Tuesday, June 28, 2022

I Never Would Have Dreamed


"I'll be darned," I said this morning as I read a passage in a book. "I would never have dreamed that would happen." 


It was in the '60s at a bar in Waikiki. Everyone was in a festive mood, eating and drinking to the sounds of a finger-picked guitar. Suddenly a white man announced to the bartender--in a voice everyone could hear--that he shouldn't have to drink good liquor with a black man, only he didn't use the word black. 


The room fell silent, and everyone turned to the one black man present, expecting a fight.


The black man stood up, walked over to the man, smiled, and proceeded to lecture him on bigotry, the promise of the American Dream, and the universal rights of man. 


The fellow felt so bad that he gave the black man a hundred-dollar bill. 


That one hundred dollars paid for the drinks and pu-puus for the night, plus the black man's rent for the rest of the month. 


My shock was that I didn't think lecturing ever changed anyone's mind regarding bigotry or other hard-held beliefs. 


That must have been one persuasive man.


Have you ever had a book sitting unread on your shelf for years and finally picked it up and began to read? 


That was my experience this morning. From bed, my eyes fell on this book. So, I pulled it from the shelf, made coffee, and took a cup of it with me to our back porch, where I began to read. I remember specifically when I got the book. It was at Powell's—that square block of a bookstore in Portland, Oregon. The book once had another owner, for a few paragraphs were neatly highlighted. 


While waiting at the bookstore for my niece to join me, I began to read this book. She arrived shortly, and since I didn't want to leave the book, I bought it.


"When the student is ready, the teacher will arrive" is an oft-turned phrase, which has often been the case for me with books. Why this morning? Why, after all those years, did I suddenly want to read this book?


While sipping my coffee and feeling the breeze stir my night-tasseled hair, I both chuckled at what I was reading and felt a lump in my throat. And that was only the Preface. 


"I know that the hardening of lines, the embrace of fundamentalism and tribe, dooms us all." The author wrote.


That quote was pertinent for me, as I have been grieving the fractures that have happened in this country and in my family.


Hard lines have been drawn, and I need to come to some understanding. 


Perhaps Barack Obama's book Dreams from My Father can help me.

And, in Dreams, I read the story of the black man in the bar in Waikiki. It was his father.


Obama wrote his Preface 10 years after his book came out. When he wrote the book, he had not been the President of The United States. And not being famous, he went through what other first authors have experienced. He said he was filled with hope and despair upon the book's publication—hope that the book might succeed, despair that I had failed to say anything worth saying. 


Reality fell somewhere in the middle. 


His reviews were mildly favorable. People showed up at the readings his publishers had arranged. The sales were underwhelming. 


And so, in a few months, he went on with his life.


I feel some affinity with Obama's wonderings about his father, for it stirred up some feelings in me regarding mine. I lived with my father for three to four years. Obama's father left when he was an infant. 


He was of two worlds, black and white. I was not. 


However, I grew up believing I was German. That's how my mother identified herself. And, although my father was English, I had no connection with him. I knew what the Germans had done in the Second World War, and my heart hurt from it. So instead of being proud of my strong heritage, I felt embarrassed by it.


A couple of Christmases ago, my daughter researched our genealogy on my mother's side, and I found my grandmother was Swiss. Would that be like Obama learning that he was not of African heritage but just a dark-skinned white guy?


My connection with Germany has made me extremely sensitive to how fractions of people can be so opposed to each other. As a child, I heard about children turning in their parents, which scared me. 


While there were courageous Germans who fought against the Hitler regime or escaped it, others embraced it. 


I heard the bad stuff first. I didn’t hear about the family who escaped in a hot air balloon or the Von Trapp family (The Sound of Music) who escaped Germany by walking over the Alps to Switzerland. I hadn't heard about the man who carried his wife out of Germany in a suitcase and how the suitcase sat in the snow at the train station while his wife inside was dressed in a thin, loose garment so she could envelop herself into that small space. (All these people survived and escaped. And the man carrying the suitcase, being a professor, had carried books in that suitcase so many times that the guards had stopped checking it.)


We have all heard how people wanted to come to America, the land of the free, and how thrilled they were sailing into New York Harbor and seeing Statue of Liberty.


I visited the Statue of Liberty once, and I'm sorry to say I did not climb it for the day was extremely hot. So, I lay on the cool grass and stared up at the Lady, while my kids went inside.


However, I did not see the broken shackles at her feet. 





"The original statue was chained. It’s sculptor, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, however, felt that broken chains at the feet of Lady Liberty would remind us of freedom from oppression and servitude. These chains are unseen by visitors as they sit atop the pedestal. However, they can be seen from an aerial view."


I also read that the first statue was of a black Lady Liberty, but the U.S. rejected it and Bartholdi created the present version. 


The well know poem, “Give us your tired, your poor.” would be one of several factors that turned the meaning of the statue from “Liberty Enlightening the World” into a symbol of freedom and opportunity for immigrants. Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, just prior to creating his famed Tower, was engaged to design the massive iron pylon and secondary skeletal framework that allows the Statue’s copper skin to move independently, and thus face the many storms that have pelted it since its installation.


Now, excuse me, I have a book to read.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Calling All Entrepreneurs, or Maybe I’m Whistling Dixie


For you Entrepreneurs, I am passing on information I got from one of my favorite writing gurus Steven Pressfield. He borrowed it from Dan Sullivan, a Strategic coach.


(So, this is he said, he said, she said.) 


Sullivan says that every entrepreneur must make this statement: 


“I will expect no remuneration until I have created value for someone else.”


(That just says you shouldn’t expect to be paid unless you give your precipitant something of value. It’s doesn’t say you shouldn’t create to give value to yourself.)


To further quote: “Create value” is a hard-boiled business term. There’s no art to it. No romance. But you and I, as writers and dancers and actors and photographers, live exactly by that dynamic—whether we realize it or not.


“We write a book. It’s got to find readers. It’s got to sell. It has to ‘create value’ for the person who lays out hard American greenbacks for the privilege of scanning through its pages. Otherwise, we’re not artists; we’re artistes. (A person with artistic pretensions.) We’re living in a dream world.”



For a long time, I have written because I liked being in a “Zone.” That is going with the flow, entering into a no-time space. But if being in the zone doesn’t produce anything of value, then I might as well be meditating. At least not expect to be paid for spewing my thoughts onto paper.


This is a hard look at the facts.


“Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t” (The title of one of Pressfield’s books.) Not that you shouldn’t write; you should keep doing it until your work isn’t sh*t. That’s his point.




I’ve followed blogs, only to have them drift away, or I got tired of them and just stopped reading. 


I know those writers have put time and effort into writing their posts. They are sharing their lives, but readers, of which I am one, have so much time, and where we use it becomes of primary importance. 


I’m sure that applies to you as well.


I wonder, as a blogger, if I have added value. 


Yes, at times.


Some say blogs are passe’. I don’t know. Seth Godin, a primer blogger, blogs every day and says that everyone ought to. It’s a process. It teaches us to observe, to think of something every day that we haven’t thought of a million times before. But that’s for our own edification.


I do believe that expressing oneself creatively has value to oneself whether anyone sees it or not. Most creatives who are are expressing themselves in some manner, are not out in the streets raising a ruckus. They just love doing whatever they are doing—writing video games, making videos, painting, sewing, knitting, painting, you know, whatever.


As a blogger, I’ve been learning, and I am grateful to all the readers who have traveled with me. 


I’m at a crossroads. Should I keep blogging, or is it time to move on?

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Blog, June 21, 2022

Is this the longest day of the year? It was on the day I married.

On that June 21, it was Sunday, the longest day of the year, Father’s Day, plus my honey's and my wedding, all rolled into one. My father-law said after three sons, he finally got a daughter.

The summer Solstice is today, the day with the longest amount of sunshine.



Once in a conversation with a young man fresh out of high school, he was complaining about the plans his parents had for him. In the course of the discussion, I used the word "Liberal."


He did a slight double-take. I quickly said that the term was not political in meaning. Perhaps "progressive" or "allowing" would be a better word.


Since that encounter, I had wondered when the word "Liberal" became a dirty word. 


It's a tainted buzz-word like the word "Evolution," which simply means change over time. (I'm not debating that issue.)


I remember a young "Liberal" President who inspired an entire generation of young people to go out and make a better world. 


Excuse me if I repeat myself, for this encounter is emblazoned on my brain.


Once in an encounter group, a young man, a white kid who had grown up in Africa, among tears, told the group how alone he felt. In Africa, he said, the kids ran together. We put our arms around each other and laughed. He missed that free abandon.


From the back of the room came a voice in Swahili. We soon learned that it meant, "Hello, Brother."


The kid fell apart, and the people in the room jumped to their feet,  hugging the kid, hugging each other, crying. 


The man was Bill Fisher, a dear friend, my writing buddy, and now deceased. (Darn.) He was a Kennedy kid and had been in the Peace Corps in Africa and thus learned Swahili.


 This is from Kennedy’s “Liberal” speech:


What do our opponents mean when they apply to us the label "Liberal?" If by "Liberal" they mean, as they want people to believe, someone who is soft in his policies abroad, who is against local government, and who is unconcerned with the taxpayer’s dollar, then the record of this party and its members demonstrate that we are not that kind of "Liberal."


"But if by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people — their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties — someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal," then I’m proud to say I’m a "Liberal."

John F. Kennedy, Acceptance of the New York Liberal Party NominationSeptember 14, 1960


"Mothers all want their sons to grow up to be president, but they don't want them to become politicians in the process."-JFK


From JFK’s same “Liberal” speech:


I believe also in the United States of America, in the promise that it contains and has contained throughout our history of producing a society so abundant and creative and so free and responsible that it cannot only fulfill the aspirations of its citizens, but serve equally well as a beacon for all mankind. I do not believe in a superstate. I see no magic in tax dollars which are sent to Washington and then returned. I abhor the waste and incompetence of large-scale federal bureaucracies in this administration as well as in others. I do not favor state compulsion when voluntary individual effort can do the job and do it well. But I believe in a government which acts, which exercises its full powers and full responsibilities.