For most families, listening to an older relative opine on the good old days is as much a part of Thanksgiving as pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce. This year, NPR’s StoryCorps has seized upon what’s already happening to unveil an audaciously ambitious goal: to preserve the voices and stories of an entire generation of Americans over one holiday weekend. And we can all help.
If you’re not already a fan of Story Corps, some day when you have a few minutes, visit their webpage and browse through the stories of ordinary peoples’ lives, dreams, and experiences. From the mother who hugged her son’s murderer, to the 85-year-old lox slicer, to the man who tracked down the third grade teacher who comforted him 50 years earlier at his mother’s funeral, it’s a far more satisfying procrastination break than Facebook. Or even, dare I say it, Amy Schumer videos.
At boot camp this Monday, it was clearly a banner day for the ducks. We campers spent the whole rainy morning watching them frolic in Lake Merritt. But even if they were the species most visibly enjoying the downpour, I daresay every creature on earth was pretty damn happy about it.
The sight of the delighted ducks reminded me of an insightful college list from this season. But first – do we all agree that the list thing has gotten completely out of control? It used to be that US News & World Report (does it still even exist as a magazine?) had the lock on the ridiculous rankings. Their longstanding, tyrannical “Best of” list is the one all the cool kids try to climb, despite the fact that it might as well be calculated by multiplying the number of volumes in the library by the liters of frozen yogurt dispensed at the main campus café, divided by the difference in membership between the marching band and the intercollegiate croquet team. Or something equally meaningless to true educational quality.
There’s lots of disturbing news these days about spiking violent crime and murder rates, particularly in urban areas with large minority populations. The data is particularly disheartening in light of the fact that until this year, crime rates had been dropping for decades after the highs of the late 80’s and early 90’s. Some blame what has been titled a ‘Ferguson effect.’ The theory is that police officers operate under the assumption that every bystander is clutching a cell phone, ready to broadcast their every wrong move to a national audience. So in the face of uncertainty, they err on the side of inaction. Sadly, those who suffer the most are the people living in the communities hardest hit by poverty, unemployment, and violence.
But there are plenty of people who dispute the idea of a ‘Ferguson effect.’ Notable amongst them are the social scientists that crunched data from tens of thousands of traffic stops in Greensboro, North Carolina for a recent New York Times analysis. Their work resulted in a fascinating front-page article about the “Disproportionate Risk Of Driving While Black.” Nothing they analyzed suggested that the police were holding back from confronting minorities. Instead, black residents of every community they analyzed were disproportionately involved in both traffic and pedestrian stops, and once stopped they were disproportionately subject to the use of force or ‘probable cause’ searches. In Greensboro, for instance, black drivers were from 2 to 5 times more likely to have their cars searched during routine traffic stops, even though they were actually less likely than white drivers to be found with contraband in their vehicles. (more…)
Though I recently discovered that the oft-repeated statistic that 9 out of 10 new businesses fail in their first year isn’t true, we were still quite relieved to make it to Mulberry’s Home’s one-year anniversary still standing. It was at our celebration last Thursday that someone informed me that the correct number is 8 out of 10 fail within the first 18 months. Of course, someone else insisted that the failure rate was actually 50% within 5 years. When you’re talking about the sizeable investment of money, time and energy — not to mention hopes and dreams — that go into starting a business, it’s still an intimidatingly large number. And definitely one we’re happy to not be a part of.
One year later, we’ve learned a lot about the profound difference between selling a product to which many people harbor a daily addiction, versus selling various products which are only purchased anywhere from annually to once every few decades. Also the difference between doing business nestled in the warm bosom of Piedmont and opening up shop in what is euphemistically referred to as an ‘up and coming’ neighborhood of Oakland. We’ve learned a lot about an industry statistic a kindhearted designer friend shared, too. Just before our opening day, she gently let us know us that 30% of all custom furniture would arrive either damaged or somehow ‘wrong.’ Sadly, that’s turned out to be painfully true, perhaps even an underestimate. But we’ve also learned that when your clients are big-hearted and patient (a lifetime of thanks to the Crowleys, Lynns and Ghielmettis!) it’ll all turn out ok in the end.
I was reminded of this oldie from February 2011 when Piedmont’s own golden resource on teens, eating disorders, and raising kids with a healthy sense of self Ari Trost posted an adorable video called Poodle Science. These days I’m feeling more like a slightly chubby Shar-Pei than a cocker spaniel, but no matter. The point is how ridiculous it is to waste precious energy chasing an ideal that makes no sense for the way you’re built.
Last week, I attended a workshop run by Connie Sobczak from The Body Positive. I was with a group of 7th grade moms who Connie was hoping to convince that it’s possible to raise mentally balanced daughters in a culture that constantly bombards them with images of airbrushed, emaciated models considered “beautiful”. Somewhere between the hysteria over the childhood obesity crisis and the raging suburban eating disorders, we could help our daughters find peace and good health. It’s a nice thought, even if some days it does seem like a bit of a stretch.
An autumn tourist weekend in New York City has convinced me that the end of civilization as we know it was not, in fact, ushered in with the 8th spinoff of the Housewives of Wherever shows. Nor was it reached the year that the greater retail establishment decided it’s permissible to display candy canes and tinsel in mid-October. Our low point did not come when people began walking in shopping malls for ‘exercise’. Instead, we arrived at the absolute bottom of the abyss upon the recent, but regrettable, widespread embrace of the selfie stick.
I had many pleasant, invigorating interactions with the public in New York. My favorite was when a complete stranger, indeed, a stranger who I’d been silently, internally scorning for responding in too much detail to another stranger’s casual compliment of her raincoat, offered me a guest pass to the palatial Equinox on the Upper West Side. On a run in Central Park, I overheard and subsequently assisted a couple from Minnesota asking for directions to one of the few landmarks I can actually locate in the park – Tavern on the Green. That’s the good news. The bad news? Everywhere I turned the entire city was plagued by the latest proof we’re going to hell in a hand basket: that damn selfie stick.
At press time, it doesn’t look like the House Republicans have any chance of actually shutting down the government in order to try to force the defunding of Planned Parenthood. Still, the urgency with which a powerful faction of the GOP pursued that futile goal is breathtaking. Forget the small detail that President Obama has clearly stated he’d veto anything that comes his way designed to cut off Planned Parenthood’s funding. Or the fact that the brouhaha hastened the end of John Bohener’s 25 year political career, the day after the Catholic son of a barkeep wept with the Pope. What’s hardest for me to understand in this whole controversy is: why?
As in, what could possibly be behind the obsession with vanquishing a national nonprofit that is clearly supported by the majority of Americans? After Carly Fiorina’s impassioned challenge to Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama to watch the sting videos showing “a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain” I was both disgusted and compelled to see for myself what she was talking about. A morning-long search for said video revealed no such thing. I was, though, able to find several inexpertly spliced videos of dull conversations and stock footage that seemed unlikely to have much to do with Planned Parenthood. All of which returned me to my original state of:huh?
I’ve witnessed plenty of rainouts, and in my youth even experienced a snow-out or two, but this weekend was the first time I’ve seen a sporting event get ashed-out. The PHS women’s tennis team was only an hour or so into their annual tournament in Fresno when the enormous public school hosting our flight launched a strange but ultimately orderly lockdown. There were announcements over the intercom and the hundreds of students in PE class hurried inside, but no one seemed all that alarmed. You get the sense that like Shanghai, Fresno sees more than its fair share of air quality issues.
Even though the hazy, ashy horizon took on the look of a dystopian movie set, our coaches, Neil and Corey, made the best of it and made sure the girls still had an opportunity to bond as a team. Things worked out for me, too. I got to go with a couple of other chaperones to the most pristine movie theater I’ve ever visited and see Straight Outta Compton.
It wasn’t until I was planning my own wedding, with all those seating charts and catering counts, that I realized what a jackass I had been to RSVP ‘yes’ to my college friend Anne-Laure’s wedding and then not show up. My lame excuse: I had been out too late the night before, and ominous traffic reports said it was going to take five hours to get from Boston to the Cape. The truth was that I was 23 and stupid.
Similarly, while I have been informally appointed by the POS’s (Parents of Seniors) of Piedmont to deliver a public service announcement to the masses, it involves a social convention I knew nothing about until this year and have thus cluelessly violated countless times.
Has anyone else been following the St. Paul’s trial? If you’ve missed it, count yourself lucky. No good news there. To recap: last month, a 19-year-old graduate of the exalted boarding school (alma mater of Ambassadors, Vanderbilts, and plenty of miscellaneous 1-ers%) went on trial for the alleged rape of a 15-year-old then-freshman classmate.
The story made national news because of the prestige of St. Paul’s – most articles couldn’t resist mentioning the $55K+ tuition – and because it was no isolated incident. Rather, the assault was part of a ‘tradition’ called the ‘Senior Salute’ in which senior boys compete to ‘slay’ (their word) as many freshman and sophomore girls as possible by graduation. As has become de rigueur in these types of schemes, points were awarded based on the intensity of the ‘slay’ (extra credit for deflowering virgins!) and the boys kept score on social media (only after the school repeatedly painted over the sharpie-produced tally behind the washing machine).