Safety or Challenge?


With all the arguing going on this past week from congress to our social media accounts about how best to deal with a society saturated with AR-15 assault rifles, I found it more than a bit ironic to find something removed for “safety” from a local park. We are now entering decades of mass shootings with zero movement to regulate, but sue crazy lawyers have turned playgrounds into a few tires and a swing.

When I was five or six years old, it was a treat to go to Wortman Park at the east edge of town and play hide and seek before catching garter snakes along the banks of the creek bed. There was also an unfathomable challenge for a small child in the form of a twenty foot tall platform-tower with a square hole cut in one side to access the most bad ass metal slide you can ever imagine. I was terrified of the thing from the time I first saw it, but when other kids slightly older than me were laughing and enjoying the maximum slide velocity I just had to investigate. I wasn’t a fan of heights,  so I climbed each rung very carefully and deliberately until I found myself at the top. It took real guts, but I finally inched my way into launching position and shot down that slide at what appeared to be rocket speed to my brain. I barely managed to land on my feet, but I did it. Some kids did fall, and some got a few scrapes, but it had been an important right of passage for all of us at the time. Hence my disappointment to find the slide removed and replaced with a tepid set of low velocity swings on the very (pictured) spot. I understand we must protect our kids, but where exactly is the line between safety and challenge? Guns aside, shouldn’t risk in the daily lives of our kids go beyond just facing a low SAT score? When does protection become too much coddling? I wonder.


The Sunday Truce


So it was a beautiful Sunday evening yesterday as I watched the sun go down before chatting in a coffee shop a couple hours in a very relaxing atmosphere where the pace was slow and all were in good cheer. After dark, I slowly packed up my things, placed them in the trunk of my car and made the 12 mile drive through the rolling rural farm country of Oregon that lay between the two larger cities of McMinnville and Salem. As is my custom, I usually drive (only) 5 over the speed limit as I like to look over the small farms and villages along my path to enjoy my life as Sunday is traditionally our day of rest. But sadly, this doesn’t seem to be enough for the majority on the roads anymore as most choose to either ride my bumper angrily, or floor it past me dispensing an angry look, or shaking their heads in disgust as I’m not playing their game their way on my day off.

Remember, I don’t live in urban Chicago here, and it’s not Monday morning ten to nine when most people who are late to work are struggling just to make their parking spot by nine. This is Sunday, and what I’ve noticed about the evolution of Sunday in our modern world is most people do not have enough time over their weekend to turn off their high gear settings to find that place of peace we all claim we’ll get to when we retire, so I propose a truce. This truce will be recognized nationally from this day forward no matter what your age, level of employment, culture, or general attitude. I propose one 24 hour bonanza of general relaxation where none of us rush, all promise to look around while enjoying their drive, agree not to dispense political ramblings on Facebook,  agree not grumble in long grocery lines, but rather turn to a neighbor and discuss how their life is going, agree to watch out for the safety of everyone’s children, and agree to hold a general positive attitude. ALL day.

I think if we can all agree to this one day, we’ll magically find that all our lives will improve five fold, and before you know it, we might even add a second, or possibly third truce day in the future.


Selfie or Your Life?


This past week the Oregon Coast was visited by 40 foot waves caused by a massive storm in the Central Pacific a few days before. Local news broadcast well in advance the danger of the sheer power the water held in crashing against rocks and creating massive undertows, but sure enough, there was no lack of footage the following day featuring horrified relatives tearfully reporting a loved being pulled out to sea.

Meanwhile, about 80 miles inland on Rattlesnake Ridge (state park), drones captured a flock of people walking over a large crack in the earth on a mountain side that was going to slump in the valley below with devastating power (see recent California footage on mud slide). Despite signs being posted along the entire boundary of the park outlining the danger and even threatening arrest, there they were getting selfies.

I had to wonder, does this stupidity live in ourselves or our culture? What allows us to believe we are beyond the touch of impending doom? Is it possible we’ve become so accustomed to being the master’s of this planet that we believe nature to be inert, a mere Disneyland ride for our entertainment? Is this why we ignore report after report on the dangers of global warming and try to put our kids on a wild bison in Yellowstone because the selfie opportunity is just too good?

Well, I got news for our culture. According to the geologic record, trilobites (a small potato bug looking sea creature living in the ocean) survived 300 million years on this planet before ecological tragedy struck extinguishing 90% of the world’s life (including the hearty trilobite) at the end of the Permian. Humans have managed a mere fingertip of that time geologically, clocking in around 90,000 years at best. If you think ipads, designer clothes, or some last minute rocket to Mars is going to protect you, I suggest you think again.  There’s been five major extinctions on our planet since the lava cooled, and the cosmic plan tends to give each species one roll of the dice. I’ll save discussions on God for another time, but even if you are counting on God to save you from your own stupidity, you are grossly abusing the sacred gift of life. Then again, if we continue to spend the majority of our lives fanatically watching the Bachelor and caring about Kim K.’s next fashion choice oblivious to danger, maybe we deserve it.

Pinata Mixer


Walking my dog in the park this weekend I noticed a sizable birthday party going on inside the covered area at the far end of the trees. Innately curious, I drifted toward the activity to find the scene pictured above; a large group of children circled around a dangling pinata as their parents sat in lawn chairs at the far end sipping drinks. Each child took their turn swinging a large, plastic bat while blindfolded, aiming at the colorful pinata being pulled up and down by an adult. They were given two hits each until the pinata finally burst into a shower of candy that spun across the concrete after hitting near their feet. They squealed with delight, hustled to get their share of the sweets, then politely stood back to make sure everyone got something.

Nothing particularly unusual here, but as I grew closer, I noticed the cultural dynamic was half Hispanic (more than likely Mexican migrant workers known to the area) and half Western European, or white. None of the children appeared to divide themselves along these lines as they were much more interested in laughing and playing than judging. It reminded me of a cartoon I saw years ago showing two fathers pushing baby carriages past each other (one black, one white) in a park while looking down thinking swear words and racial slurs. Meanwhile, the two infants shared a thought bubble: “Hey! Another kid!”

Seems like there are a few things we can learn from our children.

Not so fast Bill Murray!


Enjoying a lunch with my best friend yesterday afternoon, I learned that none other than Bill Murray of SNL fame, stated in a recent interview that all he wanted to do now was, “move to McMinnville, Oregon and live out his life.”

Being my hometown, I know the appeal of a rural, medium-sized town to wealthy Californians. Selling their Orange County house for $3.5 million, the first thing they insist on doing is building a mansion of comparable size for $700,000 on former farmland. Interspersed among the remaining corn and wheat fields, they have also brought a new flush of gourmet restaurants to our downtown the past decade. From an L.A. perspective, the lines and traffic jams are minimal, and prices for gourmet meals appear solidly mid-range.  With such appeal, Goldie Hawn bought a place on the edge of town among the wavy hilled vineyards while Robin Williams picked the area to secretly attend rehab for his drug addiction. The only problem? As California flees traffic jams and overstuffed restaurants, it drags along urban social values that change the positive dynamic of a healthy small town community. Populating a place we loved on vacation creates exactly the opposite effect of what attracted us there in the first place.

When I was an elementary student in McMinnville, I walked six blocks to school each morning without worry. We played baseball and football in the street, rode bicycles across town, and felt comfortable trick or treating at every house in town. It was a good life, and I can’t blame folks who visit wanting to have their piece of that life in retirement. But recognize the impact your actions will have on others if you truly wish to live justly. Moving blindly into a community because you can, doesn’t always represent a higher state of good.

I recently saw a first in my hometown; a car placed on a boulder with windows bashed in and partially stripped (pictured). Down the street, a man lay passed out in the shrubs with an empty bottle surrounded by all of his possessions. Nearby, on the farm I worked on as a teen, presently converted to a nature preserve, I’ve witnessed gang members hiding bats in the deep fall leaves to prepare for a territorial battle yards from an elk and beaver den.

The downtown, so open and friendly in the past, now holds exclusive uber rich transplants posing as dressed down middle class residents. They are only betrayed by the $500 patent leather shoes they still insist on wearing. Apparently, it is much harder to abandon status symbols of wealth than they think. The gap in haves versus have nots has never been wider. McMinnville, so egalitarian in the 1960’s, now is lucky have a regular family living in one of the lovely original Victorian era homes. They have become either law offices, realtor offices, or celebrity homes. A late night trip to Walmart has become hazardous. Out of the darkness, people emerge from the crammed parking lot looking like a casting call for the Walking Dead. Palid, unshaven meth heads inhabit dark corners, while Bible thumpers desperately search for the unwary to fill the pews of their declining ranks. Does this represent the good life?

So Bill, before you enjoy the benefits of sipping wine amidst the beautiful views of Willamette Valley vineyards along with a mudbath and sauna at the spa, I suggest you take a closer look at living in Disneyland while the majority can only afford to look between the black bars. To maintain solid, livable communities we must start thinking how our actions impact everyone. To create an exclusive culture that only allows access by only a fraction of the population is unjust and wrong. Someday a counter reaction will take place, penetrating even the highest gated community.

Commando Shopping


It’s clearly a luxury in our American life to be able to bulk up on foods at COSTCO once or twice a month thereby avoiding multiple weekly visits to the market. Trouble is, I’m an outside person, and if I’m not on my game arriving at COSTCO early enough in sneakers, I can lose a good part of my Saturday getting past the tasting stations or all that Halloween door crap so many seem to obsess over. Therefore, my need for “Commando Shopping.” This is a technique I’ve perfected avoiding popular sections by hitting my destination points with pinpoint precision.  Think airborne troops capturing bagels, turkey burgers, and cabbage instead of a bridge. To do this, one must not allow tempting power washers or giant teddy bears to bulk up your cart. Focus, focus, focus. Once you give in to that cheesy enchilada tasting cup you are doomed . Hit your basic needs and head for the checkout.

Pet Peeve # 9

When we travel, we all are familiar with the small talk required with the random people placed next to us as we sort out our bags and find seat belts; but there is a line. Sure, I’ve met people I’ve shared some amazing conversations with, but we all know that one guy who starts talking as soon as his butt touches the seat and talks through movies and snacks alike. My last flight, this guy (pictured), talked for six hours at the young woman seated next to him choosing to discuss his suit choices and hobbies before serving up the main course: his church. She was treated to the source of his empathy and all the details of the upcoming weekend picnic in blathering detail. Not cool.


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