Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Perfect Winter Storm

Our local daily newspaper, the Bangor Daily News, is very good, and its editorial and op ed pages, in particular, are the best kind of this genre: a source of never ending conversation and infuriation.

Last week, in the midst of our second major snow and ice storm of the not-quite-here-yet winter, columnist Kent Ward from up in the County decided to use some newsprint inches by pooh-poohing, alongside a few seemingly “sacred cows,” global warming. He did so from a very particular, traditional Maine viewpoint, one which greatly informs our Down East island fishing culture and is therefore worth further consideration.

This viewpoint has several predominant characteristics, all of which Ward ably illustrated. The first and most obvious here in our own community is a pragmatic “what you see is what you’ve got” approach to the world. Ward’s expression of this characteristic sounds like this: we’ve had more major snowstorms, ice, and cold in the first days of December than at any other time in recent memory; therefore, there is no such thing as global warming.

The second and related characteristic of our rural Maine communities which Ward exemplified in this column is a separation of the human world of cause and effect from the natural world. Snowstorms and cold weather are forces that effect human beings, creating inconvenience and pain; yet their causes are disconnected from any human action.

The third and most important characteristic of Maine communities illustrated in Ward’s column is a natural resources-based fatalism. If “what you see is what you’ve got,” and the natural world is a force of its own, separate from human causation, then there isn’t a damn thing you can do about global warming. Just like the past ballyhoo about a potential “nuclear winter,” Ward writes, concerns about the negative effects global warming are just another creation of the “professional doom-and-gloomers of the world” (the polar opposites, if you will, of the cheery, optimistic, traditional folk in northern Maine).

Our local version of these characteristics sounds like this: the fish aren’t here this year; this has happened before; we don’t know why and we can’t control it; maybe they will be back when they’re ready. Or perhaps an angle like this: property values are increasing; we can’t afford our homes or taxes; “the economy" is a large, natural phenomenon and there is nothing we can do about it.

There is a lot of wisdom in this type of fatalism, which has its deep and understandable roots in rural experience and traditions that for centuries had no way of measuring human impact on our own environment; and in problems that seem so much bigger than we are that they are unsolvable. Fish DO come and go in natural, often unpredictable cycles—just like the weather. Fish and weather are natural elements of our world, with lives and spirit and meaning of their own; they are rightfully mysterious to us.

This traditional Maine viewpoint, however, also helps us to avoid taking responsibility for ourselves and our actions. It’s one thing to believe in god, or to recognize that the world is a bigger and more powerful spirit than our own individual self; it’s another thing to use this knowledge and respect to abrogate our individual responsibilities, as part and parcel of this world.

Luckily for our fisheries, most of our local fishermen are, in their own words, “waking up” to the fact that the demise of ground fish, and potentially lobster, are the direct result of fishermen’s own management of the resources; and they’re working to turn that management around.

What are our similar responsibilities for global warming or escalating property valuations? The tragic aspect of both phenomenon is that they are NOT “natural” or inevitable. They are a direct result of how we, in the richest and most developed country in the world, consume resources.

Our fierce ice and snow storms are a part of, not separate from, global warming. Our high property taxes are a direct reflection of how little we choose to involve ourselves with core community issues via land use ordinances and economic development initiatives.

It’s true, each of these is a very complex ecosystem, in and of itself; and, as individuals, we are small in the face of these much larger issues. But together we are powerful. The earth has born witness to both glacial and tropical ages throughout the millennia and, with our help, is quickly entering another tropical age. Our oil-and-consumption based economy is quickly entering a recession. If we’re unwilling to take both small and large actions to stem the effects of these very human phenomenon—rising tides, droughts, the loss of farms and fish and jobs and the polar ice caps—then at the very least, in another good Maine tradition, we need to be willing to let them go without complaining.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

There's No House like the Opera House

Just in time for the holidays, and travelling with a snow and ice storm since Ohama, we've arrived home to our island and Opera House. From my office window at dusk on Saturday afternoon, I can watch the Island Fisherman's Wives in the parking lot on the commericial fish pier, pouring punch and welcoming Santa Claus and excited families. Behind them, the tiny Isle au Haut ferry, green port lights glowing in the near dark, makes its last trip in to shore.

Tonight we will host a benefit for the Island Food Pantry: 15 to 20 musicians from Northern Maine playing old time country classics, right after a bean supper hosted at a nearby church. Today's melt is turning the roads icy: it is supposed to be bitterly cold tonight and tomorrow. The musicians from Northern Maine are a group of folks who simply like to play music in their houses. We have dubbed them "North Country Country," and this is their second appearance with us. They embody a long tradition on the island: regular folks who love to make music. With luck, some people will brave the icy roads and join us so we can help support the Island Food Pantry. Tomorrow night we present a single showing of Penobscot Theatre's hysterical "Santaland Diaries" -- a more modern and cynical take on the holiday season.

Ho ho ho and see you at the Opera House!

Power to the People

Here is Inushkuk, sitting atop the binocular stand, viewing Niagara Falls on a cold December day. I had not been to Niagara Falls since I was a kid, on a family trip that included both grandmothers; and the only others there with us this past week were a group of Tibetan Buddhist monks, smoking and taking pictures.

The power of the Niagara River is stunning, as is the geological history that created them. Perhaps most interesting is that the falls started considerably further down river than they presently are; and "walked" back to their present location as they eroded the underlying ledge, creating a giant whirlpool, gorge, and more.

The power is stunning and apparent, and it didn't take long for European settlers to begin harnessing this power. The falls' power has been channeled into the first A/C power distribution network since the late 19th century, when Nicola Tesla won the support of George Westinghouse; faced off with Thomas Edison, the famous inventor of D/C electrical appliances; and created a distributed power system for Buffalo. To this day, the hydroelectric generating capacity of the Falls is magnificent and sets an underutilized example for other places in the country.

Our trip through the plains took us through multiple horizons of wind farms; Niagara, a gateway back east, boasts hydropower. The residents of California, Idaho, Wyoming are proud of their wind farms, as, historically, are those of Niagara. As they should be. The production and use of alternative forms of energy should be, as one of our OHA board members said in viewing the wind farm atop Mars Hill in Northern Maine, a point of national pride. It's too bad we don't see more such innovation in New England; which is small enough that almost every such opportunity devolves into a Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) battle.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Reading Neruda en route to Detroit

It’s cold and blustery, but thankfully not snowing, and we are zipping past the steaming steel mills of Gary, Indiana on route to Detroit—and ultimately, tonight, to Niagara Falls. The madness of steam and wires, tracks and trucks that envelopes the south end of Lake Michigan, is somehow very cheery: we’re still manufacturing steel here! This place is still a working, industrial zone! The mess of a Calumet River slides beneath us, turgid with the greasy output of this manufacturing, and still I cheer it on. A recession is coming, the radio has been warning as we struggle east and homeward, and as the gas burns beneath our tires we feel the weight of this pronouncement begin to bear down on us. Thus the steaming factories and mills of Gary are a cheerful sight . . .

Reading Neruda on route to Detroit—thanks to the sweet roadtrip-gift of his Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair from our friend Jennifer—is amusing in its ironies. “Let your deep eyes close,” Judith reads as I struggle to stay awake, mile after monotonous mile of American fast food culture blurring by us. “There the night flutters./Ah your body, a frightened statue, naked.” Michigan appears to have a greater saturation of Adult Video / XXX Superstores / Exotic (insert Asian-sounding name here) Health-Massage Clubs than any state through which we have yet traveled.

Dearborn. Flint. Motor City! How did this quintessentially American industry—the birth of the assembly line, the manufacture of the automobile—end up just across the border from Canada? Was Henry Ford from Dearborn?? The vaguely rolling terrain is dotted with a crust of snow that seems to have endured since last year; the strawberry and cherry orchards almost invisible against the leaden gray sky and this brownish-white crust. Why is Michigan known for fruit and cars, and not corn and cattle, the way Iowa is? It’s too simple to say “geography” since it is hardly ever the only lever of American economics. Why fruit, why Ford; and is Kellogg Michigan’s Neruda? Inquiring minds on the road--especially when the highway is closed down due to another snow storm!--want to know. We are making our way slowly, slowly back to New England.

Chi Town

“It’s a done deal,” my former college roommate, Melissa, pronounces just before dinner. The 25th anniversary of our graduation from Bowdoin is approaching in Spring 2008, and we are discussing how to insert—for old times’ sake—a political demonstration into the celebrations. Otherwise we’re not much interested in attending.

“The Arctic caps saw so much loss this last year, there’s no real reversing the damage.”

Traveling U.S. interstate highways, it’s pretty clear we’re a people very busy hammering nails into our own coffins and not thinking about it a whole lot. If it were ONLY that the national debt—a kind of abstract reality that works like an invisible hand on each of our lives—has tripled under the G.W. Bush administration, we might be OK. But the number of tractor trailer trucks hauling ton after ton of stuff to consumer over mile after mile after mile of road; the number of cars, including our own big van, driving and parking and spewing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere: what are we thinking?

The forests of Borneo are said to be shrinking at the rate of three football fields an hour, according to the CBC later that night, as we sit for two hours on a dark Canadian highway in a snowstorm. Another tractor trailer, jack-knifed. It is bitterly cold and windy. As some of my neighbors in Maine might say: what global warming?

As if each of our own experiences, day by day, defines for us the globe.

We give Chanukah and birthday presents to Jordan, who will turn nine in a few days. She is reading a series of illustrated chapter books called Babymouse, which feature quite the feminine, middle-school-age mouse in strong, self-esteeming building narratives. Jordan is an amazing soccer player and does karate as well.

While some things stay the same, some things do change.

Belle Plaine and What Cheer, Iowa: The First Ice Storm of Winter

In Eastern Colorado, the steer and the antelope and Mexican immigrants play. These high rolling plains were the nexus of the Texas-Montana Cattle (bison bye-bye; longhorns, ho!), the Overland, and Trappers’ Trails—until the Union Pacific Railroad snorted its way into town, changing everything, just after the Civil War.

It’s almost still a prairie here: surge after surge of yellowed tumbleweed becoming, as we continue east, golden grasses. Cross the border into Nebraska and the land compliantly flattens; the earth turns black and bristles with harvested corn husks. Corn, corn, and too much corn to do any of our autoimmune systems—whether human or grass-eating cattle imprisoned in a stinking stock yard—any good. For those who still eat commercial beef, who still drink commercial milk, denial (and the pleasure of your pocketbook, I suppose) is your best and most necessary friend if you travel through these environs.

Though no longer plentiful, the state flower of Nebraska is still the prairie rose, which once grew thickly as part of the eight foot tall sea of swaying grasses memorialized by the woman I consider to be the U.S.’s best novelist, Willa Cather. I am reading Prairie Visions, an autobiography by the innovative folklorist, community worker, and theater professor Robert Gard (father to Judith’s good friend and community arts worker Maryo Gard Ewell). In it, Gard relates the story of how his father urged him to leave home. The luxurious and seemingly endless sea of grasses that had lured his father to Kansas had been, by the early 20th century, chewed up and spit out by the sodbusters, those horse-driven plows piloted by visionaries such as Gard’s father himself. The prairie in Kansas gone, Gard’s father urges him out “to discover The Stranger,” to find the next untouched prairie. A parable of the paradox of American mobility and development . . .

When we reach Iowa and its swelling hills, water is pouring from the sky and freezing before it hits our windshield: the roadside ditches and medians are littered with cars and trucks. Rolled over on their backs and crushed like beetles; jackknifed like alligators trying to bite their own tales. We counted six tractor trailers off the road in less than a mile, many more before and after that. It’s a war zone and the traffic is losing.

Judith is scared and wants to stop for the night.

I can’t bear another night in a disinfected hotel along an anonymous expressway, while our debt accumulates and my goddaughter Jordan awaits in Chicago.

We’re arguing the pro’s and con’s when we pass through What Cheer, Iowa.

We arrive, bruised and fatigued, in Chicago around 10:30 that night. Whole bodies, icy souls.

(That black spot in the photo below is Jack, peering down from a loft on the stairs over the Christmas tree we helped decorate, with friends, in Chicago).

Julien's Cliffhouse Kombucha

Across the border of southern Wyoming and into Colorado. Suddenly: evergreens dot rolling green and red pastures. We’ve crossed another line . . .

. . . into a world in which people live up canyons. Jamestown, CO, where Kate, Rudiger, and Julien are, is a former mining town of approximately 300 residents, up the canyon carved into the Rockies above Boulder by the Jamestown creek. There’s a post office, a community church, and “The Merc,” a mercantile / cafĂ© that hosts live music every Thursday and some weekends (The Merc is the big white building in the photo below, taken from the porch of Julien’s Cliffhouse). The serpentine road up the canyon is overpopulated by lean bikers outfitted in sleek, unnatural biking costumes that cost hundreds of dollars. But up in Jamestown itself, mountain lions still eat neighborhood cats; dogs roam freely unleashed; and 10-year-old Julien can walk across the street to go to the village elementary school through the fifth grade.

We had the distinct pleasure of staying in Julien’s Cliffhouse (pictured above left): a hand-constructed playhouse built by Julien’s father, Rudiger, for him. The cliffhouse is cantilevered, on steel beams, over the creek and the town center: I took this picture walking back up to it from the post office, which is almost directly beneath the cliffhouse. The porch rail is made from unhewn logs and sticks; the ceiling is vaulted, shaped by pine Rudiger steamed and curved and glued; the lavender exterior and teal trim are the colors requested by Julien.

Rudiger, born and raised in Germany but most recently of Guatelmala, is trilingual and so self-sufficient it is impossible not to envy him. Julien’s Cliffhouse is testament to his extraordinary skill as a carpenter and woodworker. All of the family’s hot water, and some of their home’s heat, is supplied by water-based solar panels he installed on the roof. He brought a kombucha mushroom with him from Germany in 1985, and after more than 20 years of fermenting this natural energy drink for himself and his family he has begun to bottle it and sell it--under the “Julien’s Cliffhouse” label. The raw, quiet beauty of self-sufficiency required by a location such as Jamestown (or Stonington, ME) is lost on neither old-school Republicans (aka, Libertarians), nor Democrats (aka Hippies), both of whom happily co-reside in many Colorado canyon, and Maine island, towns.

Monday, December 3, 2007

No Trees, Only Wind: On Cowboys and Lobster Fishermen

Have you noticed that the geography of states really changes at state lines? Wyoming: monolithic rock outcroppings tower over the biggest, flattest, most treeless plains I have ever seen. We will reach the edge, where this treeless expanse meets the sky, and fly off, soaring into the thin blue-almost-white atmosphere. The Wind is gusting at 70 mph, moving our 10-cylinder van like any tumbleweed across the road, from west to east. Giant Black Angus steer look like tiny plastic toys dotting the plains; the highway is lined with barbed wire fencing; the range criss-crossed with x-shaped, metal snow fencing in an attempt to stop the wind from overwhelming the road. The wind pushes and shoves the barbs across one’s vision until my eyeballs feel scraped: branded with the image of Matthew Shepard’s scarecrow-like form, a gay youth beaten and tied to wire such as this. This landscape is tough: not actively hostile, but indifferent to us and our many identities and destinations.

The Wind rules here, it is the shape and motion in a landscape devoid of trees or other objects. A cowboy on a horse or in a Chevy Silverado has only the wind as companion to his work, just like the lobster fisherman in his small boat upon the sea. There is a line between earth and horizon, there is you, there is the wind. In this way, tussling alone against the wind, cowboys and lobster fishermen must form their ideas, their souls, their characters. When they ride back into harbor, they expect to find more wind but instead find community. Speaking in the rhythms and languages of the wind as it scrubs the uneven surface of the water or the range, they become multilingual or often do not speak at all. Going back to our time in Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico, I am wondering if this is what Judith means, at least in part, when she talks about the “spirit of the west;” if it is what we mean, at least in part, when we talk about the unique culture of Down East Maine. We are a wind-licked people, the wind pushes us and we push back. We bluster, we push, we struggle. The wind is ceaseless and relentless, fierce and cold and sharp. In these locales it is never gentle. And so we bundle up, our faces and hands are chapped, we have to holler to be heard against the wind’s loud insistent voice. We yell at it, we live in it, finding it difficult to make a difference between our wind-voice and our people-voice. Maybe the spirits of the west and the spirit of Down East are of each of us alone, talking with and often over the loud wind. Shouting at god. Feeling as if we cannot be heard; and that, as between each of us, it is difficult to determine what is or is not a response, to translate god's words, to understand their relationship to our own.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Malheur, Oregon: Inspiring Theater Tales in the Desert Grim

You gotta think twice, or maybe three times, when you drive for hours and hours—a full day, in fact—through a cold, high, empty desert with a county and town and river all named Malheur. Eastern Oregon is quite empty and wild. As with so many points along our trip, we pondered what it must have been like to be a pioneer woman going through here, just a little south of the highway that was the Oregon Trail, pre-Dairy Queens and such.

We didn’t have enough time to hike or explore, but we did have the joy of observing several small, Main Street movie theaters—such as the Desert at left, and the Rex below—that are still alive and kicking in these tiny rural locations. Note that they, like our own beloved Opera House, were playing Bee Movie and Dan in Real Life the two weekends after Thanksgiving. The little, handlettered sandwich board outside the pretty, pink-trimmed Desert says “Matinee Today!” (it was Sunday) and proudly promoted the fact that they were showing two different movies for the holiday. It made us feel right at home. Viva la cinema! Viva la Maison d’Opera!

Jack and the Inukshuk

We hit Thanksgiving in Eugene, OR, with so much for which to give thanks. We had just left a wonderful visit with Jeanine and Don; friends in San Francisco; Dale and his fine family of three blonde boys (ASIDE: when I first went to Bowdoin, everyone assumed I was from California. Now I know why. It’s the Blonde State.) and had arrived in Eugene at Jennie and her family’s beautiful home.

There was just one small problem: our 6-month old puppy, Jack, was throwing up. All day. Beginning on our arrival in OR two days before Thanksgiving, he had no energy. We took him to the vet, who was puzzled, on Wednesday. We thought, as with all of his puppy diarrhea, that he had gotten into something and would get over it.
He didn’t. He was a limp noodle in our arms Friday morning, when we rushed him to the vet and he was diagnosed with parvo. We were stunned. He’d had all his shots; and dogs die from parvo within three days of showing symptoms. The vet rushed him into isolation and put him on an IV, giving him a 50-50 chance and telling us what rotten places rest areas and dog parks are for young dogs whose immune systems are not fully developed. What?! Why hadn’t someone said that to us previously??
And still, we had and have so much for which to be grateful. We had extra time, extra meals, extra hot tubs with grandchildren Carmen and Bodin. I got to go swimming with them, and be there when 4-days-short-of-5-year-old Bodin discovered swimming noodles and traversed the kiddie pool on his own. Now, to add to all of that, Jack has recovered from parvo.

We are on the road again, our travels safeguarded by Inukshuk (see photo of Jack with stone sculpture, above). Inukshuk is a statue created from flat stones by my sister Donna, with whom we stayed outside of Bruneau, ID, on November 25. According to some information she provided along with the statue, Inukshuk, which means “in the image of man,” are “magnificent lifelike figures of stone which were erected by the Inuit people and are unique to the Canadian Arctic.” The traditional meaning of an Inukshuk, which is reminiscent, to those who hike, of trail cairns, was to act as a compass or guide for a safe journey. For example, an Inukshuk on land with two arms and two legs, like this guy, means there is a valley, at the end of which the traveler has a choice in the direction we choose to take in our lives . . . happily, Donna’s Inukshuk now oversees our travels from the dashboard of the Opera House’s Ford van. There are a lot more interesting things the Inukshuk represents; stay tuned for more Inukshuk wisdom as we go along.

According to the wisdom of the Buddha, we can actually use our lives to prepare for death. We do not have to wait for the painful death of someone close to us or the shock of terminal illness to force us into looking at our lives. Nor are we condemned to go out empty-handed at death to meet the unknown. We can begin, here and now, to find meaning in our lives. We can make of every moment an opportunity to change and to prepare -- wholeheartedly, precisely, and with peace of mind -- for death and eternity. In the Buddhist approach, life and death are seen as one whole, where death is the beginning of another chapter of life. Death is a mirror in which the entire meaning of life is reflected. - Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Amazing Human Experience of Choice

As an adopted child, I've been extremely lucky on many, many fronts (that's my birth mother, Jeanine, with me in the photo at right). The one of which I am most conscious, however, is the awareness that adoption brings of the wondrous power that comes from choosing one's family.

Imagine the power of growing up in the early 1960s with your parents telling you they CHOSE you. Imagine the self esteem that creates; especially for a girl, who one day will have that choice herself. I believe that much of my sense that I can create anything in this world--including family--comes from being made aware, as a young child, that we are all, in some sense, chosen.

I think more children are raised this way today, in their birth as well as their adoptive families: because giving birth and having a family are at last, since 1972, more clearly about choice. I say "more" because I still know, both on my rural Maine island and the city in which I once lived, many teen age girls who don't feel as if they have a choice: who have babies at 15-16-17-18-19 because that's the only choice they feel they have, economically and culturally and ethically.

I've always felt so awed that someone -- my adoptive family -- chose me. Knowing that choice has allowed me to go into the world and create my own family. This big extended family--my lesbian partner and her children and grandchildren; my friends and former partners and their children; my adopted family, godparents, cousins, and their children; and most recently my birth mother, half siblings and their children--may not be traditional but it is a rich and diverse stew that feeds me to the extent I feed it. This is my family, and I am proud of it and honored and grateful to be a part of it. Thanks to all of you who allow me to consider you a part of this family.

I've only more recently become aware of the more difficult choices faced by my birth mother, thanks in part to an excellent book on the subject of these girls who, just after World War II during the "baby boom" years--which included a huge boom in babies "given up" for adoption--were confronted with increased sexual freedom and few ways to deal with the biological consequences of this freedom. This book, The Girls Who Went Away: the Hidden History of Women who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Years Before Roe v. Wade, prompted me, at 44 years of age, to seek out my birth mother. Getting to know Jeanine and her family has been another part of the wondrous ride of being a part of chosen family.

A lot of adoption stories aren't so happy, of course. (The photo to the left shows me in northern California last Sunday at my half brother Dale's house, with his family; my birth mother, Jeanine; and her husband of 35+ years, Don.) A lot of the women who had no choice about the fate of their bodies--women who were forced to have and to surrender their babies--did not fare as well as Jeanine; and the reunions between these children and their birth mothers, when they occur, don't bring the kind of love and joy mine has. Choice is one of the most fragile and amazing aspects of being human, and all too often we don't honor it, or attend to it. Choosing is an amazing and complicated act: each choice we make cuts in many directions.

In the context of having babies, the other side of "chosen" is "unwanted:" and children in that situation know their beginnings just as surely as I know mine. I'm not precious about the fact that I was born rather than aborted. When I talk about the critical role choice has played in my life, its power and importance, I'm not talking about being lucky because my mother chose to give birth to me (she actually didn't have other choices at that time): I'm talking about her choice to surrender me for adoption. I'm talking about the important power of each of us to choose life carefully and death equally: to not be afraid of death, but to choose it. To choose abortion where necessary; to choose to give birth; to choose our families from those we love, no matter their gender or color or genetic connection to us. The amazing human experience of choice.

"If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people. To be born means that something which did not exist comes into existence. But the day we are born is not our beginning. It is a day of continuation. Since we are never born, how can we cease to be?" -- Thich Nhat Hanh, Present Moment, Wonderful Moment

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Deep Blue

Beneath the sea, beneath the sea beneath the deep blue sea . . . we were at 170 feet below sea level in Death Valley. It feels a little as I imagine Jacques Cousteau might have, in his watery underworld, only without the gear. Here is the sea floor, here are the sand dunes. Here are the rugged, impassable and impassive mountains, holding it all in. Our 10-cylinder Ford purrs across the dips and rises that stymied horse drawn wagons. It takes us hours to go from below sea level to almost 9,000 feet in the Sierra's Tioga Pass; the gold rushing forty-niners spent days and weeks and months trying to traverse this salt encrusted landscape, many dying in the passage.

What's most interesting about Death Valley is that the reason for its existence is the constant, ongoing movement of the Panamint Mountain plate. It remains active, which is to say it is constantly pushing up; thereby pushing the floor of the valley ever lower. I close my eyes and can almost feel, in my pelvis, the gyroscopic quality of this see-sawing movement. We've made it to California, and the earth does still move here.

There's so much those of us who grow up and live 3,000 miles away just don't know about this landscape, and therefore about the people who live here. Maybe at one point in geography class I learned that Mount Whitney, pictured to the left with me and the two dogs, is the highest point in the 48 states: but growing up with Katahdin and Mount Washington, who thinks of these things?! Yet here it is, shadowing the Owens River Valley: a fabulously beautiful and mineral rich area, which Los Angeles's William Mulholland (think Mulholland Drive, those of you rich in LA or movie lore), a working class Irish immigrant who rose through the ranks to become superintendent of LA's water system, tapped as the giant aqueduct which travels down and across the state and makes LA the fabulous LA it is. The aqueduct pipe is 10' in diameter and buried for miles and miles; like the Blade Runner-ish Hoover Dam we crossed to get here, it is an engineering marvel and one that makes it difficult not to respect man's uncanny ingenuity--even when it is harnassed to sap the landscape and create plagues such as nuclear waste (buried just to the east of here, in Nevada) and global warming.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Judith and Linda's Excellent Adventure, Episode 10: No Pants in the High Chaparral

It's 5:30 a.m. at Sumner Lake State Park in eastern New Mexico. A thousand miles from nowhere. Made it through Texas stockyard row, vowing never to eat another Steak & Shake burger, the smell of death still clinging to our nostrils even as we slowly awake the next morning. Sun not up, although light is seeping over the edges of the plateaus. 40 degrees, high chaparral chill.

Gotta pee.

Both of us. Well, three of us, actually. Tosca jumps out, too, as JJ and I fall out of the van in our PJs: hers a full suit, mine -- well, mine just the top. I slide the van door shut behind us so the puppy can't escape into the dark.

We all pee into the creosote scrub. We come back to the van. JJ looks at me.

You closed the door.

Yeah, well, I didn't want the puppy . . .

We're in big trouble.

What JJ means is that the sliding door of the van has a broken handle. We can only open it by opening one of the other doors first.

And, because we're afraid of rattlesnakes, we locked all the other doors for the night.

I look at Jack, who is sitting looking sleepy and curly in the passenger seat.

I point toward the door lock. Open the door, I tell Jack.

Jack looks at me. We are locked out in the high chaparral, without clothes, in the 40 degree morning . . .

This is Yeso, where Judith's grandparents homesteaded before moving to Oklahoma City. "Homesteading" being a very loose term for what was possible in this desert environment, beautiful as it is. We passed through Yeso later that same morning, en route to Albuqueque, the roar of the dry wind in our ears through the garbage bags ducked taped across the broken van window.

We tried to get JJ's skinny arm inside the van to unlock it, but to prevent her from becoming stuck I pried the window a little too hard, and it shattered. We're gonna be delayed but . . . at least we have our pants on.

Despite the most recent episode in our excellent adventure, I tell JJ what I've thought a million times before: if I was ever forced to leave my beloved ocean and move into the desert, this would be the desert for me. Yellow and vermillion, the New Mexican high plains, ghostly Spanish land grants and abandoned missions, and native culture sing out to me.

Red Dirt

Red powder, really. Under our nails, coating our feet, dusting our hair and making all four of us, black dogs included, into strawberry blondes. We dust off each time before stepping into the van. The wind has worn Oklahoma sandstone--as illustrated by one of the famous rose rocks, above, given to us by Judith's cousin Judy--into such a fine powder it is difficult to believe anyone ever tried to farm here. But they did: they famously busted open the land with the plow, trying to plant as many fields of wheat as they could, even as the economic cycles and over supply forced wheat prices down. As prices went down, they . . . planted more. Not dissimilarly from corn today, which is another whole story and one told best by Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma. And the more they busted open the red powder land, the more it blew, resulting in a red dirt dustball the likes of which my generation is lucky to have never seen.

But Judith's family did: they were homesteaders and sheep herders and her mother remembered moving around in a wagon until they landed finally in Oklahoma City. Shown to the right are JJ and her cousin Rodger, seconds before he jets off to Germany.
I didn't have time in my last post to talk about Rodger's wife, Judy (Oklahoma is populated by Ralph's and Judy's); she has been a journalist with the Tulsa Globe for almost 40 years, and is currently their book editor. Despite its empty downtown, Tulsa--called by Rodger and others an "eastern city" for the way it was developed by eastern oil men--Tulsa is a thriving intellectual center in OK, and Judy, proud of her city, is a great example of that. I'm always awed and proud to meet anyone who has been a daily journalist for 40 years . . .

Oklahoma City, the state capital and unlike Tulsa, is what is known as a "cow town." Populated and run by cowboys, it has a "western spirit" and design unlike Tulsa. This is where JJ grew up, in a small neighborhood just outside downtown with her mother's parents, whom she called Nanny and Dada.

Oklahoma is celebrating its centennial: it is very nearly the youngest state in the nation. Centennial sounds funny to my eastern ears, educated as they were at a college founded in 1796 . . . to prepare, the Oklahoma legislature raised the money to finish building the capital building, completing its rotunda in 2002! We use it as a landmark as we drive downtown. Downtown to the Oklahoma City National Monument: other than the World Trade Centers, this is the only other place in the U.S. where a bomb has killed significant numbers of U.S. citizens: and this bomb was created and detonated by a U.S. citizen himself.

The memorial, designed by a German artist, is eerily beautiful: the street that used to run past the Alfred J. Murragh Federal Building, the block used by Timothy McVeigh to drive his van into, transformed into a reflecting pool. Chairs for each of the 168 killed in the bombing. McVeigh did not like the way in which federal agents handled David Koresh's radical Christian sect at Waco, TX (and who did, since federal agents ended up firebombing the place) and decided to seek retribution. It's really a shame the Bible has that line in there about "an eye for an eye." The Christianity with which I was raised was one of forgiveness, not vengeance: the Christianity I know doesn't support putting more of our citizens in jail than does any other nation, nor does it support the death penalty. But that's just the point: everyone has their own reading of the Bible, and so many of these readings are not about love and compassion, grace and forgiveness; so many of them are simply deadly.

So we travel on, toward Texas and New Mexico, asking: what is the "western spirit?"

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Oklahoma Deco, and the Blair ** Project

The further we drive, the more apparent it becomes that landscape is etched into our bodies and souls. What else could explain JJ's connection to this barren land of short scrubby trees, flat horizons, and endless dust?! But she loves it, the way I love the gentle salt marshes of southern New England and the rocky shores of northern. She basks in the heat, I wilt. We're in her country now.

The picture above is the Blair, an apartment building where Judith's father's sister, Marie, and her husband Ray, lived; and where Judith and her cousin Rodger (both shown as specks here in front of the building) spent much beloved time. The Blair used to be surrounded by lots of other apartment buildings and stores and activity; now it is surrounded by parking lots (I'm trying not to sustain a despairing theme here, about the abandonment of america, but it ain't easy). Downtown Tulsa is a ghost town, its gorgeous Art Deco buildings, built during the oil boom of the 1920s, largely deserted now, especially on weekends. It reminds me of downtown Houston: all the life is in the suburbs and the malls to the south. To use these incredibly beautifully ornamented structures for modern business or life requires rewiring and retrofitting that apparently few are willing to take on. So here we are, in the city where Judith and Rodger ran wild as kids, eating free cake and sitting in at courthouse trials: and it is largely an empty parking lot.

Rodger went on to be a long term state representative, and speaker pro tem of the house here in Oklahoma; and then major of Tulsa, pop. app. 330,000. He speaks Portuguese and Spanish fluently and is, how we say in our country, an interesting character. He is off this Sunday morning for Germany, where he is teaching a class in human relations. Currently he heads a department at the University of Oklahoma he self titled as Democracy and Culture in Human Relations. A good reminder that we all need to create our own dream jobs!

We head down to Oklahoma City later today. I am curious about the heartland location where a federal building was bombed: it is so abstract to me, I am eager to place it. Eager, too, to visit Judith's father's grave. More family pictures to come --

Inspiring Theater Tales, Part 2

We promised all our beloved family members back in Maine we wouldn't stop at every Opera House along our route, but this one, in Van Buren, Arkansas, at the Oklahoma state line, we could not resist. Above, Stonington Opera House meets King Opera House; at right, the interior of the lobby.
Built and converted into an Opera House in the late 19th century, around the same time as ours and for the same purposes: vaudeville and film. Van Buren has a historic, active Main Street! Yeah!


We're excited to arrive in Nashville. I can see Loretta Lynn as she comes onto the Grand Ol' Opry stage for the first time. And Johnny Cash. The Carter Family. Minnie Pearl! Howww - dy! Buck Owens and his stars-n-stripes guitar. These were the icons of my growing up years; and my mother to this day, at 84, is glued in front of Country Music TV (OK, which to me sounds like pop radio, but who's to say??).

Not to mention, we are on the Conni's Avant Garde Restaurant trail. Our pals (see post below) came out here last spring to perform at the Frist Center for the Arts, in coordination with a Picasso-Matisse exhibit.

Like any visitor by car, we first get caught in the concentric swirling circles of highways, looped around the city like multiple strands of wooden beads (can't really say pearls, much as one might like to!). Working our way in, and in, and in: is there a there there?! Signs for Opryland and the Grand Ol' Opry and Opry Mills Drive; the city towers are still far off, but we careen off the exit as directed.

What we've got here is a mall; actually, more than a mall, a Disneyland. It turns out that the staggering number of visitors to the opry has caused them to rebuild it as a theme park, well outside the city itself. ! who knew?! I feel as if I have not been paying attention. Surely my aunt and uncle have visited, have told me this.

We drive by the ginormous Outdoor World building (irony not lost); the multiplex; the Grinch Ice Show; the box that is now the Grand Ol' Opry itself. We drive through the parking lot and out without stopping.

We need a downtown. Please. Somewhere. Anywhere. But first, for JJ, a Steak 'n Shake.

It turns out we have to go 30 miles south of the city for lunch at the latter, but we do. There is nothing so good as memory food. Hopefully we will naturally run into others along the route: thick shakes, shoe string fries, black and white tiles with gleaming stainless steel fixtures, thin thin thin steakburgers, no ketchup in sight this is the south they don't use it, JJ tells me. The waitress's voice is so preternaturally high we can barely have her talk to us, but we persevere and eat our steakburgers, me while reading Rick Moody on the Bible.

Now into Nashville. I am convinced there is an "old music" section of the city; I know for sure Loretta Lynn did not make her historic teen age debut at the mall we just visited. And sure enough, we find a beautiful historic train depot (now turned into a hotel); a grand classical post office (now become the Frist Center for the Visual Arts); and then a series of glass towers and boxes with rocket-shaped accoutrements atop them . . . we seem to have entered the Tomorrowland section of Disneyland. We enter one of the rocket ships, a glass paneled, triangular pod attached to a huge box that is the performing art center. Rows upon rows of self-serve electronic ticketing agents--maybe this IS the train station?? No, Stevie Wonder will be here in December . . . we talk to a nice blonde young man (we are definitively in blonde country now, and when I point this out to JJ she says yes, she was amazed when she came east, everyone was small and dark, the sky was small and dark, the people small and dark) who points across the street. Sure enough, at the foot of all the glass towers, we see a bulky brick building with cream trim. This, now renamed as some auditorium, was first built as a gospel house and was then for many years Music City: the place to which the legendary country stars pulled up in their black Cadillacs and two-toned rusted sedans and made their debuts. "They bring the Opry back here in the winter," the young man says, smiling. He then points out the Country Music Hall of Fame: another giant cement and glass box, this one adorned by cement artifice to suggest, maybe?, a piano, down the opposite block.

We go take a picture of the old Music City (above). Then we leave Tomorrowland behind us.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Eternity Ahead

Rural America is abandoned.

Abandoned farms, abandoned houses, abandoned mom 'n pop stores. Drive through south central Pennsylvania, or West Virginia, yourself and you'll see what I mean. Beautiful rolling hills of farms dotted with falling down barns and empty houses. Shuttered grocery stores. Where are all the people, we wonder; and what do the ones who remain here, in the small towns and teetering buildings, do? It gives one a kind of Planet of the Apes sensation . . .

Yet there are two institutions much in evidence: Wal-Mart, and christianity.

The number of homemade religious bill boards, and sets of three crosses upon the hills, is striking; but perhaps no less so than the number of Wal-Marts huddled at the bottom of every other range. Since there are no other grocery stores in evidence for many miles, we venture into one to pick up some water and other items. Subjective reporting supports what hard evidence has already shown: the percentage of obese people in america is staggering; and the amount of cheap, bad food those of us with little money are able to buy in these ubiquitous Wal-Marts is equally so. It's difficult not to make the connection--and one wonders why all the other shoppers, with carts full of sucrose-enhanced food, don't? This is not so much the snob factor as the basic-common-sense-for-your-health factor, a switch that american food policy and advertising seem to have successfully turned off in the majority of our (remaining) rural population.

Why not then, depressed and under constant economic pressure to abandon these beautiful places and ancestral homes, hand it over to a high power. This hand-painted billboard, repeated twice across county lines, was our favorite:

"Eternity Ahead. You must accept Jesus as your PERSONAL savior."

Emptiness ahead. It all feels very sad; as if the dreams of the founding fathers and the pioneers who struggled and risked and lost their lives to get here warranted so much more, so much more, than this. It would be easy to be cynical, to say we expected no more than this; that what we are touching on is only the surface of thsee places, an easy stereotype. Probably at least part of this is true. Yet it is almost impossible to shake the feeling that we could all, somehow, do better.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Inspiring Theater Tales, Part I

Late Monday afternoon we fought our way, as always, out of New York City. It is a place that reluctantly lets one go. There were so many more things we wanted to do there that we might never have left; and it was not a pleasure navigating the van through the Holland Tunnel and up to Route 80 across Jersey and the Delaware Water Gap, along with the thousands of commuters who do the two-hour drive daily to Pennsylvania. We did arrive at Whispering Pines Campground, north of Bloomsburg, PA, after dark, and settled in for our first humble dinner of crackers and cheese and pickles and wine; and our first night in the van. The air was cold but hey: with the two of us plus Tosca and Jack, you can believe the van is warm!

All of this as preparation for the great pleasure, early Tuesday morning, of meeting with Jerry Stropnicky, the Ensemble Director at Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble ( Jerry is a founding member of this 30-year-old theater company in rural Pennsylvania, founded out of love and respect for an amazing teacher, Alvina Krause (see photo of the theater exterior at top; and then Judith standing to the right of the ghost light on the stage), whom the founding members of the ensemble followed to PA from Chicago. BTE is an amazing and interesting artistic model for OHA: right up to the fact that they just had to re-engineer themselves to survive financially, on the eve of their 30th anniversary. Yikes. But they care about community-based theater in the same way we do, which is to say: making new work that reflects and moves the community in which we live. And they do it, with passion, and have done so for 30 years. Mazel tov to them; and thanks to Jerry for taking time out of his busy, between production schedule to have breakfast with us (at Perkins Steak and Cake, which was once a favorite of my dad's) and give us a tour of his lovely Art Deco theater in this humble little 'burg.

Monday, November 5, 2007

En Garde Performance

We were at Conni's Avant Garde Restaurant Saturday night in Bushwick--which is still, as Williamsburg was when I moved there in 1985, grungy and busy and poor. I navigated us there by driving along under the elevated rail tracks: the shadows, the posts, the uneven roadway, the way cars jut out from and into the under like moray eels attacking from their caves.

Conni's, for those of you who do not know, was founded in Stonington at our humble Opera House, by our Shakespeare actors who know how to eat, sing, and otherwise cavort. Learn more about it at Our professional actors, as always, included several of our high school students in this cavorting: here's Galen, now in her first semester upstate at Skidmore College, helping to serve dinner at Saturday night's performance. The concept of the restaurant is one right after OHA's heart: dinner is performance, and we all do it--including bussing the tables!
But perhaps New York City's most marvelous performance each year is the NYC Marathon, held the first Sunday of November and my favorite day to be out in the streets. Here's Judith with some free "thunder sticks" cheering on the runners, with one of my god daughters, Elena. Most of the runners paint or otherwise wear their names on their sleeves, as it were, so you can cheer them on by name: and for 26 miles it seems all of NYC is out there doing just that for more than 13,000 runners--in specialized wheelchairs as well as clown suits--as they navigate the city from boro to boro.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

All Saints' Day

On All Saints' Day this year, we're driving the back roads of Connecticut near where I grew up: back roads in beautiful foliage, back roads because we prefer them, and back roads because of a horrifying tanker truck accident on Interstate 95 that has left several cars crushed and many people dead. So we've headed a bit north, through Montville and Salem and Haddam, where we mail our absentee ballots and pick up postcard stamps; past the Goodspeed Opera House (shown below), a beautiful 19th century icon on the Connecticut River and a popular regional theater; and finally to my Gram's, Mary Endrich's, grave at St. Joseph's Church in Chester, CT. Seems a fitting visit for All Souls'/Saints' Day.

In 2004, we were in Paris for this Catholic holiday, which takes the place of Halloween in France. I wrote the following Letter from Paris at that time, and reprint portions of it here three years later:

November 1, 2004, Letter From Paris, All Saints and Election Days, 2004. Dear family and friends, This is a holiday week in Paris, dominated as it is by churches built hundreds of years ago, a week leading up to today, Tous Saints (All Saint’s) Day. Our own Halloween pays slender homage to this worldwide rite (Dia de las Muertas in Mexico). This week, the dead have been called forth and remembered, with their favorite foods and meditations. Here in France, it is a week for remembering that the joy of life is made possible by our embrace (not denial) of death. This has been a most welcome and meaningful time for Judith and for me. We light many candles for James, most recently departed, but also for my grandmothers, Signe and Mary Elizabeth, and for our many other friends and family members who have crossed over to the other side. We spend much time in the medieval churches lit by these candles, swaddled in incense and organ music, meditating on our own lives and the ways we make a difference in this world in which we are all, living and dying, connected.

We have cast our absentee ballots and await, with much of Europe, the results of tomorrow’s election. While it is easy to vilify Bush and the current administration, I find it more critical and interesting to consider why so many of our fellow citizens support such decisions, rhetoric, and actions: what are the characteristics of U.S. culture which allow us to reward and to applaud such empty leadership? From a distance, we are more acutely able to feel the repercussions of U.S. choices on the world, and to puzzle over the differences in socio-secular-religious cultures from which national politics, and our understanding of them, arise. Like a cold Maine wind on a blue sky January day—the wind that brings tears to your eyes—we have been buffeted by the seeming faithlessness with which we Americans operate in this world.

By “faith” I simply mean a belief that the world is bigger and more coherent than any one or any group (or nation, or company) of us; and, most importantly, that we each play a part in this bigger whole: a faith in and recognition of the beautiful spirit inherent to the world. . .

“What lies beyond the usual is diminished, it is regarded as wasteful and perverse,” states Rudolf Mittwisser, a 1930s professor of religion and German refugee to the U.S., in Cynthia Ozick’s new novel, Heir to the Glimmering World. “What was once valued there [in Europe] is not valued here. Here they lack the European mind, they are small.”

I move around Paris, watching the way Americans travel, carrying their language and customs and expectations with them like coins to be tossed to embittered others we have either rescued or vanquished. In Deer Isle we are also very aware of the way Americans bring our culture with us when we travel, very aware of the means by which many “from away” bring with us self-righteous, self-important beliefs (the best ways to do business, to communicate)—all with the best intentions. Colonialism lives and thrives in the American psyche, which takes pride in its individual prowess and refuses to prioritize or attend to its interconnections to others . . .

We are all connected, and the whole world is watching. I am not separate from my vote or my country, even when I am in opposition to it. And the U.S. is not separate from this world. It is time that we who want our country to make a positive difference in this world take back the language and ACTION of faith, hope, and charity and embue our daily lives with these beliefs. Other views, and our listening to them, matter; strength arises from generosity, and as Americans we are grateful to have so much to give. . .Faith allows us to embrace death and not to fear it; which in turn allows us to open our arms rather than putting up our dukes. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by acting generously.

Along with much of the rest of the world, I wonder: are enough individual Americans strong enough in our beliefs to make a difference tomorrow, in the ways our powerful nation affects the world we share with so many? May the Red Sox victory be an omen for change. Vive l’underdogs, vive l’esperance, vive la change! [2004]

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Leaving the Rock

The Rock is not a very easy place to leave.
For all of my childhood, with a mother who never lived more than 25 miles from the house in which she was born, my family had trouble getting out of the house. My father and I used to sit in the car, buzzing and hissing and swearing with impatience, while my mother went around the house multiple times, checking the stove and generally patting the house.
Now I get it.
I am wrenching myself away from The Rock -- just to take a break.
I've always found it amusing to hear "our beautiful Island," as the welcome sign reads, called The Rock. Sounds like a prison, no? And in truth, maybe feels like that to many who, like my mother 40+ years ago, have a hard time getting away.
But I'm one of the privileged Americans who enjoy mobility; even as gas prices soar. Because in truth, mobility has little to do with the economy and everything to do with a state of mind: the same state of mind--about choice, about possibiliy--that brought me to this beloved island after 16 glorious years in New York City.
So here I am, standing in the driveway at the Opera House, looking up at its towering bulk--and patting it.
Patting the doors. Patting the stage. Patting the studio. Patting concessions. Patting the box office, the stairway, the deck, my desk.
Here I am, walking the dogs down our meadow and along Long Cove, patting it with my eyes: the shimmerescent black-green water, the pointed firs, the clammy mud, the rotting apples, the denuded maples, the kingfishers, the pink granite boulders dropped ashore out of a comic book.
And here I am, finally, the lucky bearer of both an awareness of the power of mobility and a sense of place, approaching the causeway, patting it with my eyes, loving it, willing myself to remember: the fragile green bridge in the near distance, the white teeth lining the slender causeway, the 18-wheelers loaded with multi-ton blocks of granite.
The Rock has always been here and will be here when I return, but it is still difficult not to whisper to it, as the traffic inches up and up, in single file, toward the crest of the bridge: don't go away.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

We'll Educate You, Part 1

Last week I was invited to speak with students at Eastern Maine Community College (EMCC). It is always an honor to be asked to visit with college students, and I accept such invitations if I can. I learn a lot, and I love to share the many blessings of my life with young people. Beginning last year, the State of Maine is placing a lot of emphasis on community colleges; in large part because the full 4-year experience has become so ridiculously expensive (as a Bowdoin College alum, I can vouch for this). EMCC is a small huddle of 1960s era brick buildings, complete with the wear and tear one might expect after 40 some odd years. It is tightly situated between Interstate 95 (which one hopes makes it accessible, if not exactly breathable), Rollaway America, a strip of car dealerships, and Acadia Psychiatric Hospital. And it is filled with hard working, blue collar students from all walks of life: lobster fishermen, housewives rejoining the workforce, as well as first year college students. There were 20 of them in this English class, learning to interview and report on what they learn; they were all great. Hungry for life, eager to learn; a different breed from the University of Maine at Orono new media students I visited with several years ago, who were tongue-tied into their own iPod worlds. How can we, as artists and business people, better share our life experiences with the next generation of learners?

Education is a hot topic in Maine communities these days, as Governor Baldacci and the state legislature have legislated a consolidation of our local school districts. We're a rural state, very spread out; and over the years, good old Yankee desire for "local control" has wrought enough separate administrative districts to run the nation's schools. Administrative consolidation is the right idea, although the specifics of the consolidation law itself are causing serious road blocks. The biggest road block, however, is a serious misunderstanding of local control; lead, in fact, by a good-hearted but wrong-headed guy from this island. Local control ain't administrative control, particularly in regard to schools. Local control, in the best Yankee sense, is participation; and participation is something that is dying out in our small local communities. Local control of schools is about the people in the building, the principals and the teachers and the parents; not about where the superintendent is, how many meetings he attends, etc. It's about Parent Teachers Associations, and parents who spend a lot of time in the education of their own children. I will note here that we cannot even maintain a PTA in our community, because there is not enough parental participation in local education (other than basketball, that is). And "local control" is especially not about local school boards, which, in an attempt at representation, consist of well-meaning folks who know and seemingly care little-to-nothing about educational research, policy, or programs; each with their own specific memory axe ("this is how it was when I was in school . . . ") to grind.

How is "local control" best maintained and expressed, so our unique, individuistic Maine communities maintain their original essence? I'll leave that to the next, or to another, post . . .

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The First Dark Night

The moon was full this week, so the post-equinox dark unexpectedly hit us this morning--when it was still too dark at 5:45 a.m. to let the cat out into the coyote-filled wild--and again, like the knockout punch in a series, this evening when it was fully dark by 7 p.m. A perfect evening to launch the blog I've long considered; considered, in fact, since the completion of my tenure as News Editor at the local newsweekly. Surely there is a better way to share more accurate, richer information than what we've come to accept from the usual media sources. Signs point toward the new form of blogging as a solution. From my perspective, the jury remains out. For one thing, I will never have the time as a blogger I had as a news editor and reporter to fully research and experience the issues on which I want to write. Thus by its very nature, a blog is more "op ed" than ed. Still, I remain intrigued. Here goes . . . I hope you enjoy.