Proof that I am losing my New Yorker edge

There’s a long line at the Walgreen’s pharmacy. I am balancing a full bag of groceries in one arm and my heavy gym bag on my shoulder. I am somewhat irritated with myself for choosing to enter a Walgreen’s during rush hour.

The lady behind me is sighing loudly to let everyone know she is in a hurry and is more important than everyone else; I pretend I can’t hear it. Someone else cuts in front of me to be with her family but checks out separately anyway; I say nothing.

Finally get to the counter. The technician, after first going through a rigamarole to update my address (which has been listed incorrectly for 6 years without causing any issues), insists on a pharmacist consultation.

More waiting.

When the pharmacist arrives, she reads the instructions out loud: “Looks like you’re supposed to apply cream to the affected area once daily.” She shrugs. SHE ACTUALLY SHRUGGED.

Old New Yorker Laura would’ve wanted to punch her in the face. Old New Yorker Laura would’ve said something sarcastic instead. On the way out, Old New Yorker Laura would’ve exchanged glances with Sighing Lady and said, “You know why it’s taking so long? Because they think we can’t read.”

But New Portlander Laura doesn’t do any of these things. Instead, she takes the bag of medicine and says:

“Thank you.”

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New York is changing, too. This is the parking garage on my street, which closed last fall because the building is slated for demolition. It might already be a new set of condos by now.

Ice cubes on the shoreline

Just east of Portland is this amazing park called Thousand Acres. It’s a dog’s dream. There’s river access and miles of trails and marshland. On any given Sunday, hundreds of dogs romp through the brush there, sniffing butts and splashing through puddles and rolling in delicious smells.

Today was no different. We brought the dogs (including our 80-year-old neighbor’s puppy Golden Retriever-yellow Lab mix*) and they ran and ran and ran for hours.

It was a brisk day for Portland—high 30s, no cloud cover. Ice cubes lined the shore of the Columbia. Most non-polar bear mammals would consider this “too cold for swimming.” Not so for our dogs.

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If Patty Mills had a line of conversation hearts

One of my favorite things about Twitter is following the feeds of the Portland Trailblazers: Nicholas BatumRudy FernandezLaMarcus AldridgeMarcus CambyWesley Matthews, and my personal favorite, the scrappy Aussie point guard Patty Mills.

Mills’ tweets are particularly exuberant and endearing, filled with phrases and terms that are JUST BEGGING to be turned into a special Patty Mills edition of conversation hearts:

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If I ever update this, I might add a few more (the last two are courtesy of my season-ticket holding coworker):

  • G’day bala
  • Tweet me — like the old “call me,” which became “fax me” (WTF? Has there been a suitor in the history of the facsimile-using world that has ever FAXED someone out on a date? I doubt it.) and then later “email me.”
  • Howzit bala
  • Australia is for balas

That is all. G’day balas!

Support our neighborhoods

One of the things I do with my free time is run the quarterly newsletter for the neighborhood association. For instance, tonight I spent an hour doling out assignments to writers, contacting local business owners to sell advertising to them, creating invoices, editing content, etc. I will likely need to spend at least an hour a night until it’s time to put this baby to bed on April 3 (cross your fingers we don’t blow that deadline!).

Ad sales represent only a portion of the budget for the paper, which we mail to 1,400 residences in the neighborhood. The bulk of our funding comes from a grant through the city’s Office of Neighborhood Involvement. ONI oversees 5 different neighborhood coalitions, which in turn provide support, funding and resources to the city’s 92 neighborhoods. This structure of community organizing WORKS. But if the Right Budget for ONI doesn’t pass, the neighborhood coalitions risk losing funding. It also appears that the grant that funds our newspaper (and several other community events and projects) is going to be eliminated altogether.

Below is my letter to Portland Mayor Sam Adams and Commissioners Leonard, Fritz, Fish and Saltzman. Remember how President Obama asked us all to serve our communities? News flash: we’re trying. But it’s hard to do without money.

Dear Mayor and Commissioners,

I am the communications chair for the Boise Neighborhood Association. For the past three years, we have relied on a small grant from ONI to support our volunteer-run community newspaper. The newspaper is the only method we have of reaching every neighbor—to communicate important events, meetings, votes and news in the area. Additionally, we use the paper to enrich the lives and history of our neighborhood, through oral history pieces, student and neighbor poetry, opinion pieces and letters from neighbors, a calendar of classes and announcements for community-building events such as National Night Out, Senior Soup Day, Spring Clean-Up, the Mississippi Street Fair, etc.

We have been able to keep this effort going with a dedicated throng of energetic volunteers in the neighborhood—writers, designers, editors, students, retirees, full-time working moms, etc.—without whom we would never have the resources to publish anything. We sell ad space to local small businesses to support the paper as well. But ultimately, the most important source of funding for this endeavor is the ONI Small Grants fund.

Many neighbors have expressed support for the paper and a desire to ensure the continuity of it. To lose funding for this important project would not only effectively cut off communication between the neighborhood association and those whose email addresses we do not have (or those who do not have regular access to email), but it would also eliminate a valued resource in the community.

I understand that times are difficult and that we face an unprecedented financial crisis. I appreciate the enormity of the budgetary task before you. But building, supporting and maintaining cultural resources and dialogue between neighbors in our city is critical at a time when communities need to weave tightly together instead of being divided. I support the Right Budget for ONI, but please don’t cut small neighborhood grants—they make so much possible.

Thank you,

Laura Parisi
Communications Chair, Boise Neighborhood Association

Why I will never shop at Whole Foods again

Don’t get me wrong—I love lower-cased whole foods. But I don’t love Whole Foods. Here’s why:

There is a local grocery chain in Portland called New Seasons. I cannot say enough wonderful things about this store. Yes, the prices are higher than those at Kroger-owned chain Fred Meyer or (un)Safeway, but the food quality is excellent, the customer service is impeccable, the way they treat their employees is exceptional, and their commitment to strengthening community and our regional food economy goes above and beyond.

But now, as a result of the FTC’s ongoing suit against Whole Foods’ merger with Wild Oats, Whole Food’s council has subpoenaed New Seasons (and 92 other companies nationwide) for a variety of their confidential documents. From the NS blog:

As it turns out, because of their legal dispute with the FTC, Whole Foods has an opportunity to try and force us to give them copies of some of our most confidential financial records—for instance what our sales are, week by week, at each of our stores. They’ve also demanded all of our files that detail our strategic plans, all of our marketing plans and all of our studies about where we are considering opening new store.

Whole Foods maintains that their request has nothing to do with squelching New Seasons, a locally-owned private company with 9 locations, but rather is necessary to prove the existence of competition in the natural foods industry. They claim that no one employed by Whole Foods will look at the documents—only their “outside lawyer”—but New Seasons has good reason not to trust that. Again, from their blog (different post):

This is exactly same promise that was made last time files were subpoenaed in this case. Unfortunately, in the middle of that round, Whole Foods filed an amended motion to allow their “inside lawyer” to see the confidential information. They claimed that even though this “inside lawyer” was an employee of Whole Foods and was on their “Leadership Team,” it was okay for her to see everyone else’s private data because she wasn’t engaged in “competitive decision making.” Obviously, we’re very worried that might happen again.

Even the Oregonian agrees. From a December 3 editorial: “Nothing about Whole Foods’ behavior so far suggests that this is a benign request for onformation [sic]. Rather, it is a nakedly anticompetitive maneuver intended to hamstring its strongest rival in the Portland area.”

And! Get this! The FTC issued a report last year (PDF) containing emails that Whole Foods executives had sent regarding Wild Oats (via the NS blog):

“Wild Oats needs to be removed from the playing field…”

“…[m]y goal is simple – I want to crush them and am willing to spend a lot of money in the process.”

“…elimination of a competitor in the marketplace, competition for sites, competition for acquisitions, and operational economies of scale. We become the Microsoft of the natural foods industry.”

Ugh. I have always hated Whole Paycheck (as my mother likes to call it). It feels like a big scam cloaked in a false sense of environmental stewardship and feigned community support. Well. What a surprise! That’s exactly what it is.

This is the home stretch, kids. Either make up your freaking mind or get the hell out of the ring

I said I would tell the whole story of the surprise party, and I will (promise! It’s even saved as a draft in WordPress). Right now I’ve got a debate to talk about.

1) I won’t even go into “Joe the Plumber.” What I do find quite funny is that “Joe” has turned up in the form of a Sixpack and a Plumber, and yet he’s also a VP Candidate. I realize that Joe the Plumber is an actual person, but you’d think that with Biden on the ticket, McCain and Palin would’ve chosen to discuss, say, Bobby Sixpack.

2) Having a baby with Down syndrome does not make a person an instantaneous expert on “special needs families.” As the sister of someone who had severe cerebral palsy, I know that Tractor Palin (or whatever his name is) has a lifetime of hurdles to jump over. But that doesn’t mean I inherently know how to improve special ed programs (other than fund them more adequately, which we all know a McCain-Palin administration wouldn’t do), and it certainly doesn’t make me qualified to be a vice president.

3) McCain’s absurd insinuation that the last two years of Democratic control of Congress has led to the financial crisis we are experiencing was downright ludicrous. I believe I shouted, “Oh, come on! That’s bullshit and you know it, you douchebag!” in the middle of the quiet bar I was watching the debate in. If McCain really believes that (which I truly doubt he does), then this man has an even thinner understanding of the causes of the crisis that I originally thought, and is in absolutely no position to solve it.

4) This isn’t limited to last night’s debate but it’s been on my mind lately: what’s up with the constant use of “pal” as a verb? Sure, it’s proper English, but before two weeks ago, how many times had you used it that way? In fact, how many times had you used the word “pal” at all? Same thing applies to “shore up.”

5) Again, this isn’t limited to the debate. And what I am about to say proves that I am no longer the same person who used to register voters regardless of party affiliation because I had a strong belief that increased voter participation is always good. But here’s the thing: it is dangerous and terrifying that the fate of our country lies in the hands a few voters in swing states who haven’t yet made up their mind.

Gail Collins put it best in today’s column: “At this point, [Obama and McCain] only care about the small chunk of undecided voters in swing states. That means a handful of people in Ohio who have managed to avoid noticing that Obama and McCain disagree on virtually every issue facing the nation and continue to insist that they are torn between them… The candidates are gearing their remarks to people who have managed to completely ignore nearly two years of news about the 2008 elections.”

Nothing is going to change between now and November 4. Either you believe that it is the role of government to provide its citizens with a social safety network because the free market doesn’t provide adequate or fair protection, or you think that making rich people richer will eventually bring up everyone else.

If you haven’t yet figured out which one you agree with, perhaps you’re simply not informed enough to vote.

(I know, I’m mean and I must be anti-American. But hey. Your civic duty is not simply to vote. It is to cast an informed vote. And if you are still “torn” between these two candidates, then I have trouble believing you are anything but uninformed or, worse, apathetic. Sorry. You can leave hate mail in the comments if you so care to.)