Looking back.

How many of you have had a mentor in your career? What did it do for you? I ask because I got through another box in my long-term basement-cleaning project Saturday, and ran across some stories I did way back in the day and had almost entirely forgotten.

One brought back memories of the last few years in Fort Wayne, when the paper was starting its ruinous cycle of cut-cut-cut, which eventually led to its humiliating and ignominious death. I’d heard there was a newspaper war going on in North Manchester, a small town two counties away. The owner of the long-standing weekly had sold it as part of his midlife crisis (he’d decided he really wanted to be a teacher), then was horrified to realize, too late, that the buyer was a fire-breathing Christian ignoramus, who used his new mouthpiece to run syndicated crap from the know-nothing right. (One editorial pooh-poohed the crazy idea of evolution, as I recall.) The former editor retaliated by starting his own weekly, and the war was on, all played out in a town of about 1,700 households, so it was shot through with small-town drama and amusing detail, and was fun to report and read.

And as I recall, it was a struggle to even get it published. The managing editor at the time hated Features (he came from Sports) and liked to offer sparkling criticisms like, “I don’t know why we spend so much ink covering the symphony, when tractor pulls get bigger crowds.” Anyway, there was a fair bit of why-are-we-doing-this-story and who-cares-about-this-stuff from the higher-ups, and it was only the latest in a long, long string of incidents that convinced me I’d way overstayed at that place, but the alternatives were not great either; the whole industry was contracting, and I had a husband and young child, mortgage and all the rest of it. And the market for stories like that one — quirky, offbeat, low-stakes features that are just good yarns — was drying up everywhere.

In looking for someone else to blame for my bad choices, it occurred to me that if I’d had a mentor earlier in my career, I might have made better ones. But I didn’t. When I asked for it, from editors I respected, I inevitably got some version of this: “You know, I have eight reporters to oversee, half of whom struggle with subject-verb agreement. You aren’t one of my problems. Keep doing what you’re doing.” At a bigger paper, it would have been easier, but in a contracting small one, it just couldn’t happen.

If this sounds like self-pity to you, it probably is. I don’t spend much time looking back, but digging through your old clips will do that to you.

I threw out that story, and all the rest of them. Saved the loose photographs. Shook off the resentment and watched that water go right on under the bridge.

Then I vacuumed and we went sailing in a nice breeze. So there’s that.

Just one piece of bloggage today, a lovely story for Pride and you LGBTQ folks: Looking for Uncle Allan, written by a former colleague of my Alan, at the Detroit News. It’s about being gay and finding out you had a gay ancestor:

I know Uncle Allan ditched Detroit for Manhattan lights as soon as he was able, sometime around 1912, but other than that, for all intents and purposes, I know almost nothing about him. When you’re the notorious family homosexual, poor at the end to boot, nobody collects and preserves your papers and treasures. They’re scattered, auctioned off, left in boxes on the porch for the Goodwill. Unknowing fingers pop photos out of frames for resale, smudging black and white portraits on their way to the trash. My parents, as it happened, played a small but significant role in this obliteration.

Mostly what I do know are stories from the war years — we’re talking World War II here — when a then-elderly Uncle Allan would blow into our little dairy farm north of Detroit a couple times a year to drink up all my parents’ liquor rations. Most of the family wouldn’t receive him. But Mom and Dad — young and, I suppose, a little daring — did, and he’d settle in for a week at a time. He was tall and garrulous, with a full head of bright white hair and a theatrical voice and manner my grandfather always called “fruity,” but which the women adored. At the slightest prompting, Uncle Allan would act out little bits, “mere snippets,” he called them, from the classics on Broadway, shows that had debuted some 30 years before.

A lovely read. And now, I must tackle Monday.

Posted at 9:21 am in Media |

49 responses to “Looking back.”

  1. Mark P said on June 14, 2021 at 9:45 am

    Realizing that no one on Earth gives a shit about your past and all the wonderful stories and crap you have is kind of freeing. Sad (only to me) but freeing, if only in terms of additional open space.

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  2. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 14, 2021 at 10:06 am

    The mentoring question is interesting if only because I’m in a similar period of self-reflection (and yes, Mark P, you make a good point). Just got back from caring for my increasingly frail father-in-law, joining my sister in celebrating our mother’s 86th birthday, and doing my 50-something brother’s wedding (a first for both of them, and I think after Dad’s death last year they wanted to get married for Mom as much as anything; they help my sister handle her needs).

    While staying in Indy in a cable-free house with horrible internet, so what online stuff I was doing I did through my phone, I got a message from a former . . . I’ll say mentor, but in retrospect, there’s the problem. When both you and your senior counselors are wrapped up in a system/model/economy that’s at best going through major transformation, at worst imploding into fragments, neither of you are likely to be accurately assessing your immediate surroundings.

    But foolishly, I let myself follow links on my pack-of-cards sized screen into a series of posts about a congregation that a much respected “mentor” had strongly recommended I go to back in 1998, and who often, though not harshly, had reminded me I didn’t do a smart thing by walking away from that opening at the time. Turns out they were averaging 75 a Sunday (they told me they were around 100, uh huh) then, had dwindled down to 20 a Sunday before COVID, and since return to in-person had averaged 9. They just had a vote about closing down operations, selling the property (which is a downtown block-off-main-drag in a booming western town) and creating a platform for an un-housed congregation with a foundation and some assets to try something completely different.

    Having been months at 9 a Sunday, they had 16 present for the congregational meeting, which voted 9 to 5 to stay open . . . and the interim minister, bless him, asked out loud (in print) if letting long-time non-attenders and non-donors vote had been wise, and stating that 6 of 9 “stay open” votes fell into that category. Having said that, he of course also gave notice. There was one more post/entry, from the presiding elder, which to read without the foregoing you’d think was saying they had great prospects, plenty of active members, and were only one good hire away from restoring “the good old days.”

    I have many pathologies to account for, but in no way do I think for a moment that if I’d gone there in 1998 the next twenty years would have gone differently. It’s bigger than any one parson or people; the nature of our culture and formal Sunday worship has just changed dramatically and the options forward are constrained, to say the least.

    But Nancy, I had not a single mentor, sought for or attempting to be one for me whether I wanted them or not as such, who saw a flicker of this coming. It was all “hold on, you’re fine, things will change soon” in three states and over three decades. Lots of interesting differences in what various aspirational mentors suggested, and some got out having surfed the right waves being able to claim they were “successful” but in terms of traditional board-and-committee, hymnals & choir church life, any mentoring I ever got was circling the same drain. The best advice I overheard and failed to heed came from younger, highly non-traditional clergy, who were heading off into forms of ministry that had no real chance of being enough to support a family, but could reach people and grow a healthy community. And to be fair, some of those crashed and burned in their own unique ways, too. But in sum, I wish I’d watched new models moving into radically different forms coming up “behind” me more than I think I failed to find the right wise experienced head with years in front of my path. For what it’s worth!

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  3. Suzanne said on June 14, 2021 at 10:13 am

    I had always hoped for a mentor during my career but none never appeared. Same with my children. When asked about a favorite or memorable teacher, I cannot name one. I think on the whole, if you are smart, motivated, and come from a decent home, those likely to mentor assume you will figure it out on your own. I come from a mostly blue collar family with no one in the generation above me going to college. Several of my dad’s brothers didn’t graduate from high school because they joined the military the minute they could. My dad was the only one of his brothers to not work in a factory.
    My mom had only sisters and none of them made any attempt at college. Two of them never had a job outside the home.

    It surprised me as I grew older to hear my professional class friends discuss the guidance they were given on career choices, etc. I got nothing other than “Go to college, don’t go to college. We don’t care. Do what you want but we aren’t paying for it.”
    I didn’t think too much about choosing a major because back then in the mid-1970s, it didn’t matter that much. Work didn’t seem to require such specific degrees for many positions, just a degree of some sorts. Now, not so much.

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  4. Julie Robinson said on June 14, 2021 at 10:53 am

    Mentor? Not unless you include Dr. Jekyll/Ms. Hyde. Dr. J told me all the time what a great job I was doing and helped me learn Excel. Ms. H started in on me one day that I wasn’t working hard enough, smart enough, or fast enough. In retrospect, clearly she had a psychotic breakdown.

    I took a leave of absence when my sister had her quadruple bypass surgery and the distance gave me enough perspective to resign. At my next job I had half an hour of training and then was on my own, learning from the online forum for the specialized software that was used. There was one person there who was extraordinarily helpful, so maybe that counts?

    Jefftmmo, our church was at the point where I didn’t see another five years left, then another church who was closing decided they wanted to join us, so now I give it ten. Our daughter keeps growing her church, but the oldsters keep dying, and who knows who will come back after Covid. In truth, I haven’t been back to ours, because decisions that were made during Covid led to seven infections and two deaths, and even now I’m not comfortable there.

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  5. Suzanne said on June 14, 2021 at 11:45 am

    Jeff(TMMO), you have the most insightful comments!
    As you say regarding churches surviving: “It’s bigger than any one parson or people; the nature of our culture and formal Sunday worship has just changed dramatically and the options forward are constrained, to say the least.”

    I look back at the rise of the mega-church and sort of wonder why more of us didn’t see it coming. Churches turned congregants into consumers and like good consumers, the congregants are fickle and follow the latest shiny object that tries to attract their attention. The attention on the individual (“Have you committed YOUR life to Jesus?”) has destroyed the idea of corporate repentance and forgiveness and the commitment to your fellow men and women. Now, the focus in many churches is how to make your church more successful than the one down the road, which is going to have it’s limits as someone else is always going to have a cooler, better idea.

    The pandemic threw church decline into high gear. I have a number of friends who were faithful church members but have said that they haven’t gone for the past year and simply don’t miss it. My kids don’t go anymore because of the politics that seep into far too much of the church. They don’t see spiritual nourishment but hypocrisy and salesmanship.
    What will come of all of it? I don’t know.

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  6. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 14, 2021 at 12:23 pm

    Suzanne: “someone else is always going to have a cooler, better idea” is exactly the problem. Consumerism has been bad for capitalism, worse for religion. At risk of sounding overly pragmatic, the dilemma of many churches is like the retail problem: people say they want relationship & local ownership & the “Mom & Pop” vibe, but in general if they can drive to the Big Box ™ and get it for sixteen cents less, that’s what they do. Walmart didn’t kill downtowns, the passion for lower prices no matter what the cost did. Where that comes from, I don’t know. And it’s not for me as a preacher to spend too much time pointing out that part of stewardship is buying less cheap krep, and perhaps spending a bit more to get a more lasting, durable item . . . but somehow the lust for purchasing more and new and shiny even if ticky tacky & unfixable has spawned now not only large retail outside of hubs, but a dollar store in every crossroads burg.

    The outcome for churches needs no elaboration. But Julie, your daughter continues to be in my prayers! May her tribe increase.

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  7. basset said on June 14, 2021 at 1:05 pm

    Similar situation to Suzanne’s here, first in the bloodline to even attempt college. No mentors, several of what you might call anti-mentors though. Made it through despite ’em.

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  8. Sherri said on June 14, 2021 at 1:17 pm

    I’m not sure that there is much churches could have done to prevent decline, and I don’t think consumerism is really the cause. That’s putting the blame on the individual. I think churches are declining because there is no longer much societal value to attending church.

    Let’s be real. There was never a time when the churches were filled with people with a deep commitment to God. Yes, those people were there, but most people showing up on Sunday were there because it was the expected thing to do, something you were supposed to do to be a good member of society. Not going to church was transgressive. That is no longer true, hasn’t been true for decades, will likely never be true again in a multicultural country, and the Christian church has not adapted, despite decades of warning.

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  9. Mark P said on June 14, 2021 at 1:24 pm

    Church membership still has social value in some places, at least in the South outside large cities. That’s where lots of people make social and business connections.

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  10. Suzanne said on June 14, 2021 at 1:59 pm

    I think the decline of the social value of church attendance is part of it, Sherri, but not all. It’s simply that the current consumer driven model means that the social value comes from being part of the latest, greatest, coolest church in town, not the lowly neighborhood parish. The hope is that being seen as successful will breed success.
    A few years ago, a old college roommate who is Roman Catholic told me a story of the surprising number of people from the nearby non-denominational evangelical mega church who come to her lowly Catholic church when they needed help paying bills, getting counseling, finding housing, etc. My assumption on the reason is that needing help does not fit in with the success driven model that the “big box” churches rely on, so they get boring earthly needs filled elsewhere and go back to the cool church to whoop it up for Jesus.

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  11. Sherri said on June 14, 2021 at 2:22 pm

    There are communities where there is still social value in attending church, but that is not the majority. There are groups, such as Muslims, where mosques serve as community centers for a non-mainstream community as much as a religious place of worship. But the days of church attendance being a primary part of society, of the community shutting down on Sundays because everybody was in church, are gone.

    I don’t think churches really understood how much they were getting that free ride from social prominence, and didn’t have a purpose that kept people when that social prominence eroded. Most people who went to a particular church were not very committed to that church, even if they attended regularly; they weren’t heavily invested in it, the church didn’t ask much of them outside of supporting the church, they weren’t called to any purpose or pushed to grow in any way, so when something shinier came along promising more, or it just got harder to juggle attending with other commitments, it’s not surprising they left.

    It’s not consumerism. The church never gave them any reason to stay.

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  12. David C said on June 14, 2021 at 3:45 pm

    My parent’s church closed about a year before the pandemic struck. They were down to about 30 members and nobody under 40. They started looking around for another but were disappointed at the offerings. One my dad called God’s timeshare. They went about three or four times before they started putting on heavy pressure to join and start tithing. I’d be very surprised if they find another church. I think America has been lying about church attendance for decades and only now are they admitting to themselves and the everybody that they have better things to do Sunday mornings.

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  13. Suzanne said on June 14, 2021 at 3:49 pm

    “I don’t think churches really understood how much they were getting that free ride from social prominence, and didn’t have a purpose that kept people when that social prominence eroded.”
    I agree, Sherri. I don’t think many of them still understand it which is why it was so easy for the consumerist model to undermine so many churches.

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  14. Deborah said on June 14, 2021 at 3:54 pm

    I used to be a very committed, involved church attender, and then I wasn’t. I think about those decades a lot but that’s it.

    It’s hot in Santa Fe, 93°, and that’s about as hot as it gets, 5% humidity. The city has instituted water conservation regulations, you can’t water between 10am and 6pm and only 3 days a week. It’s been hot for about a week so the stucco buildings have collected sustained heat and they don’t cool off enough at night now, even though the lows are around the upper 50s. With the unrelenting sun in the yard now that the leaves on the trees are skimpy and the now gone greenery that was cut down, with only 3 times a week watering, our plants are doomed.

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  15. JodiP said on June 14, 2021 at 4:51 pm

    I haven’t really ever had a mentor, unless ironically we count my dysfunctional boss. She really did give me good advice and hired me for great positions. But once I began working as a supervisor, she expected insane level of including her on emails. Today I responded to a direct report that a client need she asked about would be better handled by jail medical. I cc’d my boss because I finally figured out that’s what she wants, and she thanked my for looping her in. Insane.

    So because of our own lack of mentors we have made an effort to be there for our nieces, two of whom have really appreciated it. The oldest had a plan and executed it. I have also done this for young professionals I’ve encountered and other young people I’ve randomly become friends with. My employer has a mentoring system, but nobody really knows about it. I have build a great relationship with a trainer in HR and consult him on stuff. he is much more thoughtful and helpful than my boss and a wonderful example.

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  16. Julie Robinson said on June 14, 2021 at 6:23 pm

    Our lives centered around church for many years, but in the last 15 I think our congregation has lost its way. Being on the staff I got a little too close to how the sausage was made, and we also had a clique develop that is super exclusionary. I’m wondering what these new members will think when they go in to get coffee and donuts and the 12 people sitting around the table completely ignore them. I suspect the two groups will remain fairly insulated, but who knows, I could be wrong.

    Our daughter’s church, OTOH, is completely oriented to serving the community and especially the neighborhood around it. There’s a clique there too, who never understand when she asks for back to school supplies for the local schools, or candy for a Halloween trick or treat gathering. But they are small and dying out.

    Does anyone track the clothes they wear? Today we found a calendar from my sister’s freshman year of college. Along with classes, exams, and papers, she recorded what she wore every single day. And here I thought I was OCD for organizing my closet by color.

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  17. Dexter Friend said on June 14, 2021 at 6:40 pm

    Uncle Allan must have been the model for Montague Withnail from one of my favorite films, ever. “Withnail and I”. This early scene, Monty’s distraction, is priceless…the whole damn film is full of wonderful dialogue. It’s available on HBO Max.
    “Withnail : Monty used to act.

    To respond to Mark P at comment 1, I offer words from Sheriff Ed Tom Bell in “No Country for Old Men” : ” I always liked to hear about the old-timers. Never missed a chance to do so. You can’t help but compare yourself against the old-timers. Can’t help but wonder how they’d have operated these times.”

    Monty : Well, I’d hardly say that. It’s true, I crept the boards in my youth. But I never really had it in my blood, and that’s what’s so essential, isn’t it, theatrical zeal in the veins. Alas I have little more than vintage wine and memories. It is the most shattering experience of a young man’s life when one morning he awakes and quite reasonably says to himself “I will never play the Dane.” When that moment comes, one’s ambition ceases. Don’t you agree?

    Withnail : It’s a part I intend to play, Uncle.

    Monty : And you’d be marvellous. “It’s gone. We do it wrong, being so majestical. To offer it the show of violence…”

    [as Monty continues to recite the line from Hamlet, Marwood gets up and whispers in Withnail’s ear]

    Marwood : Please, let’s go. He’s a madman. Any minute now he’s going to rush out and get into his tights.” 🙂

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  18. Dexter Friend said on June 14, 2021 at 6:50 pm

    sorry for the messed-up edit above, the “No Country…” reference was meant for the trailing addendum.

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  19. Dexter Friend said on June 14, 2021 at 7:05 pm

    No one in my early life was a mentor to me, no one in my army days either. In my mid-20s a man called One-Arm-John mentored me about my excessive drinking, and when I hit bottom all his advice rushed in on me and I knew what to do to get help. Before the end of drink, I made fast friends with my true mentor of my life, the late Bert Wolfe of Bellevue, Ohio. I remember his birthday still; he passed 30 years ago and his words of advice and understanding still echo around my brain. I know exactly when he died as well. He was born in 1892 and served as a railroad builder in France in WWI. I have mentioned him before here, several times. He was guru, shaman, lecturer, story-teller, and I know I told him more about myself than any other, because he was a listener, a great inquisitive listener. He gave me financial advice, marital advice, how to handle assholes at work advice. He drank beer and bourbon moderately and tried to get me to do the same, not understanding my penchant for the desire to get blotto drunk. We were different in that way. So Bert was my mentor.

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  20. Colleen said on June 14, 2021 at 8:11 pm

    No mentor in radio. The one person I thought might be the mentoring type ended up firing me. So much for being able to read the room…

    I suppose the person who hired me, uncertified, to work in the cancer registry at Lutheran was a mentor of sorts. She gave me a chance and taught me what I needed to know to become certified, and without her giving me that chance, I wouldn’t have the job I have now, which I love.

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  21. FDChief said on June 14, 2021 at 9:18 pm

    I had a mentor during my early days in the soil engineering biz. Dick Glasheen was a quiet guy who knew more about geotech than most people had forgotten, and he was a thorough, patient teacher.

    Unfortunately for me, one of his secrets was his personality. He was sort of like the bubba-whisperer. He’d show up on a job site where the general contractor was screaming at the earthwork guys and the architect and the civil were arguing with each other and them and within ten minutes he’d have them all hugging and agreeing with everything. I couldn’t do it and still can’t; it was a Glasheen thing, something to do with his gentle, pious self that I just don’t have and can’t fake. He tried…but it just wouldn’t work for me.

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  22. A. Riley said on June 14, 2021 at 9:54 pm

    My parish is at an interesting crossroads. We’d had a lot of conflict with the previous rector, who was in *way* over her head from the minute she walked in the door, but who was great with kids. Overlapping her tenure was the music director, who didn’t need the paycheck & served for love. He was great with kids, too, so we had a cohort of families with kids who grew up in the music program.

    Then the rector left under a cloud, and then the kids in that big cohort started graduating high school and going away to college, and then the music director left under a cloud of his own.

    The new rector is an energetic and empathetic youngish man (who really could end up as the town’s unofficial senior pastor), but he was just starting to get settled in when the pandemic shut everything down. We’ve done our *damnedest* to keep the community together via zoom, and we think we’ve done better at it than many others have, but who knows what the future holds for this liberal mainline parish in a liberal town?

    All anyone knows for sure is that the old days, whether the ecumenical glory days of the baby boom when every church was madly building Sunday-school space or the local glory days of the kids’ choirs, those old days are gone for good. But I have hope. I have a lot of hope in what comes next, mostly because of that parish’s determination to stick together even through the worst of times.

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  23. Bruce Fields said on June 15, 2021 at 9:53 am

    “Walmart didn’t kill downtowns, the passion for lower prices no matter what the cost did.”

    Please allow me to indulge in some axe-grinding for a moment:

    Another factor is that we’ve mostly outlawed mom and pop shops in downtown residential neighborhoods. Or, where they’re allowed, they often have to meet parking requirements more appropriate for suburbs. In Ann Arbor there are several well-liked neighborhood institutions hanging on that would be difficult or impossible to build under current zoning.

    Zoning codes are generally more permissive for churches than retail. But they have some of the same issues: e.g., from Ann Arbor’s UDC, table 5.19-1: one off-street parking space is required per 3 seats or 6 feet of pew.

    If you’re going to need a bunch of parking, and if everyone’s used to driving everywhere anyway, it makes a lot more economic sense to build a build a big box on cheaper land in the outskirts, and that applies to churches and stores alike.

    We’re getting what we ask for. Or, anyway, what’s asked for by cranky people who think they can prevent change by showing up to every city meeting and demanding that nothing new be built in their neighborhoods and that nothing ever threaten the free curb parking in front of their house.

    Sorry for the rant.

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  24. basset said on June 15, 2021 at 10:03 am

    Don’t be, it’s appropriate. Those same people are sometimes called BANANAs in the planning world… you know what a NIMBY is, BANANA stands for “Build Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody.”

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  25. Sherri said on June 15, 2021 at 12:07 pm

    Not only do they want their free curb parking in front of their house, they expect to park for free right in front of whatever business they drive to, and complain that there’s not enough parking if they have to walk a few blocks. Meanwhile, minimum parking requirements mean that there are half empty parking lots sitting around businesses most of the time.

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  26. Deborah said on June 15, 2021 at 12:19 pm

    There’s a low income housing development that we walk through to go to the closest shopping area to us. It’s a very nicely done development except it has a sea of parking, which is weird because many of the people living there can’t afford a car, much less two cars. They are required to have two parking spots per unit, hardly any cars are ever parked in the development, it’s crazy. The grounds are nicely landscaped and it’s well maintained. There’s an area for old people and an area for families, but I rarely see kids there. It was built maybe ten years ago. Santa Fe has recently relaxed developing affordable housing regulations and there’s a dearth of apartment buildings going up. I worry about where the water is going to come from for all of this new housing.

    There’s an article in the local newspaper today that we should be on the lookout for bears coming into residential areas because of the drought, this happened a few years back and a bear was found a couple of blocks away.

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  27. Sherri said on June 15, 2021 at 12:42 pm

    For any who worried that Republicans were going to use Defund the Police to rally voters for 22, fear not, they’ve moved on. Critical Race Theory is the new boogeyman. It’s so malleable they can put anything on it!


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  28. Little Bird said on June 15, 2021 at 1:06 pm

    As someone who usually walks to get anywhere, the enormous oceans of parking lots are very unpleasant to traverse (don’t get me started on the absolute inaccessibility of practically the entire city).
    The city is putting in more and more “affordable” housing, but it’s all pretty far away from the center of town. And of course the new developments need parking. All the people who work downtown are likely the people who will be moving to those new developments. So they will either need cars (and then they or their employers will have to pay for parking once downtown) or they’ll have to rely on our bus system which is rather unreliable. Not to mention that there’s not really enough water to go ‘round for all these new developments.

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  29. Colleen said on June 15, 2021 at 1:49 pm

    I remember when they were talking about building Parkview Field in Fort Wayne, one of the common refrains was “there’s no parking downtown.” Yeah, there is, it’s just not two steps away from the stadium entrance.

    Meanwhile, they built the stadium, it’s a huge success, and regularly receives accolades as one of the nation’s top minor league ballparks….

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  30. Julie Robinson said on June 15, 2021 at 1:53 pm

    Fort Wayne’s new development, Electric Works, is being built in a huge old GE complex. People are complaining about the traffic. I guess they forgot what it was like when the factory was open, but as someone who lived just south of there, I haven’t. Around shift changes, Broadway was backed up for an hour. That’s just the way it works.

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  31. Jessica Weissman said on June 15, 2021 at 1:56 pm

    Something that may be parallel is happening with synagogues. Modern orthodox and ultra-orthodox congregations are thriving and growing; the appeal of fundamentalism is not limited to Christianity. Reform congregations are holding their own. There are a lot of small independent groups of Jews that worship and have community without a building of their own – these appeal to young people, mainly those without children as it takes a more stable group structure to support Sunday school and Hebrew school.

    Conservative Judaism, the movement to which I belong and which is, I think, the closest analog to mainline Protestant denominations. The founding idea of the Conservative movement was to keep as much as possible of the traditional prayers and customs as we could in the modern world. Services are nearly all in Hebrew. For reasons probably related to the reasons that mainline Protestant denominations are shrinking, the Conservative Movement is shrinking too.

    In the past 15 years at least 4 Conservative synagogues in the area have closed or merged. Tifereth Israel, my synagogue, is maintaining membership and unlike the ones that are gone we have a fair number of families with young children or teenagers. We are in DC rather than in the burbs and have a long-established reputation for social action. When the Modern Orthodox congregation across the street declared itself the National Synagogue we declared ourselves the Galactic Synagogue. Of course we are egalitarian, meaning that women can read the Torah and be counted in a minyan (the group of 10 adult Jews required for saying certain prayers). Our niche is something like “be as odd as you like as long as you are happy with a traditional service.” Our members include a lof of non-pulpit rabbis and a whole lot of high-level policy wonks.

    A lot of people think that Conservative Judaism will dry up and blow away in the next 25 years or so. I think the number of synagogues will shrink, but the movement still offers something the other two large ones don’t: a way to live comfortably in the modern world while also observing the rituals and reciting the Conservative version of the services.

    We provide all the advantages of community, a necessary thing for many Jews. Unlike our parents, most of us have non-Jewish friends.

    Because Judaism doesn’t explicitly require specific detailed beliefs, synagogue can be a comfortable place for people who are agnostic or even atheistic but enjoy being around a lot of other Jews.

    This came out very long – and it’s edited down from what I originally wrote. Sorry. Glad to offer clarification or additional blather if anyone wants it.

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  32. Deborah said on June 15, 2021 at 2:03 pm

    My husband left to go to Abiquiu but before he left I needed to do some errands with the car. LB and I went to a Starbucks to have breakfast and boy howdy, life became a slow motion film segment. There were 4 young women working behind the counter, twice as many as there usually are. First the woman taking orders took forever to process each order. The woman making the drinks was totally confused, I ordered a breakfast sandwich, but got served one I didn’t order. LB ordered an everything bagel with cream cheese, got no knife etc etc etc. I think all of those young women were, not surprising, new hires. There wasn’t even a long line. We were kind of in a hurry, since S was going to be taking the jeep to the cabin. I need to be more patient, what with worker shortages everywhere there are going to be new hires learning the ropes and why does everything have to be done in a few seconds anyway. I woke up at 3 this morning and never went back to sleep, so I’m crabby.

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  33. Julie Robinson said on June 15, 2021 at 2:12 pm

    We just met an old friend for lunch and they were short staffed, so had to hear about the lazy people sitting at home instead of taking good waitstaff jobs. Paying waitstaff a living wage wasn’t mentioned.

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  34. Suzanne said on June 15, 2021 at 2:39 pm

    Today I discovered that the co-worker who is attending the Health & Freedom conference in Florida (with speakers such as Michael Flynn, Roger Stone, and Mike Lindell) is also reading this lovely book:
    “Faucian Bargain: The Most Powerful and Dangerous Bureaucrat in American History”
    A book endorsed by the likes of Ted Cruz and Glenn Beck. He also has notes inside it (yes, I snooped)about the baby eating cabal that is trying to run things and that Fauci funded the Wuhan Lab.

    I am exhausted by all this. Thank goodness this guy isn’t here much.

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  35. Sherri said on June 15, 2021 at 3:04 pm

    Yes, every time a new apartment building goes up I hear complaints about traffic. I remind people that the jobs are in Redmond, and if the housing isn’t, that guarantees traffic, but that never seems to sink in. No, they’re just convinced the city is chasing that sweet, sweet developer money, though none of them can begin to explain how property taxes work. (I can barely explain it myself, property taxes in Washington are so confusing, but suffice it to say, cities are not making bank building apartments.)

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  36. A. Riley said on June 15, 2021 at 3:43 pm

    Thanks for the insights, Jessica. I think that dedication to inclusion and social justice is what will keep both of our communities and traditions living and growing — and making a difference in the world. ❤️

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  37. David C said on June 15, 2021 at 4:30 pm

    I follow a few young Rabbis, many of them women, all Conservative or Reformed on Twitter. It seems to me like Judaism has living on this Earth in the here and now figured out far better than Christianity. I read a Tweet thread by one of them, Danya Ruttenberg, on forgiveness. Christian forgiveness seems to run to “I’m not perfect but I’m forgiven and since God forgives me for what I’ve done to you, you might as well forgive me too”. She talked about how those who are wronged are under no obligation to forgive but that doesn’t change the wrongdoer’s obligation for atonement. Anyway, it surprises me that they’re losing members. Too bad I don’t believe in anything. I think I’d fit with them in a lot of ways.

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  38. Sherri said on June 15, 2021 at 5:11 pm

    Fred Clark, aka @SlactivistFred, recently tweeted that one good reason for churches to make their basements available for AA meetings is so they’ll have somebody in the building who understand what repentance means and requires.

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  39. Julie Robinson said on June 15, 2021 at 5:22 pm

    Typing on my phone I said traffic was backed up for an hour; it should have been half an hour. And no one complained.

    Here’s a new phishing scam for you–I got an email that said my Netflix account was on hold because the payment didn’t go through. It absolutely looked authentic, until I noticed the email it came from was a bunch of random numbers/letters/symbols. So instead of clicking on the link inside the email, I went directly to my account, didn’t see any problems, and called them.

    Sure enough, it was a scam. In case any of you get one of these, he told me they never send links to your account in an email, and the address will be info@mailer.netflix.com. Don’t fall for it!

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  40. Deborah said on June 15, 2021 at 7:08 pm

    Julie, I had that same scam only they tried to say my Amazon account was on hold. I figured it out too, and ignored it.

    It’s actually raining in Santa Fe right now, sorta. Mostly it’s windy and thundering but it is cooling things off. The raindrops are huge but sparse. Now it will probably hail and shred the few leaves our trees have left, because I’m a pessimist. Thunder and lightning without rain is just asking for forest fires. Let’s see how pessimistic I can be today.

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  41. Deborah said on June 15, 2021 at 8:05 pm

    Scout, how is it in Arizona these days?

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  42. Colleen said on June 15, 2021 at 9:18 pm

    Got a text this week that said my credit score had taken 4 big negative hits in the past week, and to fix the problem I needed to click on the link at the bottom of them message. Um yeah. No.

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  43. Sherri said on June 15, 2021 at 9:36 pm

    Mine this week was an email saying that my Robinhood account was on hold until I clicked the link to clear up some problem. Nice try, but I don’t even have a Robinhood account.

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  44. Julie Robinson said on June 15, 2021 at 11:01 pm

    I get two or three texts everyday, exhorting Leon to sign his final loan papers. Each time I block the number it came from, so of course they just use a different one. Staying ahead of the scammers is getting to be a full time job.

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  45. Dexter Friend said on June 16, 2021 at 1:42 am

    My kids want me to use money-sending/receiving sites but after my PayPal experience, I do not want to utilize their “secure systems”. I cannot stop the daily emails from these PayPal hackers…they do go to spam, and I never open them. I called PayPal and they said to just ignore them, and I told the legit guy there to de-activate my account again. He said he would. There is nothing I can do to stop these daily emails. I think I used PayPal one time and was hacked, years ago, and it’s never stopped. Nothing stops them.
    My grandsons , years ago, got onto my old Dell and visited porn sites. I was astounded when my email account received like 75 “invites” a day, usually more. I deduced quickly what had happened, and got denials. A few years passed and then they admitted it. After about 5 years, the final come-on email appeared. Damn.

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  46. Dorothy said on June 16, 2021 at 9:19 am

    The Internet is a dicey proposition so often, as many of your stories convey, but I feel like I need to share some good news that happened due to my use of Twitter on Monday.

    Back up to June 5, the day my washing machine went kaput. This is the same washer I had delivered, brand new, on 4/17/20. Thank you stimulus payments that helped pay for our new washer & dryer. We did not renew the warranty, and on June 10 when the appliance repairman came (from the company we bought it from, small local place) he seemed very apologetic that it would cost $300 to replace the computer in the washer. And the warranty liason in his office was not in that day. So I thought maybe I’d get a call Friday. Nope. Monday this week I called there. Lady was not helpful – gave me the customer service number for Whirlpool. (The machines are Amana, which are built by Whirlpool).

    So I tweeted @ Whirlpool. Said how mad we were that we had a machine for only 13.5 months and it broke. To my delight they answered me back Monday after I went to bed. I had to send them the serial number from the washer, and my contact information. A young lady called me at lunch time yesterday. They are going to do a one-time customer courtesy repair and they’re coming tomorrow….! This is a first for me – I haven’t had many situations where I had an axe to grind with a company and I took to Twitter to announce it.

    Another good outcome of this is that my hubby said he could easily replace this computer in the washer. He found some YouTube videos and he has done some repairs in the past. He ordered the part for the washer on Monday evening before he went to bed. $215. Paid $25 for expedited shipping. Then after the contact with Whirlpool yesterday, I went online and emailed the company where he bought the part. Asked if it was too late to intercept the shipment because VOILA Whirlpool was going to fix our machine free of charge. And I DID intercept it. We’re getting the $240 refunded to our credit card in the next 3-5 business days.

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  47. Deborah said on June 16, 2021 at 9:56 am

    Who’d a thought there would come a day when there’d be a computer in your washing machine? I’ve been wanting to buy a new sewing machine but they all seem to operate with computers, and that seems excessive to me. Our Jeep had a computer glitch, kept telling us there was a major engine problem but when we took it in after that showed up at first they fixed the glitch, then it showed up again and they had to replace it. I don’t remember exactly how much it cost but it was more than $800 for sure.

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  48. Julie Robinson said on June 16, 2021 at 10:19 am

    Deborah, go used. The new machines have a very high learning curve, and most of them have plastic gears, which break easily and are super pricey to replace. An older, all metal machine will be much more reliable. Look first at vacuum/sewing repair shops for a refurbished machine. The one thing you have to be careful about old metal machines is rust, so I wouldn’t buy from an individual unless you can see inside the case and try sewing with it yourself.

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  49. basset said on June 16, 2021 at 12:47 pm

    Just about everything on our Subaru runs off a big touch screen in the middle of the dash, which has already gone dark on me twice, once while moving, and taken other less dangerous random actions many times, including leaving me stranded four times in a year and a half from new. Have had the panel reprogrammed twice and replaced once, problems continue, Subaru’s response is that it’s a software incompatibility, they all do that, put up with it.
    Will be getting rid of it once I work myself up to go back into the car buying process.

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