29 May 2006

Wise Men Say......

So everyone is writing about Memorial Day....a day that is hard to ignore considering all that is going on in this world. As someone who is not working I'm not thinking about it as a long weekend. But I am thinking about where we are today. Where this country is and where it is going. I think too often people forget about history, patterns, and the things that got us where we are at this moment. One thing that got us here - in a war that many people (including myself) don't support - is the fact that our President told the U.N. to F*** off when they told him they don't support attacking Iraq. He did it anyway. I wonder if this guy every studied history...you don't have to go that far back to see where our country has gone awry when getting involved in a 'military coup'.

It's a very thin line. You don't want to wallow in your past, but you don't want to forget, either. It is up to each person to decide where that line is, how much to remember, honour, and respect those that have gone before. How many moments in a given day that we spend reflecting is a very individualistic part of our internal process. The past teaches us so much if we allow it to. How else do we know how to move forward in any given situation? I know I can't eat crab because once I spent an entire day loosing many meals, and scratching my arms because I had crab for lunch. I never order crab anymore. I learned my lesson. Quickly.

I live in a city that is an architects wet dream as once told to me by an architect friend. We tear down beautiful old buildings and put up crap at every turn. What we get is overpriced, poorly built dreck (no offense, friend). This city does not respect its past - how else can we tear down the very hotel where RFK was killed? Amazing. This city doesn't view history as something to learn from because it is 'so yesterday'!!!! Who Cares, right?

I care. Deeply. Because no matter what side of that line you are on in any given moment, history has shown us that you can't go forward if you don't know where you've been. If you don't know where you've been, how can you move forward without the lessons learned from the past? I'll say it. I don't like where our country is going. I think it's because some key people have chosen to ignore the great people who have gone before, the wisdom they imparted on us, and the sometimes stupid decisions that have been made by other lesser people who also chose to ignore history.

Thanks for tuning in.....until next monday......Cheers!

22 May 2006

Believe In Me

My mother would have been 62 today. She loved our beach, Agatha Christie, Roberta Flack, Dan Fogelberg, Placido Domingo and so much in between. But perhaps Diane Warren says it best in the song "I Could Not Ask For More". Except time.

Nasdrovia, Mama, Yati Bla lu blu....

15 May 2006

Into The Wild.....

I was about 4 or 5 years old and we were living in Iowa when my Dad took off the training wheels. You should have seen me! This undersized, toe-headed hyperactive kid taking off from my fathers steady hands.....and then........kurplunk! One quick moment and lots of blood later I had had my first bike accident. To this day I still have the scars in my hairline from that life changing day. I was hooked! When we moved to Connecticut, while still in elementary school, I used to bike the 3 miles down the road to my best friends house - who coincidentally lived near a general store where they sold the candy I wasn't allowed to eat....but I digress. Needless to say biking has been a life long passion of mine and through countless miles in 3 major cities, the endless hills of various states, 2 left broken elbows, 1 left broken wrist, and a many-times-over sprained left shoulder I still can’t get enough! I find it exciting, challenging, and I’ll never stop doing it!!

These days it makes economical as well as environmental sense to bike as many places as possible - never mind the obvious health benefits. I bike when I can, nearly every day. In fact until this past weekend I hadn’t driven in a month. But in this city people are in love with their cars, and the aloneness that comes with driving. We just don't make it easy here for most to want to bike. It’s not like Boston where you can bike around The Charles for 27 miles on a bike path - not to mention the countless paths throughout the city that kept me out of harms way of cars, and my favourite that lead out of Davis Square - a former railroad track that was converted to a bike path (go to www.railtrails.org for more info).

L.A. is full of too many cars, too many people on their cell phones and too many near misses. We have very few bike paths - which also doesn't help - the one around the corner from me that runs through West Hollywood is all of 1+ mile long - and we were supposed to kiss the feet of the City Council for that! I’m not surprised at all that more people don’t bike here - the horrendous roads that caused my above mentioned broken bones can deter even the most adventurous. While I do see some cyclists, even a neighbour that I never thought knew how to bike has gotten into it - if only to get to her job 8 blocks away, there are not as many as I would hope considering our lack of weather here. But for every cyclist I see I figure that's 1 less car on the road, 1 less tank to fill and 1 slightly healthier person. Every little bit helps and maybe if more people were biking in this city more motorists would get used to seeing us and would be applauding us, in their heads thank you very much, instead of barely missing us!

Thanks for tuning in.....untill next monday......Cheers!

08 May 2006

Mother's Day

It's been 6 Mother's Day’s since I’ve given a shit. 6 Mother's Days of avoiding the Hallmark Card aisle. If you know me, and are reading this you know why. If you don’t know me I will explain, though I’m sure it's quite obvious; my mother died unexpectedly 6 years ago. While in a linear sense it seems to be a bit of a time ago, emotionally it feels like yesterday. Even though I know this is a day created by a card company, it’s not an easy time, especially since my mothers birthday follows within 2 weeks. But LA is a strange place, which I think makes it easier, if it can be. ‘Holiday’s’ such as St. Patty’s day and Mother's and Father's Day aren’t observed the same way they are back east. St. Patty’s day is hardly noticeable out here, while back east it can last an entire weekend such as I had the pleasure to re-experience in March. I sat in a bar in Canaan, CT. where while no one knew our names, we were invited to join in the St. Patty’s Day celebration. This doesn't happen in LA. People here don’t care about strangers, and they don’t often include the people they do know.

Many people I think come out here to escape their families and therefor days like Mother's Day and Father's Day don’t carry the same weight. It’s truly a shame, even though I’m sure people have their reasons. I was lucky, my mother was my best friend and we never hung up the phone without saying I Love You - those were, in fact, the last words I heard her speak. I cherish those last words, and when she was alive we celebrated Mother's Day - many of them, somehow, some way, and as I got older, nearly every day of her life. Maybe that’s how it should be, families, parents especially, aren't perfect, but still we love them, and feel like dying when they leave us for, I hope, a better place. So whether you buy your mom a card this week, or any week, tell her you love her and be glad you still have her to love, fight with, or even dislike. I’d give anything not to love a ghost and not to hate Mother’s Day.

Thanks for tuning in....until next monday...Cheers!!!

01 May 2006

a tale of 2 companies.....

Hey There.....monday again...

I don't know how many of you watch "60 Minutes" - it was a family favourite growing up (followed by 'Murder She Wrote' - snooze...thats when I got some more reading in...) but last week they did a feature on Howard Schulz. He is the man who bought "Starbucks" from its founding fathers when it was 6 stores old and turned it into, quite literally, a corner staple in American culture. It got me thinking again about the idea of different approaches to doing business, making money and the American Dream.

I remember the first time I saw a Starbucks. It was in 1994 or 1995 or so....it popped up on a small corner of Massachusetts Avenue between Porter Square and Harvard Square. I stopped in one day on my walk into Harvard Square and I thought - "this is cute - the coffee isnt very good - but I like the idea, I like that its different". Right about that time I had a roomie, Kristin, who had been a short order cook during her summers in college at a restaurant on The Cape. She was a really good cook - very tasty vittles and taught me alot about cooking - tho to this day I still cannot stand the taste of ginger - tho not for her lack of trying. She went on to open a restaurant in Joshua Tree called "The Crossroads Cafe" - she sold it (the new owners are still there making amazing food from her recipes) and moved back east to start a salad dressing, and dip company call "Appalachian Naturals". The stuff is to die for...not that I expected anything less from Kristin. [See the link to the right]

I watched last week as Howard Schulz talked about how he came from a slum in Brooklyn and built himself and his company into the chain that it is today (I applaude him for that). But one thing has always bothered me since I started to notice more and more Starbucks popping up....the corner domination. They are opening up 1 Starbucks every 5 hours somewhere in this world!!! I heard about and witnessed in Cambridge how a Starbucks would move into the neighbourhood and the local, long time coffee shop eventually went away. Starbucks did this by moving in, under pricing to encourage new customers than raising the prices when the local coffee shop went out of business. Now I understand that people make choices (so do zoning commissions), we all operate of our own free will....but if there is only 1 choice because a competitor has been 'forced out' than what happens then? What about the small business person who has a dream only to be crushed by Howard Schulz and his crappy tasting coffee? (If anyone has ever seen a Starbucks in my hand in the last 10 years it has been because someone else has purchased it for me). Where and when is there room for someone else? You don't see my beloved Dunkin' Donuts on every corner do you? Yet they have been around forever and I'm sure aren't hurting for cash. When is enough enough?

Then you have Appalachian Naturals....they are a small business out of Western Massachusetts. They use ingredients from local farmers, they use recyclable materials and dammit...its good stuff!!! Here is a business that I am certain won't want to take over the world. There will be room for another salad dressing company in the same way that Paul Newman left room for others...and no doubt - when the time comes - Kristin will 'give back' as Newman does - something that I feel is very important. I didn't see any mention of Howard Schulz' philanthropic ventures on "60 Minutes" but maybe that's because he spent so much time talking about his plans to take over more corners of the world! Remember the documantary "When Walmart Came to Town"? How about "When Starbucks Came To Town"?

Many of you know that I have spent years going out of my way to support local, small businesses...always going to the "1369 Coffee House" or "Buzz Coffee", or "Koontz Hardware Store" in order to do my small part to preserve the American Dream. Starbucks, Walmart, Home Depot....they don't need my hard earned money...it might cost me more for that cup of joe, or can of paint....but its worth it!

Faithfully doing my part, one cup at a time....Thanks for tuning in!

Until next monday!!