The Power of the People

Never mind the traditional excesses of Thanksgiving, the horrors of Black Friday or the panic of the pre-Christmas rush. For afficionados of the sport of people-watching, the up-coming holiday season is the best season of the year. With crowds of impatient adults and captive children navigating the stormy seas of covetousness and retail madness from now until New Year’s Day, amusement should be easy to find.

In fact, I’ve already been amused. During a swing through our local Target store, I found myself waiting in the checkout line behind a child and his mother. The boy appeared to be about three, and he was fussy.  Hanging on to his mother’s skirt with both hands, he circled around and around until he found a comfortable spot, sandwiched between his mother and the cart. 

Peeking out from the folds of her skirt, he looked past us to the vibrant displays of candy and merchandise across the aisle. Using one hand to point to something, he tugged on her skirt with the other to gain attention.  Busy sorting through her purse, his mother ignored him while the rest of us started paying attention. (more…)

Published in: on November 18, 2012 at 3:40 pm  Comments (95)  
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The Marketplace of Ideas

I like to think of myself as fairly easy-going, but I don’t cope well with garage sales.

Over the years, I’ve prowled my share and even found a treasure or two, like these mint condition Woolenius tiles manufactured in Berkeley in the early 1900s. But artifacts of the Arts and Crafts movement are hard to come by, and the thought of hours spent pawing through plastic soap dishes and mismatched cutlery no longer appeals. People with growing children in need of clothing or toys, inveterate readers, Ebay resellers or folks with truly limited income no doubt have a different perspective.  But I’m not a shopper, and I’m trying to simplify my life.  In my world,  garage sales rarely meet real needs. They provide little more than a few hours of distraction and an indiscriminate pile of “stuff”  to be hauled home and squirreled away before being “repurposed” by sending it off to Goodwill. (more…)

Published in: on June 23, 2012 at 7:56 am  Comments (88)  
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Space, Lemons and Lemonade

So. Houston doesn’t get one of the real space shuttles. Fine.  As a friend with ties to NASA says, “What would you expect from people who can’t even get our most famous quotation right?” 

Of course she’s talking about the film Apollo 13 and the transformation of astronaut Jack Swigert’s, “Okay, Houston, we’ve had a problem here” into “Houston, we have a problem”.  The film makers had their reasons for the change, and it certainly didn’t detract from the film or from the space program. Still, a lot of things have been irritating folks since the announcement that Johnson Space Center will be home not to Discovery, Enterprise, Endeavour or Atlantis, but to Explorer, a shuttle replica built with a high percentage of plywood.

Be that as it may, communities surrounding Johnson Space Center have unbreakable ties with NASA. We continue to embody the spirit that enlivened our nation’s space program and we certainly know how to party. This weekend was party-time in Houston, as the city engaged in “Shuttlebration”, a city-wide tribute to the role of space exploration in our lives. (more…)

Published in: on June 3, 2012 at 8:54 pm  Comments (54)  
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The Yard Sale of Ideas


I like to think I’m a fairly easy-going sort.  I get along with most people who cross my path and I’m able to fulfill most of life’s responsibilities without too much grumbling, but there are things that drive me crazy. 

Yard sales (aka “garage sales”, “tag sales” or “rummage sales”) fit that category.  I can’t think of anything worse than spending a perfectly good day pawing through piles of stuff that other people have judged not worth keeping.  I’d much rather be reading or writing, spending a day at the beach or even cleaning my house. 

People with growing children and limited incomes, inveterate readers, quilters and crafters, Ebay re-sellers or folks with a passion for the act of buying have a different perspective, I’m sure.  But I’m not a shopper, and I’m trying to simplify.  In my life, yard sales don’t help meet real needs.  They provide little more than a few hours of distraction and a pile of purchases which need to be hauled home, hidden away and then handed over to the next neighbor who decides to hold a yard sale. (more…)

All Dressed Up with Somewhere to Go

 

On October 23, 1956, I celebrated my tenth birthday.  There was cake, ice cream and a small party with balloons and crepe paper streamers.  On that same day, in a world utterly removed from my cozy Iowa neighborhood, other children watched as friends, parents and neighbors celebrated an occasion first known as the Hungarian Uprising and later as the Hungarian Revolution.

As I headed toward our kitchen for my post-birthday breakfast on October 24, or perhaps the 25th, the Des Moines Register was lying in its accustomed place on the dining room table where my father always laid it before going upstairs to shave. A huge photograph filled the space above the fold, with the words REVOLUTION IN HUNGARY splashed across the top.  

At that point in my life I never had met a Hungarian and had little idea what a revolution might entail.  But I could read, and I liked to look at photographs. Curious to see what required such large print and such a big picture, I paused to look at the paper, only to have  my mind wiped as clean of thought as our classroom blackboards at day’s end. Gripped by a strange, vertiginous feeling, I realized I was holding my breath as my first, visceral understanding of a world far larger than my own and far less pleasant began to envelop me. (more…)

Published in: on November 2, 2010 at 3:43 am  Comments (29)  
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