clients to find suitable private housing in neighborhoods of their choice."

My hope is that they would find Hillsdale suitable.

P.S. Some of Hallberg's numbers are wrong, but the thrust of his argument is right. The proposed project is for 120 units, not 100. And the cost per unit is closer to $200,000, not $400,000.

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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Schnitzered again

Okay, it’s time to clear your brain for a name association.

I’m going to say a word and you are going to tell me what you associate with it.

The word is …


And the right answer is … “your grandparents’ generation.”

Missed that one, did you?

You may need to check in with Jordan Schnitzer, who recently dedicated the “Simon and Helen Director Park” in downtown Portland.

Turns out that Simon and Helen were Jordan’s maternal grandparents.

According to a Jewish Review article about the park’s dedication, Schnitzer told the crowd “I hope that when you come here you’ll think of your grandparents and how you came to be in this park.”

Got that? “Director” = “your grandparents.”

Schnitzer’s family name resounds throughout the city and state on everything the pioneer family helped build, which is a lot. The Schnitzers have money. And they spend a lot of it on the arts and civic good works.

Oregonians are grateful to them many times over.

But the Schnitzers have this thing about names. They can’t get beyond their own.

Okay, I’ll admit it, I can’t get beyond their name.

I go to concerts at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.

I drive by the Mittleman Jewish Community Center in Hillsdale nearly every day, and it is now on the “Schnitzer Family Campus.”

I go to Eugene and am told by the big green freeway exit sign that the off ramp will take me to the Jordan Schnitzer Art Gallery.

Twice a week after Scrabble, I take my mother-in-law home to her apartment at the Rose Schnitzer manor.

I go to have my eyes checked once every three months at the Thelma & Gilbert Schnitzer Comprehensive Glaucoma Center.

I find this odd. You’d think some Schnitzer might step forward and say, “Enough already! Name the glaucoma center after Ray Charles or Stevie Wonder.”

On the day of the park dedication, I walked through the park as workers prepared it for the ceremony. I was fully expecting the Schnitzer name to be somewhere on it. After all, Jordan forked over nearly $2 million to help pay for it.

The Jewish Review story, headlined “Jordan Schnitzer leads dedication of Simon and Helen Director Park,” revealed Schnitzer-Director connection — and Jordan Schnitzer’s hope that his family name will trigger reminders of our own families.

For all that, the story did reveal some evolution in Jordan’s thinking about names. Turns out it was his idea to name park’s central fountain “Teachers Fountain,” and here I quote from the story, “in gratitude to his mentors in the Portland Schools.”

“His mentors”? When we visit the fountain are we to think of Jordan Schnitzer’s teachers?

Here I think reporter Amy Kaufman muddled things because the very next sentence is a quote from Schnitzer. “We are so indebted to teachers and they get so little recognition…. As we unveil this fountain, think of those who made such a difference to you.”

Right on, Jordan!

And, just a reminder, when you visit Director Park, remember your grandparents — forget Hitchcock, Kubrick and Fellini.

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