Sunday, August 30, 2009

Tougher Than The Rest

I have spent many of the last 36 hours watching coverage of the celebration of Teddy Kennedy's life. More eloquent people than I have - and will - summarize his legacy and what he has represented to his family and this country over the last 50 years.

The words that have come into my mind as I have read and watched and listened to these tributes are toughness, love, hope and, most powerfully - perseverance.

I couldn't find any song in my library with perseverance in the title...and the one that comes up most on iTunes is by a band called Hatebreed. Well that didn't sound like it fit the moment. Brian Stokes Mitchell sang Impossible Dream at the memorial Friday night and that seemed appropriate...but a bit melodramatic. So, I'll take Bruce and Tougher Than the Rest.

Here's what says:

per⋅se⋅ver⋅ance – noun

1. steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., esp. in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.
2. Theology. continuance in a state of grace to the end, leading to eternal salvation.

1300–50; ME perseveraunce

Doggedness, steadfastness. Perseverance, persistence, tenacity, pertinacity imply resolute and unyielding holding on in following a course of action. Perseverance commonly suggests activity maintained in spite of difficulties or steadfast and long-continued application: Endurance and perseverance combined to win in the end.

which may be used in either a favorable or an unfavorable sense, implies unremitting (and sometimes annoying) perseverance: persistence in a belief; persistence in talking when others wish to study.

with the original meaning of adhesiveness, as of glue, is a dogged and determined holding on. Whether used literally or figuratively it has favorable implications: a bulldog quality of tenacity; the tenacity of one's memory

I aspire to be remembered as having 1/10 the toughness, love, hope and perseverance of Teddy Kennedy.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Two More Bottles of (Organic) Wine - Emmylou Harris

Three months later...she felt unburied enough to post.

I don't know when, but at some point I became aware that I had a favorite wine. By a long shot. I have long preferred Chardonnay - and to be more specific, California or, if I must, Oregon or Washington, Chardonnay. The ones where you can kinda taste the wood a bit (wine snobs call this "oakey"), and that are substantive enough to roll around in your mouth and cause no puckering. I think they call this, "round" or "big" or something.

Over the years I've gone through phases with some good wines, always looking for something in the $9.99 - 12.99 range for everyday drinking. I believe that life is too short, and wine is too caloric, to drink average or bad wine. For a while in the early part of this decade, Mark West made that kind of Chardonnay. Somewhere about three years ago it got a little "thin" for my liking...probably about the same time they decided that they were on a "Pinot for the People Revolution." So I switched to Bogle, which is from Washington state. Bogle has one of the best Chardonnays at the $10 price point. I still drink it occasionally.

Many years ago I was on the Board of Business for Social Responsibility. Fetzer was one of our signature members - having distinguished itself as a company with an environmental and social orientation. In 1987 they started making organic wines...before pretty much anyone knew what that meant. And in the late 1990's I think I bought a few bottles of Bonterra Chardonnay at the local health food store. This is saying something, since Maryland's wine laws are crazily restrictive. I thought it was good, not great. But then after my Mark West/Bogle period I tried the Bonterra again. And, damn, it was so good. Just that right balance of flavors to make it a great everyday drinking wine that can also stand up to a variety of foods.

So for the last couple of years, Bonterra has been the house wine at our home. It's on the high range of of my "every day price point," but if you buy a case they give you a discount. :)

Friday night I bought a case and read the top of the box: In keeping with our mission to be environmentally responsible, we have used earth-friendly materials to produce this wine product, packaging and carton. Please help us reduce waste in landfills by reusing and recycling this carton and glass.

I love that.

And to prove that I do have the best job in the world, a few months ago one of my GlobalGiving corporate partners introduced me to Brown-Forman, Bonterra's current owner. And now we are working on a potential partnership with them that will make it easy for more people to support sustainable agriculture, just like they do.

I love it when my worlds collide. Cheers.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Pride - U2, Having just visited MLKs Neighborhood

I'm in Atlanta for the first time in 15 or so years, and have been stuck in a hermetically sealed conference hotel for the better part of three days. Today is my only full free day before more meetings tomorrow and then heading back to DC.

Friends on Facebook had suggested various things to do...Braves games (Can you say rain delay two days in a row?), Stone Mountain (too far, no car), APEX gallery (closed on Sunday), etc. So I decided to go to the Martin Luther King Historic Site and King Center, and I decided to get there by foot. Not a far walk, maybe a mile and a half. And it gave me the chance to walk through "Sweet Auburn," a neighborhood that was a thriving African -American community in the time of MLK.

First, the Center and Site - until researching for my visit, I didn't realize that there was a lot of angst between the family, who run the King Center, which includes MLK and Coretta Scott King's gravesite/memorial and the Park Service, which runs the "Historic Site" across the street.

The King Center was built in the 1970s, and apparently is essentially the MLK Library. They have trained tens of thousands of people in nonviolent change strategies, which is awesome. The facility itself is, frankly, pretty uninspired. It consists of three rooms - one about MLK and CSK, one about Rosa Parks, and one about Gandhi. Yes, Gandhi. The displays look like something out of an elite high school's "black history month" fair. The best thing about them is the real items they have to display - the suitcase MLK packed before his fatal trip to Memphis, his Grammy for spoken word, the dress she wore to sing a Freedom Concert. In fact, I learned a lot about CSK. She was a force. The tomb is on the property, as is his childhood home, and the original Ebenezer Baptist Church is next door.

While I was there, people were arriving to attend services at Old Ebenezer. And New Ebenezer - the new church...which is across the street adjacent to the Park Service-run Historic Site, which was built in the mid 1990's.

The Historic Site seems to be much better funded, maintained, and kept more recent. It has many displays, a theater, video, a civil rights "walk of fame" that features footprints of folks ranging from John Lewis to Dr. Dorothy Height. And the grounds are just beautiful.

The most upsetting part of the journey was the walk along several blocks of the neighborhood I mentioned above. Sweet Auburn seems to be more like Sour Auburn these days. Businesses are boarded up. Men were sleeping on the sidewalks and bus stops, public housing and boarded up apartments with barbed wire are more prevalent than families or row houses. It looks like gentrification is moving toward Sweet Auburn - the historic Odd Fellows Hall has a sign in its window that says, "Coming Soon - B Eco Breakfast Eatery." Huh?

So what about this? How about if the King family and the Park Service got together and created some efficiency with their two sites, worked with the City of Atlanta on some economic stimulus fund proposals and invested whatever savings and funding they can come up with in the revitalization of the community? Led by people OF the community. Oh, and there could be a joint MLK Heritage Center - one brought about by non-violent partnership.

...just sayin'.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

"Never Give Up' - Common Sense (for Marissa Coleman)

Check out this song: Never Give Up by Common Sense

It's been a while since I've posted on my blog. I guess I needed to be shoved out of my writers block by something inspiring. That kick in the ass came yesterday in the truly breathtaking performance of Marissa Coleman in University of Maryland Women's Basketball team's come-from-behind triumph over Vandy in the regional NCCAAW finals.

Lots has been written recently about Coleman and her senior teammate, Kristi Tolliver. The Baltimore Sun went so far as to say that expectant mothers should include Kristi and Marissa on their list of baby names. They are both spectacular competitors and spectacular athletes, who I was honored to watch in two games here last week. But yesterday, Marissa Coleman "brought it" in a way I have not seen since playing against Jackie White in the CA State High School Championships in 1980. (After crushing us in the semi's, she totally willed herself and her team to victory in the finals from a 17 point deficit) Unlike Jackie, Marissa Coleman will have a chance to play professional basketball and earn endorsement money and become - as she dreams - a prime-time sports commentator. Thank you TitleIX and the passing of time.

Mike Wise summed it up really well in his column today in the Washington Post: "Ain't No Stopping Her Now." My favorite excerpt, noting the (unlikely-to-happen) recognition warranted by this performance:
Under "Notable Events" in the RBC Center's history, things such as "Bruce Springsteen and E Street Band's Reunion Tour, 2000" and "Stanley Cup Finals, 2002 and 2006" listed. After today, it needs to include "NCAA Women's Tournament Regional Championships."

Coleman's performance literally took my breath away and reminded me why - among lots of reasons - I love competitive sports. It's about heart, and team and never giving up.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Don't Let Me Come Home a Stranger - Robin/Linda Williams

Home. Few words, in and of themselves, have so much power. Besides the word "love," it is hard to come up with a word whose literal meaning - and symbolic and emotional resonance - is more visceral. In fact, I would argue that love is so overdone that home wins in an arm wrestling contest. When I have an idea I want to write about I generally go to my iTunes Library and do some searching on the key words around the topic. So I typed in "home" and got 90 items. I am sure that is a record. No pun intended.

I arrived in Northern California last Thursday afternoon. It was a crisp spring day. And certain things just hold:
  • You can bet there will be See's and Ghirardelli chocolate stores in the airport
  • If you can, you always want to drive on 280 vs 101. The experience is just so much better.
  • There will be lots of people outside. Always.
  • The fog will roll in over the hills in that billowing way.
  • Mom will have put fresh cut flowers and a bottle of water in my room and
  • Dad will have a fire going in the fireplace, even if it's really not that cold.
As usual, the smells are the thing that always kick me in the butt. They yell at me - FAMILIARITY! EASE! HISTORY! No, that's wrong. They whisper to me, "familiarity, comfort, embrace." Saturday my brother and sister-in-law and I went over to the coast...the beach of my growing up. Santa Cruz, Twin Lakes, Capitola. We sat in the sun (me, with 50+ sunscreen on the surgery scar on my neck), we ate lunch by the water, we drove along the cliffs. And we came back on the "old highway." With the window cracked just an inch I drank in the smell of the eucalyptus trees. It's just a smell you don't get on the east coast. And it is a smell that causes that strong, familiar feeling.

This song, written by the Williams' and in my view best performed by Tim O'Brien, really sums it up for me. Tim is a Telluride Bluegrass regular, and this song was on an album he and his sister Mollie put out in 1994 that speaks to their Appalachian/Celtic roots. Mary Black does a great version, which is popular in Ireland. Unfortunately I could not find any of them on YouTube, but this version is nice.

Here's how they so beautifully sum up the fear of losing that feeling of home:
Will there come a time when the memories fade
And pass on with the long, long years?
When the ties no longer bind
Lord save me from this darkest fear
Don't let me come home a stranger
I couldn't stand to be a stranger

Sunday, March 1, 2009

"Trouble with a Capital T that rhymes..." Music Man

For over a year Debbie has been telling me "this is a major fucking disaster. There is nowhere to hide." For the first nine months I listened and tried to make the arguments about why things weren't really that bad.

Fannie Mae was really not in as bad of shape as it seemed. It couldn't be...

The securities has massive collateral and rating agencies and conservative default assumptions

The companies were not THAT stupid

There couldn't be THAT many people who would go along with the "wink wink, nod nod" of stated income loans

Merrill? No
WAMU? - No freaking way - they were the most respected thrift out there in the 1990s
AIG? - conservative, money printing machine
Chevy Chase Bank? Known for cautious, non-innovative approach

But i was wrong. Let me say it loud and not so proud - I was wrong.

There is no place to hide. People in the financial services world LOST THEIR FREAKING MINDS.

And so many ignorant people (and i mean that in the true definition of the word not pejoratively) just assumed that all those really smart Ivy League, mostly white male Masters of the Universe know what they were doing. Did anyone read Liar's Poker? Those guys were amateurs. This is Liar's Poker on Barry Bonds' level of steroids. And then some.

But they LOST THEIR FREAKING MINDS. Greenwich CT is next - mark my words - there will be a story on 60 Minutes in the next six months about "what used to be" in Greenwich CT.

Usually I like to be right. This time I am sure, and sad, that Debbie was right.