What's fair. And when does it matter?

I have a horrible confession to make. I am addicted to the comments on articles and blog posts on the LA Times website (and note that more and more of the coverage linked off the main page is in the form of blog posts). I fully recognize that these comments are not a representative collection of the opinions of LA Times readers, but they are a fascinating glimpse into the sort of things that get people angry enough to post and how some people think about social issues (hint: posts about immigration get lots of comments).

One tidbit that’s got a lot of commentary last week is a What do you think blog post titled “Should L.A. ban food trucks from parking on city streets? Tell us what you think.”. The post itself doesn’t offer much info on the proposed bans. The only real information is contained in this paragraph:

One proposal from Councilman Tom LaBonge asks city staff to study what other cities have done and to look into prohibiting trucks from parking at metered spaces in commercially zoned areas. The other calls for a report on the creation of specially designated catering-truck parking zones.

One of the repeating themes in the comments against food trucks is that food trucks are unfair competition for brick and mortar restaurants because they don’t have to pay rents. Another theme of the comments is that food trucks are a major public health problem because they’re unregulated. In theory this latter point is simply inaccurate and irrelevant because food trucks are permitted and inspected by the county public health department. In reality there almost certainly are a fair number of trucks out there that aren’t inspected so it’s not actually a crazy concern. However, I believe that food trucks display their permit so spotting an unpermitted one should be doable.

The fairness theme, though, is a fascinating one to me. The argument seems to be that it’s unfair to established restaurants in an area that the food trucks come in and lure away customers. On the surface–assuming that the trucks do follow the same food safety procedures as restaurants–the fairness critique strikes me as almost comically misguided. If I open a restaurant and am doing well until another restaurant opens down the street is that unfair? Of course not, it’s business. It may be personally tragic if my restaurant fails because the new one lures away my customers but at no point would it actually be reasonable for me to argue that all new restaurants should be banned because their competition is “unfair.”
Continue reading “What's fair. And when does it matter?”

little things

Many many years ago I was enthralled with a woman who was important to a man with whom I was also enthralled (complicated enough for you?) This woman–call her J., because that was her first initial–was enthralled with another man, who happened to be at Harvard at the time. J. and the man with whom she was enthralled, and many other people, wrote for a website called medianstrip. I spent many hours in those days, many years ago, reading things written by J. and people important to J. The things I read moved me in their own right but also because they came from friends of J. who was important to A. who was important to me. I have long since lost touch with all parties but sometimes I am inspired by memories of my then self, watching the full moon move across the eastern sky above the Humanities building, and I look to see if medianstrip still exists. And really, it doesn’t. And this is a little thing that makes me sad.

Lead, follow, or get the $@#& out of my way already. (learning the zen of discourtesy)

I know it’s said that nobody walks in LA (or alternatively, only nobodies walk in LA). If that were true I’d probably be a great deal happier given that one of the main things that irks me about living in LA is how oblivious people seem to be to other people. This is true, too, when people are enclosed in their little plastic, glass, and metal boxes, but for some reason it doesn’t bother me much then. On foot, though, it drives me crazy, leaves me seething.

I went to college in Madison, WI, which has a huge pedestrian population. It is, however, also very orderly. In fact, as a sophomore I wrote an argument for anarchy in my political theory class that basically made the case that centralized government wasn’t really necessary because social norms (and their accompanying societal sanctions) could achieve the same ends. I cited as examples the orderly progression of students up and down Bascom Hill (which has two main sidewalks and is incredibly crowded but mostly avoids pandemonium because on both sidewalks there’s two streams of students who avoid colliding by keeping right) and dorm elevator behavior (don’t you dare take the elevator to the 3rd floor unless you’re crippled or sick to the point of near death). The point was less that these were important examples than it was that these were totally self-organizing example. It was sort of a silly, simplistic political argument, but for a 19 year old who was absolutely NOT an anarchist, I think I made a reasonably solid case, particularly given that this class was my first experience in arguing for things I didn’t actually have an emotional attachment to. I have since realized, however, that the argument worked only because I was a sophomore at UW. Had I been a UCLA sophomore I couldn’t have possibly argued that self-organization leads to outcomes nearly as orderly as rules imposed from the outside, no way, no how.

I really do love a lot of things about LA but I spend a lot of time out in public grumbling to myself “why don’t these people get out of the way. One could argue that this is merely the shock of moving from a small midwestern city to a large over-crowded metropolis. And I’m sure that to some extent that is an explanation. However, in Madison I lived in the extremely dense downtown area and I’d hazard a guess that my daily experiences there actually brought me into the presence of way more people than my daily life in LA does. Even Target on the weekend can’t really hold a candle to the UW campus between classes. The truth is I think the difference is cultural. I think people in LA simply don’t pay attention. I think many people here think they’re entitled to walk through life without taking into account other people’s needs. In short, I think people here are RUDE! And it annoys me. A lot.

Take for instance one morning last week when I walked into the office kitchen to rinse out my coffee cup in the sink. The kitchen was crowded with a group of people waiting for the conference room to open up. Our kitchen has a large table in the middle and to get to the sink requires walking around the table. A woman was standing at the table directly in front of the sink. “Excuse me,” I said. Rather than scooting down the empty table far enough that I could stand fully in front of the sink, she shifted slightly to her right. “Oh well, at least I can now reach the handle on the faucet” I sighed to myself and set to washing my cup, while leaning slightly to actually be holding my cup over the sink (and then leaning more dramatically to reach the pile of paper towels to dry it). Then I turned to leave, only to discover that another woman had filed in behind the table such that my way out was completely blocked. Fortunately the table is just far enough from the wall that two people can pass comfortably. That is, they can if one of them makes an effort not to be standing directly in the middle of the available space. I walked toward the woman. “Excuse me” I said as I reached the point where I had to pass her. And she responded by swaying ever so slightly forward. She did not move her feet to step forward so I could pass. She did not step around the end of the table so that I could pass without even having to turn sideways to do so. Simply put, she did not get out of the way. I squeezed behind her as best I could, thinking the whole time “really? really you feel so entitled that you cannot bother to step forward six inches to make someone else’s life easier?” One might argue that she was so engrossed in her conversation that she did not hear my “excuse me.” I would respond to that by pointing out that a) being so absorbed in your own stuff that you don’t notice your effect on other people is itself rude, rude, rude* and b) she did respond, ever so slightly, to my entreaty, just not by getting out of my way.

(* yes, of course, I also find myself frequently in situations where I have lost track of my surroundings and accidentally put myself in the way. It’s an unavoidable thing in a crowded world. The difference, though, is that I realize it when the other person gets within excusing distance, at which point I apologize and I MOVE)

If this were an isolated sort of incident I would not make sweeping indictments about the courtesy levels of my fellow Angelenos. However, the days I work in the office, I walk about four blocks from where I park my car to the office. That’s 4 blocks, twice per day, 3 days per week (plus a walking to lunch on days when I don’t bring my own or go to the burrito place half a block away). The sidewalks in Westwood are wide but have many trees. This means that practically speaking much of the sidewalk is only two people wide. As result I find myself frequently stepping aside when I get to tree because I am being approached by people walking two abreast who show no sign of dropping back to single file so that I can pass without being knocked aside into the break in the sidewalk where the tree is. Never is this met with an “excuse me,” a “thank you,” or even a simple smile. It is as if it is perfectly natural to people that I would stop walking, and step aside to accommodate their passage. I can forgive this for tired mamas wrangling strollers and toddlers. But hear me, self-absorbed twenty-somethings walking with friends: you do not get a pass. You are simply being rude.

Continue reading “Lead, follow, or get the $@#& out of my way already. (learning the zen of discourtesy)”

Breaking the law while white (and female? and midwestern? and boring?)

I work at home two days a week and in an office on the other side of the city from home three days a week. So Wednesday through Friday my life is pretty focused on that whole “commute” thing. To make things a bit more pleasant than they could be I work 10ish to 6:30ish and take a freeway route that cuts across the mountains North of the city and then South to campus. This route is somewhere between 5 and 10 miles longer than the other obvious route, but a pretty drive and generally takes about the same amount of time as the alternative. Because I leave the house around 9, and am not traversing a popular commute route, traffic is generally light and pretty speedy for the first 20 miles or so of my trip (the other 15 are on the 405 and another story altogether).

This morning traffic was particularly light and it was a lovely sunny morning. I eased into the left lane and relaxed into my drive. Just after cresting one of the big climbs, I glanced down at my speedometer, and then up at my rear view mirror. And cursed. Fortunately, particularly light traffic means you don’t have to fight your way through 5 lanes when you get pulled over.

I am, as a rule, polite to people in general. I am, however, particularly polite to cops. To be perfectly honest, cops (and pretty much anyone else who routinely carries a gun) scare the bejeezus out of me and thus politeness is a way to try to speed up the process of getting out of their presence. So, I pull over to the shoulder of the road, prepared to accept the ticket I so clearly deserve as politely as possible. There was simply no arguing it. I was speeding. Significantly. I know the ticket is going to be ugly but I figure it’s my own fault and there’s not much I can do about it. And so the conversation went something like this:

We exchange “good morning”s and he asks me why I was going so fast. I reply a bit sheepishly that I wasn’t paying attention (and this is mostly true. Though a more wholly true answer is that it’s a beautiful stretch of road, there was no one in front of me, and I was going downhill). He asked for my license. I gave it to him. Still smiling and cheerful. He asks me if I still live at the address on my license. I tell him no. (note to self, add a notecard with my current address to my wallet for these sorts of occasions). He asks if I’ve ever gotten a ticket before. This is where I sort of stumble. “No,” I say “well, not here. I got a ticket in WI once, years ago.” Then he starts giving me a lecture about slowing down, noting that people drive this stretch of road very fast and there are lots of accidents. He then notes that he caught my speed on a downhill and says “Do me a favor and slow down” and hands me back my license. “I will,” I say, “thank you.” As he’s walking away I wish him “have a nice day.”

And thus he gets back in his car and I sit for a moment, processing the situation. Did he really just let me off with a warning? Really? I was going fast enough that this seems truly impossible. But he gave me back my license. And the end of the conversation sounded unequivocally like the end of a conversation. So I decide that I have in fact been let off with just a warning and set about trying to pull into very light (but very fast) traffic from a dead stop, which isn’t fun since I don’t have as much visibility as I’d like. Cop pulls out after me, passes me, and goes on his way while I continue to drive at exactly the speed limit in the far right lane.

This is a mostly unremarkable story. Polite woman who drives too fast gets pulled over, is given a warning instead of a ticket, and goes about her day incredibly grateful for her good fortune. However, I mentioned this incident on a message board I frequent and noted that I had no idea how I got out of the ticket. One guy responded that it was likely because I was polite and respectful and added “I wonder if that would have spared Henry Louis Gates Jr. a world of hurt.”

It’s an interesting response to me in part because when incidents like the one with Gates happen one of my first reactions is always something along the lines of “well, yeah, what did you think would happen if you copped an attitude with the police?” Which is not to say that I think the arrest was in any way legitimate. Just that it didn’t surprise me, particularly. But Chalicechick makes the, very reasonable in my opinion, point that being rude to cops isn’t actually illegal and that the likely consequences of being rude to cops varies according to your skin color.
And indeed, I suspect that the likely consequences of being polite and respectful to cops varies too. Who knows why I managed to land myself a warning instead of a hefty ticket. Probably being polite had a lot to do with it but I suspect that the fact that I look totally boring and law-abiding (no matter what stereotypes you employ) had a lot to do with it too. And of course there’s the dumb luck part.

Perhaps it’s a sign I should buy a lottery ticket. But I think I’ll stick with just feeling generally cheerful and fortunate. (And, of course, driving more slowly)

Don't like it? Leave it? Lump it? Change it?

I have to admit that living in California (and working for a university in the UC system) these days leaves me wondering why I’m in this handbasket, and where exactly it is we’re all going. The nice Christians who periodically knock on my door to evangelize seem to be capitalizing on this theme. Unfortunately, my own theology doesn’t include a diety who intercedes in the lives and fortunes of individuals*, so their messages are not places where I find hope.

*(As an aside I have to note that any such figure who responds to personal pleas for aid that I could fathom would probably spend all his time shouting “if you children don’t stop your whining and bickering, I swear I’m going to turn this universe around. I mean it!”)

My hope, then, comes from my faith in humanity. Which is to say, people got us into this mess so people are going to have to get us out. It’s small hope indeed but I maintain it by willfully not thinking too much about the messes we make and instead focusing on the good and the beautiful. I studied inequality and poverty long enough that I’d be an ugly person to be around if I didn’t compartmentalize my knowledge of human ability to build ugly hierarchies into a neat little box with a label reading “really not our best quality but not the sole defining bit of human nature.”

And so, this brings us to lunch. Whatever horrible things you may be able to blame on humanity, you have to admit that the invention of the burrito makes up for it just a little. And so I sat with my burrito at my normal lunch hangout when a Spanish-language version of “Unchained Melody” began playing on the radio. This lead the gentleman at the next table, who I mentally refer to as Westwood Local Crazy Dude, began regalling the women at the table in front of me with the story of how the song was written about Chino prison. WLCD works for a local small store–if one of the previous rants of his I overheard is to be believed, I haven’t taken to fact checking–and is fond of harping on the negative aspects of current U.S. society and economy. Today was no exception and his lecture on “Unchained Melody” soon devolved into commentary on incarceration rates in the U.S. (higher than any other industrialized country and many fascist regimes as well), the ranking of California schools compared to other states (last, according to him) and divorce rates (68%, again according to WLCD). Fortunately, since I was sitting behind WLCD I could giggle to myself at his ramblings (none of which ever really strike me as patently false, just inappropriate for the setting) without getting drug into engaging with him. Meanwhile his audience just wanted to get back to their lunch but he continued on his tyrade on the ills of America. One of the women pointed out “well if you don’t like it, you can leave.” This lead him into a line of criticism beginning with “no one else wants us” and ending in some horrible world in which 1/3 of American teenagers are drug addicts.

Meanwhile it lead me to thinking about the “if you don’t like it you’re free to leave” response to political criticism. While I think it is perhaps a perfectly reasonable answer to negative diatribes from a neighboring table while one is lunching, it isn’t typically a reasonable answer in real discussions. Of course there are situations where leaving really is the right response to unhappiness with a system. But too often both the directive “if you don’t like it leave” or the threat “Screw you guys, I’m going home” are used to block–or in the case of the threat to avoid the effort of making–actual constructive criticism.

And so my thinking circles back to California and the question of where exactly it is this hand basket is heading. The current state of the budget, paired with other doomsday thinking (like how long can we survive on borrowed water), does have me wondering about how badly I really want to stay here. I think in at least the short term B. and I are committed to staying. If nothing else, home ownership makes the prospects of leaving more complicated. The current state of the state, though, has me wondering if I shouldn’t be giving some serious thought to where else I might be happy. At the same time, though, if I feel so strongly that “if you don’t like it leave” isn’t the right answer to criticism, does that perhaps suggest that there might be better ways to respond to my fears about the state’s future than looking elsewhere. A thought to consider, I suppose, as I continue to ask myself what I want to be when I grow up.

p.s. I’m getting over a nasty cold. To help fight off some remaining congestion (primarily in my ears, which is worrying me since it feels much like the early stages of an ear infection) I took some Sudafed this morning. Of course because I am otherwise thinking of myself as no longer “sick” I consumed exactly as much caffeine as I normally do on work days (2 to 3 cups of coffee in the morning and a diet coke with lunch). The combo has left me a touch, uh, wired. So if this post is touch flippant and scattered it’s because … oooh, shiny!

Unburying the muse

Lately I have been reading more. I also watch more TV than I previously ever have in my life thanks to hulu. On some level I feel a bit guilty for this but on another I am delighted when I actually get passing references made to popular shows. I also mostly watch TV while doing something else (eating, copying and pasting numbers into tables, sewing, crocheting) so I don’t feel that the time is wasted. But I am even more delighted to be reading again regularly. Lately I have been pulled deeply in Sharyn McCrumb’s novels. And reading her descriptions of the mountains of Tennessee and the people of the small town she sets the Ballad novels in leaves me filled with a certain longing. In part it is a longing for that life, for knowing the names of the people around you, knowing their histories. I recognize that as the idealized myth of the small town. There is always a line between the insiders and the outsiders. And there are things about small towns that plan and simply suck, even if you are local, even if you hate cities. I think McCrumb does a good job of capturing some of the distinctions between insider and outsider, and some of the ambiguities of small places. But she does an even better job, I think, of capturing why even an outsider might stay. And I will admit that her characters leave me reminiscent for certain people from my youth. And the books dredge up some of my own ambivalence about having left rural WI. As much as I spent years of my adolescence wishing I were anywhere else, I recognize why my parents, outsiders still after nearly 30 years there, stay. And sometimes, I find myself auditioning fantasies of returning (or moving somewhere else similarly scenic and sparse where I would have to learn the social order from scratch; which I practically would anyway if I returned to Cazenovia).

More than that, though, I find myself longing to write. I find myself trying to imagine putting together a story that would grip readers. I find myself sinking into that feeling that there is a poem at the tip of my pen waiting to be born. But, despite this, I fail to bring pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). I bought a notebook for poetry and a journal. Both are still nearly empty. I reopened an old poetry project. I copied and pasted a few lines, moved a few things, wrote a draft of a poem that I think fits into the series. But ultimately I have done almost nothing to reclaim the reality of writing. It has been some 10 years since I thought of myself really deeply and primarily as “poet.” Now if you asked me to describe myself I don’t think it would even make the list. I feel the need to change that but I’m not sure how. I don’t think I will ever publish novels. But I would like to at least write poems. I would at least like to again feel that words are friends welcome to drop into my home at their slightest whim.

Perhaps to that end I will try to organize my old poetry that I like into an online collection (as it used to be on previous iterations of my web spaces). Perhaps I will succeed in writing here more, as I keep telling myself I should. At the least I will continue to read and to long for words, with the hope that by inviting myself into their homes I will open the door for things to flow the other way. And I’ll stick that poetry notebook back in my purse where it belongs. Maybe I’ll even fold it open for a few minutes with pen in hand first, just to see what happens.

In defense of meat (or why your ancestors probably weren't vegans)

Sustainability is all the rage these days. She who buys the greenest stuff wins (no I won’t comment on the practice of running out to buy the coolest most environmentally friendly widget out there when one could just reuse an old widget or go without widgets entirely). One of the places where this comes up a lot is food. Eat local. Eat organic. To a point I think those are both very good ideas and deserve attention. And then we get to meat. There are those who argue that meat is never sustainable and argue that the only sustainable course of action is for everyone to go vegan, which is a bit ridiculous given that all the physical and historical evidence suggests that humans as animals are omnivores. (In the interest of full disclosure I will note that this post was inspired by the comment section of this post).

Don’t get me wrong, I think there’s a great deal wrong with factory farms and how we get our meat, milk, eggs, cheese, etc. (but I think there’s a great deal wrong with how most people get their vegetable matter too). Here’s the thing, though, animals play a pretty important role in feeding people. In fact, in some climates a local diet that includes no animal products would be pretty much impossible. Animals have the power to take things that we can’t or won’t eat and turn them into things we can and will eat (as a tremendously oversimple example, cows turn grass into milk). Arguments against eating meat for environmental reasons inevitable cite the number of acres necessary to produce food for a given animal versus the number of acres necessary to produce an equivalent number of calories from beans or other high protein plant product. Those are compelling arguments, but the thing is that they only work if you assume that all the land that would be used to feed the livestock could be used for agriculture. In practice the way things are set up now that assumption is usually true. Most animal feed is grown on land that could be used to feed people. However, if you want to be “sustainable” our current system of heavily irrigated and artificially fertilized agriculture doesn’t fit the bill. And once you start trying to produce the vast majority of food locally, in most areas you’ll find bits of land that aren’t well suited to agriculture for whatever reason but can produce things that animals can eat. And I suspect that many people trying to live off small acreage would find that supplementing your soybeans with eggs (and the occasional chicken old enough to not be a good layer anymore) is a good use of space.

Of course the problem with these arguments is that sustainability is pretty much a pipe dream given our current population levels and lifestyles. Current agriculture is based heavily on cheap oil. Our day-to-day lifestyle in this country is based heavily on the availability of cheap calories. There may be technological advances in the future that allow us to continue to produce sufficient cheap calories to allow most of a population of the current size to spend most of the day not worrying about procuring and preparing food but in the meantime pretty much nothing about our lifestyle is sustainable. Meat probably isn’t even likely to be the worst of it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for trying to eat lower down the food chain and paying attention to the source of your food and all that stuff that populates your life. But eating organic and local isn’t going to save us. Not even if we brow-beat others about how unsustainable eating a single chicken and a pound of ground beef per month is.

Doubt

I’m a bit behind on my movie watching (and by “a bit” I think I probably mean “hopelessly”). However, I’m spending the week with my parents, who actually use their Netflix membership to get as many movies per month as Netflix will send them. So tonight we watched Doubt. I was left, at the end, unsure what we were meant to believe about the characters, which I think was part of the point of the movie. For me the movie raised the question of whether it is enough to be personally convicted of a man’s wrongdoing even if you cannot prove it. It’s a tricky question, actually, and one where my own answers are certainly biased heavily by my own experiences. Of course in some sense it’s not a relevant question when the institutional structures at hand mean that even with some amount of proof those in power are still presumed to be innocent. In Doubt there’s a very strong gender story to the power structure, but I think the same sorts of dynamics play out in all sorts of institutional hierarchies, not just the very male-dominated example of the Catholic Church.

I have to admit that in some ways this was a very hard movie for me to watch even though the abuse of the student was never made explicit (nor was it ever demonstrated unequivocally that it even happened). As a high school student I was sexually harassed by a teacher (only touched inappropriately once–and in a way that he might have been able to claim was accidental though it clearly wasn’t–but habitually the recipient of unwanted attention). I fought to avoid it in my own ways, which did not include officially reporting any of the incidents. In part this was because the ickiest of the behavior took place before their was a specific policy in place for the reporting of inappropriate behavior. In part it was because the teacher in question was extremely popular and I knew standing up to him would leave me even more ostracized than I already was. In part it was because even though his behavior was clearly inappropriate and intentional to me, it would have been trivial for him to argue that his behavior was accidental or being misinterpreted. I resisted where I could but mostly spent four years of my life with my arms crossed tightly across my chest taking one step back for every step he took into my space, mentally scanning the space behind me lest he back me into a trophy case.

And I think it is that question of institutional reception of complaints that made Doubt so hard for me to watch. In some sense I ultimately didn’t really care if Father Flynn was guilty in the movie, because the figure of Sister Aloysius so dead set in her conviction, and her willingness to use what small power she has however she can to get him out, is so gripping. There were plenty of people who could have been that sort of institutional advocate for me. For the most part I don’t blame them for not doing so.* But I do sometimes wonder what would have happened had there been someone willing to take up the fight on my behalf. I’m not entirely sure that it would have made a wit of difference. I’m not sure I would have been able to bring myself to put myself through the sort of fight that would have been required. And I’m not entirely convinced that the end results would have been worth the effort. Of course Doubt doesn’t exactly leave one feeling that such interventions are guaranteed to be useful anyway.

The movie is interesting in its character development, though I have to admit that I’m not entirely sure I believed any of the interactions. I also wasn’t quite sure I liked being left at the end of the movie with no solid answers. I suspect that the writers’ intent in the titling of the movie was not to describe the feelings one might feel when asked if they liked it. Then again maybe my annoyances with the film were rooted more in the subject matter than the telling of the story itself.

* The exception to this is the guidance counselor who, when I started trying to talk about some of what had happened in the previous years said “unless you want to file a formal complaint, I don’t want to hear it.” Certainly I understand that the statement likely stemmed from the frustration of having a teacher who was widely known as a dirty old man allowed to remain because no one had the courage to deal with it. But I was 16 years old. Trying to bully me into action was hardly the right way to deal with the problem.

Another art

In her poem One Art Elizabeth Bishop begins:

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

But what of the art of quitting? It is much like the art of losing, I think. But I am realizing lately that though I thought perhaps I had mastered the art, quitting is not easy. And it is not contained simply in a single act. But, like Bishop’s losing, it is an art that can be mastered. And in the end, I think I can conclude that like losing, quitting is no disaster. Even if it has taken me years in some cases to convince myself of that (much longer, I might add, than it took to convince myself that any of the things I have lost in the past were not disaster).

I think I was in my late 20s before I ever quite anything important. There were jobs I left for other jobs, of course. Projects I handed over to other people. And of course there were things I did earlier in my life that I stopped doing as I got older. Those were acts of quitting, I suppose, but they weren’t conscious acts. I did not wake up one morning and decide to quit playing the clarinet. Nor did I, one afternoon, decide to quite writing poetry. When I started college I did not decide that I would quit reading fiction. I just simply couldn’t find the time for years on end.

The first really important thing I quit, consciously, intentionally, and with a great deal of emotional angst was the church board. The second major thing I quit was the church itself. That decision process actually took a very different form, which I will discuss in a moment, and chronologically might be said to have come after the third major thing I quit, which was graduate school. Effectively in the span of two years I quit my association with the two institutional structures that had nearly completely defined my life since moving to L.A. I broke those ties intentionally. And, though, I do not regret any of these three decisions, they were much bigger decisions than the simple words “I quit” can possibly convey. And I am coming to realize that it is only the first of these decisions that I can talk about without feeling I need to justify it, though in many ways that decision is the most complicated to really explain completely.
Continue reading “Another art”

This is cool, but …

The LA Times has a photo spread today on the burgeoning roof garden at Blue on Blue. This is a really cool idea and I do sometimes have fantasies of a restaurant or cafe with fresh garden food from right outside the back door (but before I let that fantasy take up too much head space I need to manage to get my cooking and growing well enough linked that we’re eating significant quantities of garden food from the back yard). Container gardening with earthboxes (or homemade equivalents) in an otherwise unused area (like a roof) makes great sense. The thing that disheartened me, though, was the caption on photo 4, which ends “To start, he planted seedlings that lend themselves to garnishes — mache, basil and mint.” They also talk about arugula. Though the story doesn’t specify that this was also grown from seedlings, I suspect it was. Ok people, mint from seedlings is fine (mint can also easily be started from cuttings so if you have healthy mint and just want another container of it that’s an option). But why, oh why, would you not grow basil, mache, and arugula from seed? They’re all easy to grow, and particularly in the case of basil there are so many more varieties available in seed form than in seedling form. Seriously, if you’re intrigued by the idea of fresh herbs, consider starting some of the easy ones from seed. Then you can be like me and own something like eight different varieties of basil seed. Collect them all!