Red, White, and Screwed?


I’ve observed this fellow around town (pictured) over the past few years waving American flags in bitter snow storms, driving rain, and hot, muggy afternoons as cars streamed by causing his flags to flap as he sat smiling.  It was just this past week I finally found myself by his small selling station and took the opportunity to chat.

He was sitting outside my bank fanning himself with his hat as I made a withdrawal and spontaneously decided to walk over and buy a flag. I didn’t ask, but I’m pretty sure he’s a vet, and I think there might be a few additional challenges for him outside of working on the street. It was clear from the start he’s extremely patriotic and very proud to be paying all his daily living expenses in spite of being homeless. The hats he sells are negotiated at a lower rate from local thrift shops, and he orders the flags himself in three sizes to fit his mobile cart he rolls all over town. He’s happy to place a small paperback he’s written about his life into your hands for $12, which to date, has sold some 250 copies. He’s slyly negotiated spots near local cash registers and will give you his pitch right there if you’ll stay long enough to listen. He explained he’s been homeless for several years now, ever since rent increases shot up some 400-500% the last five years making a steady place almost impossible. He also avoids local shelters because meth heads have a knack for stealing while you sleep he explains, and also possess the unnerving habit of behaving erratically during waking hours.

So I asked myself, can we really write Allen off as some sort of loser just because he’s homeless and needs a hand every once in a while to make ends meet? What happened to that sense of human decency we were taught as kids as Congress prepares to cut Meals on Wheels and school lunch programs for tax cuts?



Wheelchair Athletes Roll Big Time


I spent my Saturday helping organize and run my first Wheelchair basketball tournament supporting a local non-profit. The tournament involved two high school teams (12 teams total) playing for the first time with several of their players having physical disabilities.  By the end of the day I left with a new respect and level of amazement for the incredible athleticism displayed by these young kids. They had total control over their chairs, as if they were an extension of their bodies as they shot and rebounded at high speeds across the gym floor. They were pulling off Pete Marovich behind the back passes and first rate blocks and steals that would have impressed Michael Jordan. This kind of event always reminds me to be careful about judging people different from ourselves and the level of ability they possess in overcoming adversity. There are whole worlds of experience out there most of us rarely see.


Have an epic nice day.


Funny thing. When I got my Northern Lights coffee at the coffee shop this morning, the barista had written, “Have an awesome day!” on the side with a smiley face. It made me think about the original “Have a nice day” yellow grinning t-shirt from the 1970’s and why we were satisfied to have just a nice day back then versus our need today for an awesome day. Has there been nice day inflation or are we determined to package our positive experiences more powerfully now we are surrounded as a culture by daily shootings, terrorist attacks, and other potential threats. Makes me wonder.

Memory Pull


It had been over a year since we’d visited the Alameda Hot Springs Retreat in Montana, but that didn’t stop our dog Barley from digging in like a tractor and pulling me to the room we stayed in previously right after I hooked him up to the leash. I continue to respect our animals abilities for memory and emotion as I move forward in this life and spend more time with them.

Native Dawn


Wonderful to get up for a walk at 6:30 a.m. and catch a scene like the one above as your dog sniffs the ground at your feet. There is nothing like a good dose of fresh air and silence when you’ve been over rushing in life.

Thanks for the Tweets


100 years ago America would have been entering World War 1 after what historians termed the “Quiet Time” as most of Theodore Roosevelt’s and Taft’s terms were without the chaos and conflict we’ve come to expect on our nightly news these days. While that century started out quietly as it climbed toward war, I’m still at a loss for what exactly this century is. We began with 9/11 and have only increased our fear and disillusionment as demagogues and oily politicians attempt to apply simple answers to complex questions.

One thing I do know, is there are many things in our culture we have come to accept as normal that are actually quite abnormal. My latest edition in this complex world of bullshit came over dinner two weeks ago. We needed to get out of the house for an hour, so my wife and I drove the mile or so to Mackenzie River Pizza, a place known for attracting families and a relaxed atmosphere. Nothing special about the food, but the booths are comfortable, and it’s located in a relatively quiet part of town. My wife has very specific food allergies, so we were pleased when the waiter announced a new “soy” cheese, gluton free pizza they were offering that week. To “die for” was his exact quote.

Ten minutes later, the pizza arrived and my wife sniffed at it suspiciously as she was well rehearsed on her food choices. “That’s regular cheese” she insisted, so we called the waiter back and requested a double check on the cheese before she’d even handle a slice. Turns out, a new cook started that day, and he had no idea what soy cheese was, much less where they kept it. From that moment on though, a little drama played itself out that was not only oddly excessive, but somewhat embarrassing.

The waiter wrung his hands, apologizing for five minutes before spilling out half off coupons and announcing the meal was “comped” on behalf of the owner. I could even take home the real cheese pizza in a box if I cared to have it. He suddenly disappeared as it became the manager’s turn to address us. He literally groveled on his knees at the edge of the table, “I’d like to give you two additional $10 off coupons,” he said, “good at any of our locations across the state.” A bit confused at this point, I looked him in the eye and asked, “this was a fumble for sure, but we’re not going to sue the establishment or anything, what exactly is going on?”

Turns out, most of the customers, not just ones with allergies, upon learning there is even an extra crouton on their salad have been known to have massive “rage outs” when something is prepared incorrectly. The manager had developed this routine delivering prizes and coupons as his way to placate fire breathing idiots fishing for goodies.

So I thought about a disturbing cultural trend I’ve seen developing since the beginning of this very unique century. Acting like a cutthroat asshole is rewarded by our system; no matter if you are President of the U.S. or someone who’s at a local deli. Businesses are so afraid of getting a bad Tweet on their services that they often rush to send coupons and goods with a smile. While that may be a good business model for social media in the short run (increased profits), it is killing us as a compassionate, caring culture. We are being trained like circus animals to overreact as quickly as possible to any small mistake we can hang on someone else. Kind of like that chicken that played a piano at the state fair for a food pellet. We need to start asking, “Is a $10 off coupon really worth the cost of losing our humanity and sense of community?”




I was in a favorite local restaurant recently when the owner pointed out a new item he started carrying that week. It was Ginger Beer, and if you’ve never tried it, the ginger gives the beverage a kick not present in the average soda; so after your introduction, it’s easy to become a ginger beer addict. I wasn’t disappointed by the new line, but found myself trying harder and harder to speed up the flow of the liquid as I drank. I knew something was different so I turned the label around and found it was bottled in Australia. Then it made sense, the small mouth on the bottle was more culturally appropriate for a country that didn’t associate meal time with massive portions, all you can eat buffets, and Double Big Gulps. Just as I’d found in Japan, much of Europe, and Thailand, consumption was more about enjoying flavors and pairings over machine gun eating. It’s good to have these little moments of awareness to understand how much of our lives, even little things, are guided by cultural perception.

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