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 k / o
                                       politics + culture

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

the corner booth

Every union organizer has a ritual. 

It might be where you stand near the gate where the cars drive up to the job site. It might be how you hold the clip board when you get ready to knock on a door. It might be how you sort and re-sort your list, going over names of workers, shifts and departments until you know them like they were permanently etched inside your skull.

For me, in this case, it was a table, in a cafeteria, in a hospital.  I'd order a cup of coffee and sit in the same chair, facing the same direction with my materials carefully tucked away and my ball cap sitting on the chair beside me.

And then I'd wait...

It was a big city Children's Hospital serving kids from all over.

If you live anywhere near me, you've seen it from the freeway, Life Flight helicopters occasionally touching down yards from traffic.

I'd sit at a central table, facing the entrance, cashiers and serving stations to the right of me and salad bar at my back. I'd be there morning, noon, and night.

Sometimes there were managers a few tables away. Sometimes groups of workers would come to see me. Other times it was just me and a handful of families and one or two workers on break. 

Over time, you'd get the rhythm of the workplace.

You'd learn all the little ways to meet someone. To hear them out. You'd share the details with your fellow organizers. You'd have a great conversation at 7am and a not so great conversation at 8am. You'd do your work and the hospital workers did theirs.

And in the midst of all this families would come and go. And eventually you learned that part, too. The kids who were there for weeks on end, you'd recognize. The kids who were there for a quick evaluation, you wouldn't. The sisters and brothers, grandmas and mothers, fathers and uncles and friends would come and go in an endless procession.

And that's when I noticed the corner booth. 

It was the one you couldn't see from the entrance. Hidden, and to the right. This was the first booth you would naturally sit in if you walked in to the cafeteria and didn't want to eat.

And that's where they always came, sitting side-by-side, backs to the wall, hidden, the best they could manage, from everyone. It was unerringly young couples, that's what parents mostly are. And that's where they would process their bad news.

And, yeah, it broke your heart because you knew that while a Children's Hospital is the best place in the world for a child who is sick...and so many kids go home healthy, go home happy, go home healed. It was also a place where families learned bad news, too. 

And it just takes a piece of you to see that.

To see a couple crying and hugging and knowing that there's not really anything you can say or do for them at all, other than to be present and respectful by giving them their privacy and space.


I don't have much to add to this reflection other than to say that while I happened to be working on a union campaign, the workers who work in that cafeteria work there every day.

They know the corner booth better than I could say.

They know, too, firsthand, the joy that comes from healing, from healthy food, from the respite of a shared meal in a stressful time.

Life, real life, after all, isn't black and white, one thing or another, it's a continuum, it's shades of gray. 

But sometimes, life hurts so much.

And, personally, it is hard to convey how much respect I have for everyone who is there, who is truly witness, and helpful, in ways large and small, to others in time of need. 


Our society has become so frenetic and obsessed with trivia. We've gotten so hooked into our routines and rituals. In an age with access to more information than ever before, we've lost track of what truly matters. None of us is immune.

I've long since finished with that campaign and I no longer work as a union organizer.

But sometimes, when I'm taking that curve on the freeway by the hospital, I'll see a Life Flight helicopter hovering to make a landing, and I'll think of the corner booth and all the workers waiting to help.

And then I'll think of the child inside.

And my heart will jump.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Genius of Love

3 AM Eternal

Monday, October 21, 2013

New Google Terms of Service. Bolding is mine.

From Google Terms of Service:

When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This license continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing you have added to Google Maps). Some Services may offer you ways to access and remove content that has been provided to that Service. Also, in some of our Services, there are terms or settings that narrow the scope of our use of the content submitted in those Services. Make sure you have the necessary rights to grant us this license for any content that you submit to our Services.

If you have a Google Account, we may display your Profile name, Profile photo, and actions you take on Google or on third-party applications connected to your Google Account (such as +1’s, reviews you write and comments you post) in our Services, including displaying in ads and other commercial contexts. We will respect the choices you make to limit sharing or visibility settings in your Google Account. For example, you can choose your settings so your name and photo do not appear in an ad.

You can find more information about how Google uses and stores content in the privacy policy or additional terms for particular Services. If you submit feedback or suggestions about our Services, we may use your feedback or suggestions without obligation to you.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Open note to Arsenal fans on August 28, 2013

Dear Arsenal fans,

At a moment when many in the press have made Arsenal and Arsene Wenger the focus of unkind jokes, and even some fans are giving in to pessimism, I think there's still strong reason for hope. Arsenal's financial position is strong and the team has a stable core of experienced players. There is time in this window and a powerful rationale for more players to join; Arsenal will compete in four competitions and may well win a trophy, or even a title, this year.

That doesn't negate the stark realities facing the team.

First, having cleared out a large number of players, some of whom played a good bit last year (Gervinho, Arshavin) and also struggling with short (Arteta, Vemaelen) and long term (Diaby, Ox, Podolski) injuries, Arsenal need to add depth to the squad. Depth is needed not just to avoid fatigue in a season with four competitions, but also to fuel the attacking style of play that Arsenal is famous for.

Second, the team needs, and has needed, to add two (or even three) outstanding players to its core in order to compete and win at the highest level. Of the players who are, or seem to be, "in" with five days left in the transfer window, unproven Sonogo does not add depth, nor is he an outstanding player (yet), but Flamini would undoubtedly add depth (passing, positioning, top level experience) and should be welcomed as an addition to the squad without greater expectations than were placed on Yossi Benayoun, who did a good job at a similar moment.

There is also no doubt that if Gonzalo Higuain and Luiz Gustavo had come to Arsenal, two of the "outstanding players" boxes would now be ticked off. Both would have been perfectly appropriate additions, and worth OVER spending for if they could have been added to the squad in time for the opening game. Those two missed opportunities, seem to be the single greatest criticism you could level at Wenger at this point. Even if it cost 60 million pounds, having those two players...and perhaps winning the game against Aston Villa...would likely have meant that critics would now be talking about Arsenal as a title contender and strong competition in the CL. The club would also be a stronger magnet for other new signings.

That did not happen.

So, on August 28, with Flamini...maybe...already in the squad, my advice is to think about the challenge Arsenal faces this way.

Wenger needs to add three or four signings, with two of them "outstanding." That would mean securing two additions on the quality level of Higuain/Gustavo, and one or two "solid" signings in addition to Flamini.

While time is running short, it is likely this will happen, and fans can hope that the additions, in particular, will bolster the attack and solidify the back. But time is running out on marquee signings. It may well be that these three or four slots will be filled by somewhat surprising additions who can only be judged after they've played with the team for awhile. It may be that one of the two "outstanding" players may only come clear in retrospect.

In sum, there is little doubt that Arsenal will add players, only that it has been left late. Come January, fans should look at where Arsenal stands in all competitions (and in terms of squad strength) and ask, "Is this better/worse than we could have been if we had secured Higuain/Gustavo earlier in the summer?" That's the relevant question.

There should also be no doubt that Arsenal will continue to play its aggressive, attacking, technical style of play; and of that fans should rightly be proud. That is the hallmark of AFC.  Add quality and depth to this squad, and there is reason yet to think that 2013/14 may be a season in which Arsenal shock the world, and surprise the critics.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Vote Hyatt Worst

Proud to have joined this action.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Mitt Romney is the problem

...and the GOP, and Big Oil, and the Big Banks, and Big Energy, and the Club for Growth, and the Koch Brothers.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Worst Congress Ever

Worst Congress Ever. Read it and weep. All the more reason to kick: Brian Bilbray, Scott Brown David McKinley, and these folks out of office.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


To his credit, Aguero didn't attempt to get a penalty. He pushed through two players to even have a chance to run on to Balotelli's pass, rounded a third and refused to fall when that would have been the easy call...and beat a fourth and fifth defender AND the keeper with his speed...and scored. Monumental goal.