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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Smoking sections and Recycling


I sat next to a guy on the plane who remarked that plane travel used to be so much more fun when you could smoke. My first reaction was to ask him where he was from since I couldn't remember any smoking on planes. He said it was okay until 1995 and then I remembered those smoking sections on every plane. Though it's a bit scary to think my mind can be wiped clean like an eraser board after not seeing such a common image for a while - there is also something hopeful that something so woven into the cultural fabric can be removed. Maybe unfettered capitalism can actually be smoked out too.

On a related note, New Orleans doesn't have recycling pickups in most (maybe all) neighborhoods. I assume this is a post-Katrina phenomenon. But boy did it feel weird to throw bottles and newspapers into the trash buckets even though the number of years we've had recycling services aren't all that many. It's ingrained.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Coincidences on the Road

It's 1:30 AM and I just got back from bowling with my boys and Erin. The bowling alley had kept its 1960's era motif - none of those automatic pin counters and monitors above the lanes. We kept score with paper and pencil. Next to the very weathered lanes was a large dance floor and a little stage with a live blues band. Snooks, the bandleader, was as old and battle tested as the antique bowling pins, but nimble as a track star on his keyboard. People danced waving white white napkins and cloths as I guess they do in the "second line" brass bands that play for funerals in New Orleans.

On Christmas, when we exchanged Hannukah and Christmas gifts, Zac gave me a framed photo he'd taken of a "hippie looking woman" dancing at the New Orleans Jazz Heritage Fest last April.


Who do we see at this bowling-blues place, dressed much more demurely, but still partying hard, but this same random woman from Zac's photo. We introduced ourselves and told her how her likeness would now grace a home in California. She loved it. Turns out she lives in Austin and was just visiting her sister in New Orleans which makes it an even bigger coincidence.

Long ago I learned that when traveling, expect coincidences. Some cork gets unplugged and as routines get spilled out on the ground, the unexpected pours in - finally free to show its face. Or we're finally free to turn and notice.

Two days ago I went for a jog and stopped to walk through one of the many cemeteries lining both sides of Canal streets. Cemeteries with their countless stories etched in stone are always a draw for me, but New Orleans cemeteries, with their above-ground crypts and monuments are an amazing site in themselves. After a few random twists and turns through crowded rows of crypts, whose family do I come upon, but the Nevilles - ancestors of my favorite New Orleans band! A year or two ago I read a spellbinding oral history of the Neville Brothers. There before me was Arthur J. Neville Senior and Arthur Junior. Out of easily 10,000-50,000 graves in those neighboring cemeteries on Canal Street, I end up at the foot of the Nevilles. What's more, Arthur Sr. has the same birthday as me, or vice versa. I'm not sure how distant these Nevilles are from the brothers in the band, but the oldest of the Neville Brothers is also named Art.
Tomorrow is my last day in New Orleans. What a treat to have spent so much time with Alex and Zac and so myuch better than phone calls.

Alex the organizer. new Years.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Young Love, Family, and Good Ears are Blessings



My son Zac and the love of his life, Erin, moved into their own cozy apartment, after sharing a house with a fellow Habitat for Humanity worker - roommate for the first year or so of their relationship. He is 24 and she is 21. So young. On the first day of my visit to New Orleans, I had a start when I walked into their bedroom and saw a large photo of me and Zac's mom when we lived together in St. Louis - all decked out in our embroidered hippie clothes and headbands. We were about the same age.

Zac's brother Alex is also visiting from San Diego - his first time in New Orleans. Alex and Erin got along famously during this first meeting.



Zac & Alex at one of Zac's Habitat for Humanity Houses in Progress

We went to an NBA basketball game the first night. I had a wonderful feeling sitting next to the three of them high up in the New Orleans Arena (next door to the infamous Superdome), enjoying their laughter and the great energy they were sharing, only slightly bittersweetened by the fact that I couldn't make out much of what they were saying, now that my ears aren't doing the same quality job that I took for granted all those years when I was younger.

New Orleans - not Mr. Rogers neighborhood

Deborah, Jan, Alex, and I all made our way on separate flights to New Orleans yesterday. Zac and his vibrant girlfriend, Erin made a lot of airport trips in heavy traffic. We got to see their new one bedroom apartment on a different end of the Uptown neighborhood than their big old rental house. The house has four units that were recently restored very nicely. The houses just next to them are still vacant, boarded up, and one is completely crushed in on itself. It looks like at least half the houses in their neighborhood are still boarded up.

House next door to Zac & Erin:


House across the street from Zac & Erin:


Jan's friend generously gave us her home in the Mid-City neighborhood. It's amazing - twelve foot high ceilings and large rooms on both floors, lots of wonderful built in shelving; big, inviting kitchens on both floors; lots of art. Her house is one of only two inhabited ones on her block. They had a couple feet of water flooding their home after Katrina but have renovated it.

Yellow house we are staying in:


Same Yellow House (photo) during Katrina flood:
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The good news is that some people are moving back home and reclaiming their neighborhoods. But meanwhile, there is something surreal about these neighborhoods. I wonder what the kids who live here think about coming home from school to a block with no other people.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Goldman Sachs distributes wealth to each other

According to Wikipedia, Goldman Sachs, an investment bank, has been on the Fortune 100 list of best places to work since 1998. No wonder, since the average salary of its 30,522 employees was $661,400 this year. That's a bit misleading since the median was somewhere in the $300,000's. The happiest employee must be the CEO, Lloyd Blankfein who took home over $70 million this year. He must have put in a lot of overtime... many a late night moving money from hither to thither and back again.

It had to be the overtime, because if he only worked a 40 hour week and took two weeks vacation, he'd have been earning $35,000 per hour.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Phone Home


photo by David W. Quinn


AT&T announced that it is getting rid of its telephone booth and public pay phone business. The telephone booth is an integral feature of my personal urban geography. Throughout my high school dormitory years, I depended on pay phones for my favorite parts of my week - my link to worlds outside the cloistered yeshiva-seminary. There was one in the hall with a long shelf below it that I could squeeze myself onto for my Sunday night calls with my Mom. There was a booth on the first floor where I had more private conversations with Estee, the girl I befriended who wound up in an adolescent mental ward after hurting herself. We'd exchange late night stories about our respective institutions. Somebody showed me how to drop a nickel down the nickel slot and in the same fluid motion, hit the coin return gizmo as the nickel was falling, and the dial tone came on. Later we learned the formula for creating credit card numbers and made countless long distance calls on some unsuspecting business' dime. I'm sorry AT&T, if I hastened your departure from the business. Actually the pay phone business kept growing in spite of all the felonious adolescents of the '60's. Cell phones have been the undoing of the business and in ten short years we've gone from 2.6 million U.S. pay phones to under a million. Lord knows we could use the booths today as much as ever - even phoneless ones - so all those cell phone users could take their business meetings off the sidewalks (especially the "bluetoothers" who look insane as they walk along gesticulating and shouting and scaring the subdued homeless folks who have to share those downtown walkways.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Flow of Memory

I've heard that smells are the most effective trigger for old memories, but sounds can work too. It just might take longer for a sound-memory to activate. Last night at 3 AM, one finally kicked in for me.

Living with Sally, I've found that it's best when (not "if") I wake up in the night to pee, to find my way to the bathroom and fumble for the toilet and sit down rather than stand. I don't want to turn on any lights and wake Sally or myself any more than necessary. Also the seat will be down. Also, in the dark, it's just a much safer practice than aiming in the dark. Last night while sitting and peeing, the sound brought me all the way back to my childhood home and hearing my rather modest mother pee. (She never left the door open as my brothers and even my dad were wont to do.) Her sitting made a different sound than what the rest of us intoned and I must have noted it at the time and filed it away for a 3PM retrieval, at least 45 years later. (I left home at 13 for a high school yeshiva-seminary.) If I've peed four times a day and add a bunch for all the nighttime excursions over the past decade, that would come to at least 70,000 urinations before everything synced up for a memory of my long departed Mom. Not the one I would have chosen, given a choice, but the truth is, I like just about any that ever bring her directly into my brain for a moment. At 3 AM in the dark, I smiled and appreciated the sound.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Confronting Prejudice and Bias

November 15th was the "Not In Our Schools" event - a collaboration of three high schools - for which I was the project coordinator. Over 300 students, teachers, and parents came to the Los Altos High School Theater to see a screening of the documentary, "Not In Our Town..." and participate in a community conversation facilitated by Milton Reynolds of "Facing History and Ourselves." The documentary, produced by my old friend, Patrice O'Neill, portrays communities in Northern California where a hate crime occurred and where the community found a creative, empowering way to respond. It provided a springboard for a conversation about the kinds of prejudices we encounter every day at school and even inside ourselves.

There were numerous poignant comments made during the community conversation that I will not forget. One young woman stood and in a voice wavering with pained emotion, told us of her friend, a bisexual, Muslim boy, who endured endless teasing and some bullying at school. One day, he jumped in front of the CalTrain and killed himself. Though she was his friend, she blamed herself for not having intervened and stood up to those who belittled him.

I think that in standing up and sharing her painful experience, this brave young woman motivated many to do something we haven't dared to before. How many of us have witnessed slurs and prejudice that injure people we know, but said nothing? It's not easy, or comfortable to be an "upstander." But that small act of courage can make a world of difference.

(The event included a great burrito dinner catered by students from Los Altos High and a mountain of desserts baked by students at Saint Francis high.....also a student art exhibit from students at Mountain View High and a short performance by "Camp Everytown" kids.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Housing in Palo Alto

Currently, a lot of community leaders are furious at the Association of Bay Area Governments which expects Palo Alto to add 3700 units of housing over the next five or so years. The fact that other communities are bearing the cost of housing while Palo Alto enjoys the revenues of a jobs-housing imbalance doesn't carry any weight locally. The fact that we are contributing heavily to global warming by requiring so many workers to commute in has not yet caused an outcry. The fact that housing sprawl to cheaper areas keeps gobbling up open space and farmland is a total yawn. In our recent City Council election, none of the 11 candidates talked up "smart growth", let alone high density housing along transportation corridors.

In beautiful Palo Alto, most neighborhood leaders are very vocal against housing developments, especially anything high density. We don't have the room. We don't want more cars on our already congested roads. Our schools can't handle more kids per classroom. High density housing (30 units per acre) doesn't fit in architecturally with the rest of the neighborhood. If any space along a transit line becomes available, we should bring in more retail outlets because that brings more sales tax revenues. Housing brings additional expenses (read taxes and fees) what with police, fire, and utilities services to provide. It's probably a pretty familiar refrain in communities across the country.

But in Palo Alto, housing values have gone up more than almost anywhere in the world. A house that sold in the 20 thousands in the early 70's is now worth well over a million dollars. (Median cost in 1970 was $33K and in 2006 it was $1.3 million dollars) In most cases they are bought by wealthy young couples who knock them down and build a much bigger place in its stead. Over the past 35 years, Palo Alto has become a financially gated community. Our kids can't come back and live here unless they become corporate or finance managers like many of their parents.
A digression:


This is what the house looked like that I rented with my kids for 13 years. (It's actually our old neighbors' house, but exact same model.)


This is the new house going up and replacing our old 950 sq ft. rental.


This is the new house next to my old neighbors' house. This "Mutt and Jeff" effect is a common sight througout Palo Alto.

Every day an army of teachers, nurses, waiters, clerks, nannies, gardeners, utility workers, police, and non-profit employees commute in and out of town to make everything function for the successful residents. The Palo Alto population balloons up to 90,000 in the daytime, even as many of the 60,000 residents fan out among the familiar corporations of the Silicon Valley.

Maybe the growing concern about global warming will wake people up to see that our "neighborhoods" extend far beyond Palo Alto and we need to care about the region and the planet. It would not be a bad thing at all if the baker's kid attended the same school as the Google manager's kid.

We'll see how the political battle plays out this Spring and Summer as the City updates its housing element (that dictates how much housing the city is prepared to develop) as required by the state.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Underpaid UC Chancellors


Easy Job - Minimum Wages




Hard Job - Perks Galore!




The governing board of the University of California system has a plan to boost the chancellors' pay about 33% over the next four years. That would bring UC Berkeley's Chancellor Robert Birgeneau to about $482,000 in addition to whatever other perks and benefits he gets. (It's a safe bet he gets his own locker at the University's gym facilities.) The governing board claims that the raises are needed to keep pace with salaries at private universities. I guess if you pay bupkas, you'll end up with some kind of boob running the college..... someone like say a Ph.D from the physics department (full professor average salary this year - 90K - 165K according to a pay scale chart. Or someone green behind the ears who could never handle the scope of responsibility, like say.... Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi ($212,000 salary in '06-'07). After all, an underpaid Chancellor would undermine the amount of knowledge UC graduates come away with. We also need them to figure out ways to pull protesting tree sitters off of their perches. Don't forget all the ribbon cutting they have to get right as well.

A new law went into effect last month that forces the Regents to vote in public meetings on executive pay increases. The law was a result of public outcry following a series of articles in the Chronicle that revealed "as much as $4 million in special perks and extra compensation had been awarded to departing officials of the California State University system during the past decade without public disclosure." (see SF Chronicle. This week there will be two public votes on these latest raises.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Farmer's Market - Veggie Neighbors


A new farmer's market started up recently every Sunday morning, close to where we live and I went there throughout the summer for nectarines and peaches. Most of our other produce I buy at Trader Joe's and an open air market a couple of miles away because the prices are much cheaper and the taste is very good, if not organic.

I'm reading "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan for my bookgroup, and learning all sorts of stuff about the "industrialization of food." One aspect of the industry is transporting huge amounts of produce across country or between countries so we can eat what we want when we want it. Even in the organic arena, the large growers with big transportation systems have displaced a lot of the small farmers. Although they are not dosing the soil with fossil fuel-based chemical fertilizers or toxic pesticides, they are still creating huge amounts of pollution from fossil fuels in the transportation phase. Pollan says that "the food industry burns nearly a fifth of all the petroleum consumed in the US (about as much as automobiles do)"

So I'm rethinking my grocery bills. I may shift some of my "checkbook activism" for environmental groups to personal change activism and start paying more to the farmers on Sunday who come from towns whose names I actually recognize.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Genocide Response


On Friday night, Sally and I saw a one-woman performance about the Rwandan genocide of 1994. It was a piece about forgiveness, but I couldn't help thinking about the question of our responsibility as humans and as other countries when a genocide is happening. Until fairly recently it seemed like a no-brainer to me that we should send troops from the UN, NATO, and any other multilateral force to stop a genocide in progress; that it was justifiable violence in a way that no war for oil or territory will ever be. I remember reading how during World War II, Jews begged FDR (unsuccessfully) to bomb all the concentration camps to smithereens, knowing that many Jews in those camps would be killed, but many more would be saved. The horrors and mass insanity of a genocide (In Rwanda 800,000 Tutsi's were hacked to death in 90 days.) seem to justify any type of intervention that could stop it.

It gets more complicated when I think of my 24 year old twins and whether I could bear putting their lives at risk to make that happen in some far away country where we know nobody. Would I go myself? Is the killing of the perpetrators the only way to stop it? In Darfur now, there are some rebel leaders who are political opportunists (according to peacemaker NGO's who spoke on KQED-Forum program) and refuse to seek peace or cease fires while their people are butchered and raped by the Sudanese government and their Janjaweed proxies. That adds another confusing dimension to figuring out our response. I remember the 30th reunion of Stanford grads who had taken over a number of campus buildings during Viet Nam war protests in 1967. The event took place as President Clinton had US troops in Bosnia - ostensibly to end a genocide or ethnic cleansing of Bosnian Muslims by Serbs. The reunion dinner turned into a two hour debate about whether US and NATO actions could be trusted and whether they were justified.

I'm sure there are ethicists who have discussed this issue from every angle. I'd like to read some to see what resonates for me and whether there are creative approaches that deserve worldwide commitment. The genocides keep coming. In California, our government and media repeatedly caution us to be prepared for the next inevitable big earthquake. There are a variety of supplies and procedures we are all supposed to follow. We have extensive planning in place for rapid responses to devastating wildfires. When it comes to genocide, the intervention procedures are vague and largely undiscussed. Memorials, museums, and theatre pieces provide amazing, important testimony, but where do we learn how to put out the fires?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

We're Watching Myanmar


Junta General


I imagine people all over the world are holding their virtual breath, waiting to see what will happen to the people in the streets of Myanmar (aka Burma)..... hoping those monks and all the civilians stay resolved and safe. Every step they take, facing soldiers who have already killed nine, is a leap of faith and courage. Most of the people in the streets probably remember the last time, when 3,000 were gunned down for demonstrating in 1988. Most probably know of somebody who was killed or jailed. The Junta has cut off the internet and phones. Probably few if any folks are taking photos or video after the Japanese photographer was killed yesterday. I can't find photos on Flickr anyway. But maybe this time the Junta knows they cannot keep their people and the rest of the world disconnected any longer. Though China and Russia blocked the UN Security Council from any action, there are too many others that are watching with our hearts beating hard. The Junta hears us and feels discomfort. The red clothed monks walk forward on bare soles, facing the guns, but seeing something new and promising beyond. They speak truth to power and everyone holds their breath. Don't shoot.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

"On the Road" Stories

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the book, "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac. There's an interesting recollection of Kerouac and the book - by Joyce Johnson, a former lover of his and award winning author in her own right - that appears in Smithsonian Magazine.

I don't know how many beatniks read the book and jumped into their old V8-engine Chevys to seek adventure. (I was only four when it came out.) But I do know it was read by legions of shaggy-haired kids in VW vans or thumbing for rides along roadsides all across America in the 70's. There was nothing as liberating or as therapeutic, cleansing, and sometimes transcendental as an interlude "on the road."

The first time I hitchhiked was with my buddy Charlie in 1971. We made a sign and hid it under his bed when I came to visit him at his family's apartment in Forest Hills, New York during Christmas vacation of our freshman year. Next morning we took public transportation just out of town and then hitchhiked to Atlanta, Georgia to visit friends. I was hooked on the built-in quality of the unknown, the sense of movement, and strange form of intimacy with those who picked us up. For the duration of that hitchhiker-friendly decade, I depended on such excursions for renewal, a sense of story, and a feeling of self-sufficiency. (If my kids had started doing it in 2001 when they turned 18, I would have freaked out with trepidation.)

I would love to hear "on the road" stories from anyone who might read this entry with a combination of nostalgia and some vague or vivid memories.

The one I'm remembering today is from a trip I made in the reverse direction in '73, from Atlanta to Washington D.C. where there was to be a series of July 4th weekend anti-war demonstrations. After a pleasant night in Chapel Hill, NC, where I posed as a summer school student and was given a dorm room at the University, I was picked up by a young woman, my age (20), on her way back home near DC. It turns out she was diagnosed with esophagal cancer the week before and had gone to Chapel Hill to tell her sister. She found it impossible to tell her sister (or her parents for that matter) and so I was the first person she heard herself say it to. We talked about it for a short while. In retrospect, I suppose neither of us had much of a notion about mortality at that point and the cancer was probably almost as unreal to her as it was to me. She was a vivacious and positive person and the conversation covered a lot of other ground. We bought sandwiches and had lunch together in some park. About six months later, I received a Graham Greene book from her with a letter that said the spot on her esophagus had somehow gone away. (I can't remember what it turned out to be.) Two years later, I was passing through that area and we got together for dinner. She was quite healthy and happy.

Johnson characterizes the three year roadtrip of "On the Road" protagonists, Dean Moriarty and Sal Paradise, as a quest to "pack as much intensity as possible into each moment...They were waiting for some prophet to deliver the Word to them, and the Word was: 'Wow!"

I suppose there was something contrived about the "Wows" that they and all their proteges got while "on the road," an experience where time is compressed or transcended in some parallel ways to an hallucinogen-powered "trip." But isn't that the goal of a 50 minute therapy session or an hour of meditation? Maybe it's just that instead of "wow," in those cases it's "aha!"

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Calculated Risks

It's as predictable as water boiling at 212 degrees. Banks will put their quest for profits above any other concern - even the ability of their debt-holders to keep up with interest payments. Does it sound too moronic for any self respecting MBA? Not if your government will bail you out rather than risk a national economic meltdown.

In 1982, I was an intern on the PBS business series, "Enterprise," produced at WGBH-Boston. I did research and wrote narration for a particular episode about bank loans to Brazil. The producer interviewed very uncomfortable bankers from the likes of Citicorp and Citibank (before their merger) who had collectively made loans totaling many billions of dollars to Brazil (and other countries like Mexico) for enormous mining and hydroelectric projects that couldn't keep up with high interest payments. The banks preferred a few gigantic loans rather than numerous smaller loans that could benefit regions and small scaled local industries. They knew that countries like Brazil were falling way behind on payments, but seemed to be confident that between the Brazilian government and the US government, there would be bailouts when necessary (on the backs of the Brazilian population).

Now we have this latest scheme of banks (since the mid-90's) lending subprime mortgages to people unlikely to be able to keep up with ballooning payments. Apparently many of the banks sold the loans to more risk-taking financial institutions, without any concern about the inevitable foreclosures coming down the pike.

In between we had the massive Savings and Loan meltdown of the late 80's that came about when office construction was really hot and loans were given out to every guy with a hammer and a vertical sketch drawing.

In both of those debacles that federal money system came to the rescue of our economic system (though many S&L's went down).

I was taught in school that socialist systems are fundamentally flawed due to a lack of individual incentive as time goes on. I don't remember hearing that the capitalist system will inevitably lead to economic meltdowns due to reckless profiteering, unless the government saves the day (in a pretty socialist-style move). I guess you'd have to go to school in a place like Cuba to hear that lesson.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Vacation Reunion









The six of us came together from far flung places for an exquisite vacation on Cape Cod. For three of us it was as if we were weaving additional design onto a warp of yarn that was strung before we were born. Our mothers were best friends and we grew up in each other's houses where the Moms' incessant chatter and laughter nurtured our own sense of well being. On one kitchen table or another, coffee cups were imprinted with lipstick that read like ancient hieroglyphics - declaring boldly that friendship trumps personal struggle; comaraderie stitches ragged fabric pieces into a magnificent, warm, patchwork quilt. Two of our mothers died years ago - a car crash; cancer - and the third lives in a memory free world upstairs from her looms and yarns where she used to weave art pieces that hung in museums. We honored each of the moms with a purposeful visit each night to the local ice cream parlor. We followed the yarns back to their original crossings and savored the design in which we recognize our own inextricable shapes and colors.

Carmi's grandfather and his three brothers came to Southern Illinois from a Polish village, Torchin, that we could no longer find on a map or on Google. They started a family furniture and bedding business over which Carmi presides, eighty years later, holding together a colorful cast of cousins and uncles and trying to stay competitive in a business world where big chains operated by MBA's eat smaller companies for lunch. He's got an octogenarian uncle on the payroll who once ran a factory but currently just walks among the machines reading psalms to keep them running well.

Sari's grandfather came from the same village and settled in New York City. Sari and I remember our summer vacation in '62 at her grandparents' Far Rockaway bungalow, drinking in the magic of the boardwalk at a time when kids were free to roam during the day. We were flush with enough money in our pockets for a delicious slice of pizza and a couple of games of Keno. When Sari's mother and father were first married, they used their Torchin connections to get Shooky (Sari's Dad) work in Illinois at one of the furniture stores.

My parents met Carmi's parents as teen-agers, before either couple was married. In 1946, they were at a New Jersey training camp for people who wanted to live on kibbutzim and build what would become the State of Israel.

By 1950 or '51, all three couples were married and living in Peoria, Illinois. In 1953, Sari, Carmi, and myself were born.

Somebody left their finger on the "fast forward" button and we are suddenly 54 years old with nine, 20-something kids between us (counting my partner, Sally's two daughters). In between is a blur of images reflecting intermingled childhoods and family vacations. There are the casualties, including Carmi's brother who lost his life to drugs and then cancer, and Carmi's first wife and my mother who died in the same car crash, hit by a drunk driver. There are the sketchy stories like the barely-spoken-about car trip to Oaxaca, Mexico that my mother and Carmi's mother took in 1961, that included a heavy peyote trip.

On Cape Cod with our wonderful partners our biggest decision was whether to swim in the ocean or the pond and what to cook for our nightly feasts. But whether at the pond, the ocean beach, or the dinner table, the six of us sat in a circle of highly charged conversation, with a million questions for each other. We dissected ourselves psychologically, reviewed our respective family systems, and the events that led us into six very different trajectories.

For many around the world, it sounds pretty pedestrian for three friends to share three or four generations of interconnection. I suspect it is a rarity for many urban Americans. In any case, for the six of us, those circles had a sacred quality - woven with history and ghosts, dreams realized and dreams deferred,loyalty and love, wrinkles and spider veins, and the delicious substance that radiates from enduring friendship.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

George Stoney "Delivers" Miss Mary Coley


I get tongue-tied whenever I'm around somebody famous, and my lips lock into a frozen smile. One time I sat on a bench next to Jerry Garcia for five minutes without coaxing any words into the light of day.

Filmmaker, George Stoney, is considered to be the "father" of community access TV in the States, the field in which I've worked most of my adult life. After working on a civic-film project in Canada, he procured a grant to incubate public access media centers here in the states. I'd see him at the annual community media conferences but could never think of an intelligent conversation-starter. In 1992, he made some opening remarks at the conference and told attendees to read an article I'd written. I was shocked when he referred to my last name and my inner voice burst into the Hallelujah chorus. A couple of times in subsequent years we spoke on panels together.

Then in early 2003 he called me from his office at New York University in lower Manhattan and asked if I knew a man by the name of Coley in Palo Alto. It so happened that I did and that we had crossed paths in a couple of civic organizations. Bernard Coley had been leaving some messages for George and George had not yet replied. I called Bernard and found out that he had been surfing the internet for information on his grandmother and had come across a listing of a movie George had made about her back in 1952. Nobody in his extended family had seen it.

George had been commissioned by the State of Georgia Health Department to make a training film for rural midwives. They were poor Black women who got their training in the apprentice-tradition of folk medicine. The Health Department expected the kind of educational health film we used to sit through in school, where the clicking sound of the projector was more interesting than the monotonous narration and sterile diagrams.

George started his media career doing radio interviews with farmworkers in the field and instinctually knew that the best information resides in the experiences of people. George had found out that Miss Mary Coley was the most accomplished midwife in Dougherty County and he gained her permission to shadow her for four months. After that he filmed some re-enactments of what he'd witnessed, creating a cross between an educational program and a docudrama. In 2002, it was one of twenty-five films chosen for preservation in the Library of Congress. In its 55 year lifetime it has been used as a tool for training midwives in numerous other states and in many countries. It has also been shown in many college classrooms as an example of early documentary style. (The former head of Stanford's School of Communications told me that he showed it regularly to his classes.)

Last week, "All My Babies" came out on DVD (and is available on Netflicks). It includes a wonderful commentary by George who - at 91 years old - has a razor sharp memory when he recalls his personal history. It also includes a short interview I did with Bernard Coley that originally aired on the "Community Journal" series I produced for two years. Discovering the film was the beginning of a new phase in Bernard's life. Through the lens of George's camera, Bernard rediscovered his personal history and a new pride for the work of his grandmother and her pivotal role on the American stage.

A year later, Bernard and George had become friends; George and I had become friends; Bernard gave talks about the extraordinary work of his grandmother; George talked about making a sequel film that would trace the legacy of the film and the extended Coley family itself; and a call came from the Smithsonian museum. An exhibit was created about African-American midwives and it featured Miss Mary and two others. Bernard got a VIP pre-viewing at the Anacostia Smithsonian, ironically only blocks away from where he'd grown up.

Miss Mary's offspring had assumed that George had made a bundle from the movie and shared none of it with their family. In fact, George had sold some property to finish the film the way he wanted to make it. It took Bernard nearly four years of heated lot phone calls and family meetings for Bernard to bring George into the Coley fold. Early this year, George accompanied Bernard to Albany, Georgia. It was the first time he'd been back since Miss Mary's funeral in 1966, where, in the tense days of the Civil Rights movement, George was the only white present.

This Spring George returned to Albany as the guest of the Coleys and has become very close with one of her grandsons (who, as a 2 or 3 year old had a cameo in the film). His letters from Albany fairly sing with a youthful enthusiasm. He's had many fortuitous meetings with people who'd been helped by Miss Mary, or want to support his sequel. One day, for example, George was approached by an African American man who saw him viewing a monument. Not only was this man the first African American mayor of Albany, but an obstetrician as well. Albany has seen a lot of change in racial relations since many of Miss Mary's 11 children left town to make a better life for themself in other parts of the country.

George and the Coleys are organizing a tribute to Miss Mary to be held in late October. Some of the 3000 babies she delivered and some of the mothers she coached through those deliveries will converge to swap stories and talk about their own lives. I was invited to be one of the story recorders and know it will be an experience I'll always treasure. It will also be another precious chance to hang out with my good friend George.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

SICKO


On opening night, a group of us went to see Michael Moore's movie, "Sicko," about our decaying healthcare system. Moore says this movie is not directed at the nearly 50 million Americans who have no health insurance, but to the 250 million who are entrusting their medical benefits to the insurance and HMO industries. Everyone in our group was 50+ years old and well into the stage of life where every conversation touches on body functions and dysfunctions that didn't use to register a blip on our radar screens. But this movie should also concern my 24 year old with his six concussions and everyone else who has left any kind of trail on their medical record. The insurance industry REWARDS doctors who refuse to recommend medical procedures and they employ people to investigate the insured who may not have volunteered enough information about their medical pasts when they "applied" for healthcare.

Normally a video or article about Health Care is like all the "Privacy Policies" we skip online and just click "OKAY", or Terms of Agreements that we flip right into the garbage when they come in the mail. The good news for my son and the rest of us is that Michael Moore knows how to make political awareness and multilayered issues wildly entertaining.

As Moore takes us to countries like Britain and France, we find out that healthcare can actually be determined by doctors who take an oath to fix us, rather than by bureaucrats who get fired when they give back too many of our dollars. We discover that our system is as absurd as it is uncaring. We discover that doctors still make housecalls in France and it's not something that had to go the way of the Milk Man in the name of progress.

For Californians who see the movie and then realize they are "mad as hell and don't want to take it anymore," there is a bill in the State Senate that would create universal healthcare. SB 840 is strong medicine. It's sitting in some committee, but if a few million of us get vocal about it, we can make it win out over the two other reform plans that would leave the insurance/HMO industry in charge.

See the movie first as it begins to rebut the myths we've grown up on about "socialized medicine." Sure, there is no system that will be perfect for everyone, but right now there are nearly 300 million of us who are standing on shaky ground even as we pay through the nose for the "privilege" of healthcare.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Mercury News Tragedy

The Mercury News reports today on the suspected suicide of a beloved editor, Rich Ramirez who was found dead Wednesday morning. A longtime colleague of his told me that "he was a wonderful human being, endlessly helpful who gave his entire life to journalism." People are devastated at the Merc where grief counselors were on hand and an impromptu memorial took place.

I wouldn't know what drove a great person like him to take his life, but it couldn't have helped that the Merc is in the throes of yet another round of layoffs about to be announced. On Wednesday, there was a full staff meeting in which new management announced that the number of layoffs would be forty. Nobody is to come to work on July 2nd. Those who are to be axed will receive a call at home. The goal is to get down to 200 employees on a staff that numbered 350 a few years ago. Mr. Ramirez had been told privately that his position as assistant to the Executive Editor would be eliminated but that he could transfer back to the newsroom.

For the rest of the news staff, there is some relief that the layoff number is forty, when many had expected sixty, but the layoffs hang over everyone's head like a "game" of Russian Roulette. It's not a good time to be looking for work in the shrinking newspaper industry.

Condolences to the Ramirez family in their time of devastating loss. Best wishes to the entire Mercury News staff with the hope that they are given the encouragement and space to grieve and share the myriad feelings they must be going through - rocked by grief, shock, and personal angst.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Father's Day Love








On Saturday morning I went out onto the deck and a guy (pictured above) was sitting there in disguise. It was an uncomfortable moment as I bent down and looked at him because I knew it must be some friend that I wasn't able to recognize. When he pulled off his Groucho Marx glasses, nose, and mustache a few seconds later, I was simultaneously mortified that I hadn't instantly known him and dizzy with pleasure that it was my son Alex who had come up from San Diego. It was the furthest thing from my mind that I'd see either of the twins this year. I last saw Alex in December when we went in our unusual family constellation to Mexico - a vacation that was also his and Zac's college graduation present.

Alex has been hard to reach in recent years, his time consumed by the pleasures and routines of his extremely social lifestyle - the many friends, the always sweet and pretty girlfriend-of-the-year, the daily weightlifting, the restaurant work, and until last July - his schoolwork. When I call on the phone, he is always enroute to something or other and has to get off quickly. But he also has the knack of immediately charming his mother or me as soon as we're together with his happy, loving attention.

He definitely made this one of my favorite Father's Days ever. We went on two big hikes, ate great, and went to a zydeco concert at a nearby little nightclub.

The surprise visit was arranged by his mother, Deborah. We ended our marriage over twenty years ago, but found our way into a glorious friendship fueled by mutual admiration for the other's co-parenting skills. We always lived within a couple of miles of each other - sometimes closer - and the boys alternated whose house they went to after school/daycare every other day. (This week Deborah and I are going out to celebrate 30 years of friendship.)

The first day's hike included Alex, me, and Deborah at Hidden Villa where Alex and Zac went to a two week day camp numerous summers. Alex talked about his new job for a fast growing company that rents and sets up huge draping for conventions and concerts. He has quickly risen to a manager position that will begin in a month. He joked about his commitment challenges when it comes to girlfriends and wondered if he's ever really fallen in love. The three of us each took a stab at defining love. Alex's definition was about finding someone who does wonderful things for you. Deborah and I both spoke about how it is just as much about what you want to do for and with your partner – the ways you want to discover them on deeper and deeper levels, care for them, and build a history together. We both acknowleged that for every day that you are fully in touch with those vibrant feelings, there are many when you are just going through motions.

What I forgot to acknowlege was what was right in front of my face, perhaps obscured by its very pervasiveness or because it was camouflaged by the equivalent of a Groucho Marx nose and glasses - but there I was spilling over with more love than I could ever contain with every step along the creek and under the sun as we climbed the formidable hill together.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Newspaper Layoffs: The Daily Planet is Melting


Are our Bay Area daily newspapers grinding to a halt the same way that arctic glaciers are melting just out of our sight?

I had breakfast with a friend who reports for the San Jose Mercury News and he said that they are bracing for a 25% reduction in their 250 person news team. Last October they negotiated a temporary reprieve from any layoffs and as of July the pink slips can start tumbling off the printing press. Time flies when you're running around investigating and writing stories to inform the public.

Three weeks ago at the San Francisco Chronicle, they announced a similar 25% reduction that has already begun. Both papers have closed down their Peninsula Bureaus (tho the Chronicle did it a few years ago). John Curley, a Chronicle editor who spent 25 years there and is a sophisticated Web 2.0 guy, was one of the ones who was pushed out. You'd think they'd be promoting the folks who can blaze the path for the paper to prosper with web services.

It's unclear whether any execs at these papers have a plan other than the tried and true corporate cost cutting scenario of recent decades. (I've never understood how mass layoffs actually work in any industry assuming that most employees were working hard at something the company produces to stay competitive.) At a newspaper, will it translate into something like The Weekly Reader, that we got in grade school? Will the Merc and Chron end up merging somewhere down the line into a regional McNewspaper? Who's going to want to major in journalism anymore, let alone practice it? What am I going to put under my cereal bowl that simultaneously keeps me informed, entertained, and out of trouble for making a mess on the table?

John McManus seems to have an inside track on these events in his blog at Grade the News.

photo credit: dickie at flickr.com http://www.flickr.com/photos/simplethingsuask/42917792/

Friday, June 08, 2007

Web 2.0 Social Change has an Essential Active Ingredient


Last week I attended a very cool conference about social change and the social web. It focused on 21 nonprofit organizations who made their case for funding their particular web 2.0 strategies. At the end, we voted for three who received substantial cash grants while the remaining 18 got enough $ to make the conference well worth their time and effort. My job was to walk around and do short interviews (now called videoblogs) with attendees for Netsquared,the sponsoring organization. If one could transform the idealism there into alternative energies, we could have provided all the electricity for San Jose for at least six months.

There are those who talk about the amazing reach and interconnectivity of the internet in quasi-religious terms, as the harbinger of democracy, human rights, transparent politics, medical cures, and the catalyst for economic justice between nations. You hear a story about somebody in an African village who put a written agreeement from a big oil company onto the web that shows the unfulfilled promises made by the company - that subsequently led to an outpouring of angry emails to the company - that led to a positive course of corrective actions by the oil company.....and it does seem like the web is a pretty magical place where Davids can slay Goliaths and Right can conquer Might.

But it's important to remember that the technology is neutral and can be marshalled for any purpose. Orwell, the author of "1984," would have a heyday with the omniscient breakthroughs that Google has made, linking our individual online searches to our consumer profiles. It's important to remember that the same platitudes were exclaimed about previous communications technologies as they emerged – like radio and television. In the early years of radio, the majority of stations were operated by small decentralized, local companies, unions, churches, etc. and it looked as though everyone would have a voice. After the Rodney King beating was captured by some random person with a camcorder, it was thought that camcorders would usher in a new era of citizen journalism and empowerment. The technology HAS made a huge difference, but always as a tool, albeit an increasingly powerful tool.

Behind every social movement or viral outpouring that has occurred on the web, there is an individual or small group who dared to imagine an amazing outcome and to put the wheels into motion. The action may have been as simple as scanning and publishing an oil company document, but it mirrors the same courage and eloquent simplicity as when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus. The activists describing their web 2.0 projects at the NetSquared conference are part of that tradition, and I hope that they see that the most vital ingredient of what they have set whirling and snowballing on the world wide web, is their own creative, courageous, imagination.

photo credit:Lena Zuniga, GK3 Project Team, Global Knowledge Partnership (GKP) Secretariat

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Stick of Gum?


There's a story I will never forget about Neal Cassady, the icon of the Beat Poets who later morphed into the driver of Ken Kesey's psychedelic Magic Bus. He was entering a bar in Oakland and saw what was about to be a bloody scene. Four Black men were about to pummel a White guy. Without weighing any time consuming pros and cons, Cassady jumped into the fray tapping each man on the shoulder and asking in a loud, friendly voice, with an outstretched hand: "Stick of gum?" Somehow his package of Juicy Fruit gum disarmed a tense moment and a sure beating was avoided.

Cassady's creative courage has always seemed a luminous lesson to me. One time I tried to put it into practice and failed in my delivery, but more on that mishap in a different entry someday.

Yesterday, I pulled a book of essays down from the shelf, during my sunrise insomnia session. I read about a poet named Robert Desnos who was taken by Nazis in a truck crammed with men to a gas chamber. As they stood in line awaiting their deaths, Desnos jumped about in a jocular, animated way and asked men to let him read their palms. To each one he exclaimed that he saw a long lifeline, many children, and abundant joy. As unbelievable as it seems, according to Susan Griffin's essay, the Nazi guards were amused and decided to let this group live.

Griffin goes on to say that "social movements are driven by imagination....every important social movement reconfigures the world in the imagination."

The scientist, Jacob Bronowski, who was deeply affected by what he witnessed in Hiroshima after it was leveled by The Bomb, wrote:
"Order does not display itself of itself; if it can be said to be there at all, it is not there for the mere looking. There is no way of pointing a finger or a camera at it; order must be discovered and in a deep sense it must be created. What we see as we see it is mere disorder." To me, it seems he is talking about the importance of using our imagination.

More than the power of any particular political theory to reorganize society for the common good, I put my faith in the acts of persons springing forward in courageous acts of imagination to right wrongs and act as though a precious life is in their hands to save.

Monday, May 21, 2007

A Future for Newspapers?


I guess I won't be applying to any newspapers for work even though I have a Masters degree in Broadcast Journalism and am sort of in the job-seeking market. At a forum put on by the Stanford University Department of Communication, Bill Keller, Executive Editor of the New York Times, Gary Pruit, CEO of The McClatchy (Newspaper) Co., and Harry Chandler, former co-owner of the LA Times all agreed that there was no roadmap for the hemorrhaging newspaper industry - victims of the internet and general cultural shift away from reading news - and times would get bleaker before they get brighter. Papers get 85% - 90% of their income from ads and Craigslist alone has siphened off a huge amount of that revenue stream.

Chandler, whose family sold the LA Times said there were four likely options for newspapers:
1) A dramatic amount of layoffs and buyouts
2) Diversification (for example the Washington Post bought the Kaplan SAT-Test company)
3) Leverage the brand (big newspapers have credibility that should be valuable to some other business ventures)
4) Ownership will shift toward the pro sports model where many owners do it for the ego boost etc. rather than profits

One telling statistic (relative to cutbacks) was given by Keller, who said that when the war in Iraq was just underway and Saddam was ousted there were 1,000 reporters there. Now there are 45.

Pruitt, of McClatchy, was most optimistic saying that papers have been through the same sort of cataclysmic paradigm shifts before, when radio and then TV came "online." He's confident that newspapers will find new life on the web, albeit not as profitable as the last half of the 20th century.

Writeup in the Stanford Daily

Two months ago, I organized an evening lecture/conversation with former Tech Columnist turned Citizen Journalism activist, Dan Gillmor. He was asked a similar question about the future for newspapers and was similarly vague about the immediate future before new paradigms emerge. Here's a video clip with his full response:

Friday, May 18, 2007

Falwell Meets the Maker

I've often wondered what happens when fundamentalists die and find out that if there's a god at all, it's not some old, stern white guy who's been sitting up there cheering on one particular group of humans.

Jerry Falwell: What the.......? Where's the Lord? I want to see the Lord.
God: Welcome Jerry. You were really caught up in your illusions down there weren't you?
Falwell: What's going on? Is this some kind of test? Why you're Black as coal.....and you're a Woman.
God: Jerry. I'm everyone and everything you've ever seen down there. It's all my expression. All my poem.
Falwell: Oh Lord. You've turned into a Teletubby! This must be a bad dream. I'm not officially dead yet, am I? Is this the Purgatory chamber?
God: Jerry, we don't operate any chambers or five star hotels out here. Sorry but you didn't unpack enough stuff for this trip. You'll be going back.
Jerry: Back? But that sounds like blasphemous Buddha talk.
God: Would you like a schtickel taiglach or a bissell kishka before you go?
Jerry: Lord, are you about to tell me a Jew joke? I think I've heard them all.
God: Salam Aleikem Jerry. This time around you're going to live a very holy life. You'll be a cow in India. You'll see things
much more clearly. Chow baby!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Celebrating Mom on Mother's Day

It was summer 1974, the first and only time my mom visited me in Santa Barbara. I picked her up at the little airport, a role reversal after the countless times I'd look for her gold Toyota outside baggage claim in St. Louis. Serendipitously, I'd picked up two friends hitchhiking that day and when I told them of my mother's visit, the woman gave me the key to her apartment and said we could stay there and she'd stay with her boyfriend. The visit seemed already to be blessed.

I'd just completed my B.A. at UCSB in Sociology and she was a Psychology Teacher at Florrisant Valley Community College, about to branch out and teach courses in Women's Studies and Human Sexuality. She was five years into her life as a college instructor, having moved to St. Louis with my younger brothers in the wake of divorce and twenty years in Peoria, Il. One of the many reasons I loved visiting her in St. Louis was because her apartment would be filled with food and laughter on Saturdays as people from the Orthodox community she belonged to would drop by during their Sabbath walks. A number of 20-something folks in particular liked to come and visit with her. They were drawn to her good hearted irreverence and humor. They didn't know the half of how far her lifestyle extended.

We jumped easily into a back and forth "catch-up" conversation as we made our way through Santa Barbara's tony downtown. Mom was really excited to tell me how she was spending many evenings with a mostly African-American crowd who lived in an old section of the city. At the community college she had a number of older students, and one of them had brought her into this new peer group. She said that they smoked grass and then sat around talking about art, philosophy, and politics into the wee hours. She turned to me and asked if I knew how to get some of that stuff. We took a detour and got my mom her first "lid." Then we went to the drive-in movies, toked up, and giggled our way through one or two comedies whose titles I wish I could remember.

She died a short six years later, just after her 51st birthday, on another visit to California where she saw me in San Francisco and then my brother Josh in L.A. A drunk driver hit her car head-on on Highway 1 as she was making her way down to San Diego. I used to love to talk to her on Mother's Day. One year I made her a book of quotes and pictures pasted from magazines that I've since "inherited." Though I wish I had more Mothers' Days to connect with her, I consider myself the luckiest guy in the world to have had her as Mom, role model, and friend, serving me endless amounts of my favorite Jewish foods, going with me to hear Jerry Garcia laughing and buzzed, and jumping across all manners of social and religious boundaries to live a full and multi-dimensional life.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Martial Law Coming to a Theatre Near You!


Presumably President Bush learned many lessons from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the devastation in New Orleans. Unfortunately, it appears that one of his biggest "takeaways" was the need for a President to be able to declare martial law and quell disturbance after a natural disaster and any number of other unpredictable "incidents." The Bush Administration slipped a clause into the 2006 "Defense Bill" that changed the "Insurrection Act" that has been on the books since just after the Civil War. That act spelled out the only times a president could override state governors and send in Federal troops against U.S. citizens and also take over control of the state's national guard. Though it had some vague language of its own it basically only allowed for Presidential martial law in the case of insurrection or a state's refusal to follow federal law. Now, the name of the Insurrection Act has been changed to "Enforcement of the Laws to Restore Public Order" Act and it clearly authorizes the President to impose martial law after a terrorist attack, a natural disaster, a disease outbreak, or 'other condition.'' We now have one "Decider" who can overrule governors in many different difficult situations - even if that "decider" is woefully ignorant of conditions on the ground, or just plain ignorant in general.

The governors association is against this new law and on February 7th, Senator Leahy of Vermont, introduced S1712 to ressurect the old Insurrection Act and delete the new Restore Public Order" Act. It's currently in the Judiciary Committee and the Committee of Armed Services.

The scariest thing about it is how easy it is to give up basic rights and protections guaranteed by our constitution. When you don't know how unprecedented this Bush-driven law is and how relatively untouchable, the "posse comitatus" restrictions have been, it is easy to erase its limitations on the President. In fact it's pretty easy to relinquish a myriad of constitutional liberties and protections in the aftermath of 9/11. We're getting used to the dire warning that there is a terrorist behind every Bush, and how we need to prioritize our security over our liberty. How often that seems to translate into letting the president decide what violence, surveillance, and control to employ on our behalves.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Go Warriors!!


The Golden State Warriors are fully embodying their moniker as they lay down a 200% individual and team effort in each NBA playoff game after a 12 or 13 year wait to make it past the regular season.

Sports teams so often sport a nickname like "Bears," "Lions," "Wildcats," "Chiefs," and yes, "Warriors" as though winning games is all about physical power and aggression as opposed to imagination, brains, and rhythm. I definitely prefer monikers like the Maryland Terrapins and the Oregon Ducks. My favorite was that of my own college, the Northwestern Purple Haze. Unfortunately, the school administration would not officially adopt the Jimi Hendrix-inspired moniker that the student body voted for in the early 70's, and they are still officially the Wildcats.

That said, watching the Golden State team win its last 9 out of 10 games to squeak into the playoffs on the final night of the season; watching them run up and down the court with total abandon; watching them come back and beat the Mavs in a game where they were behind by 20+ points; watching Baron Davis and Matt Barnes play through hamstring pain; watching the youngest team in the whole league and shorter per capita than most of their opponents; watching them hang together even in the two losses to the Jazz*.......you can't help but see them as Warriors... with all the associated mythical, romantic ethos. Go Warriors!!!!

*The Jazz are an exception to the nickname rule. They got the nickname in New Orleans which is one of the few places that values rhythm over power in pursuit of victory.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

New Orleans Lower 9th District April '07


















If the Upper 9th is a sort of Wild West, the Lower 9th is a sort of post-bomb Hiroshima. It is quiet with very few people around save for the tourists driving around with cameras like myself- over 18 months after Katrina. There are many vacant lots where houses have been razed and tall grass has reclaimed the plot after a lengthy interruption. Zac says that each time he has come to see it, there are fewer structures; more open land. Hand written, makeshift streetsigns have been put up on poles, since the old ones have vanished. The levee wall is standing again and what once was a neighborhood is now like a field splattered with misshapen houses that crumbled in on themselves or floated to new resting spots and positions. The doors are usually gone and you can look in to see washers and dryers, toilets, bicycles, couches, desks, mattresses, light fixtures overturned or jumbled together. There was a water heater that had somehow floated up to an attic. In one house you could see some clothes hanging neatly, totally anomalous to the mashed potato crunch of most everything else. It is voyeuristic, peering in to the empty broken rooms searching out the everyday articles that belonged to other people’s lives before the last hours when they had to flee or drown. Like the broken watch that was laying on a mattress, every house was a picture of time standing still and broken.