When is a shoebox more than a shoebox?

I have a fistful of postcards in search of a letterbox.

Today we’re in San Francisco, heavy with rich coffee and notes to friends, and I’m searching for a blue repository for our Bay Area greetings.

Our trip last month to Chicago left me in search of a mailbox, and I couldn’t tell if the postbox was bonafide with its garish graffiti.

The box was covered in posters and spray paint: was it a true letterbox?

Today–In the conservative Financial District of San Francisco–I spy an unadorned receptacle for my greetings.

Unlike Chicago, this one is decorated with shoes.

One shoe is tucked under a letterbox leg, and the other sits at the top, greeting visitors with a black bow. 

I whack up my ginger and stuff the cards into the…shoebox.

I hope the owner isn’t tucked inside.

17 September 2017

San Francisco



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Green or Blue?

IMG_1263 (1)

Green or blue?

Digging into words can be tricky

And not everyone agrees with the theories about how words mean, which can drive you crazy.

The most basic, common-sense idea is that people who hear messages invoke their own sense of what they mean.

We each interpret meanings differently–you may think of a childhood game if I say, bat, while I might be thinking about a flying mammal.

But we also share meanings in common.

We’re probably thinking the same thing if I say, That guy is a real jerk. Continue reading

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The Invisibility of Being Native

A Conversation with Native Americans on Race


The New York Times’ Op-Doc: A Conversation about Race

No matter who you are, if you are Native American, your opinions and experiences are marginalized to the point of invisibility in American society and culture.

That’s a quote from today’s New York Times’ write-up on the video, A Conversation With Native Americans on Race.

The 5-minute video features young American Indians talking about their identities, with a few pointing out we’re the only folks in the United States who carry a Federal card with our blood quantum printed next to our names.

We’re identified by the percentage of our Native blood, courtesy of the government once anxious to rid the nation of Indigenous Americans.

Yet many of us to go unnoticed because our features don’t comport with a cartoon image on a hunk of butter or a tin of tobacco.

More important, perhaps, is the false idea that Indians are dead and gone, as one lad noted on the video. Continue reading

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Practice, practice, practice

A fistful of rocks

Practice, practice, practice.

I told my art teacher my new mantram is practice, practice, practice.

He doesn’t know he is also my new Zen Roshi.

I’m taking a watercolor class this summer–my first–and each painting is a new journey.

I learn to blend colors and try to capture what my eye sees.

Like Zen Buddhism, the point is to see what is in front of you: not what you wish were there. Continue reading

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Propaganda’s Tree of Knowledge

Today’s Maxim: To be well dressed is a little like being in love

I teach propaganda—and the truth is, the class teaches itself.

Examples can be plucked like low-hanging cherries from the Propaganda Tree of Knowledge. Continue reading

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Writing Postcards


Howdy_From_Chicago_Postcard_FOn a warm morning in Chicago, I’m walking around Logan Square—north of the city—looking for a blue postal box.

I have a handful of postcards to send to friends.

It’s getting harder to find postcards, perhaps because there’s less demand in the era of email and texting.

Still, you can manage to find a revolving postcard rack at tourist shops in Chicago, New York, London and Paris, but outside the cities, pickings are slim.

My grandmother kept all the postcards my mother wrote from trips to Moscow, Brussels, Abu Dhabi, Rome, Cairo, Kuwait, Tokyo and Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

Whether she just landed in Miami to buy a Volkswagen bus and camp across the United States, or she nipped over to Bruges to make crayon and paper-rubbings of ancient brass plaques, my mother sent her mama a postcard. Continue reading

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The Music Man, The Library & The Osage

What happens when you visit New Jersey


I can’t get The Music Man songs out of my head.

Posters for a community performance of the 1957 musical hang in store windows throughout the little berg where we’re vacationing.

We walk to town a few times a day from our hotel on the beach: it takes about 7 minutes.

First stop is breakfast, where I order a coffee with a shot of espresso and Honey grabs a cappuccino.

New Jersey knows muffins, and we split a fresh, hot banana-nut muffin when the café opens at 8 a.m.

We’re starving by then because we wake early and take a stroll on the boardwalk.

Other early-risers are biking on one-speed cruisers or jogging past us.

Most denizens are browned from the sun and look retirement-aged.

After breakfast Honey heads off to visit his father and I wait outside the Library on the steps until it opens at 10 a.m.

And the songs begin anew in my noggin. Continue reading

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