Don’t Beat the People in Public

I spent the morning at Caldwell Presbyterian Church in Lake George again.

Several of the summer residents are getting ready go home (or back to wherever it is they call home when they’re not here). Florida. South Carolina. New York City.

One of them shared with me that one of the weeks I wasn’t there they had been visited by “someone from the Presbytery” who had “given the congregation a good spanking.”

This visitor had only been visiting for two weeks. She left the first week wondering if she should come back. By the end of the service she felt beaten up, and she wasn’t even a responsible party. She’d just showed up wanting to have church.

I’m not sure why the Presbytery person thought the congregation needed to be scolded. I’m not involved in either the Presbytery or the Congregation’s politics. The best thing about filling in is that I don’t have to be.

Maybe they needed a “talking to” and maybe they didn’t.

As one visitor to another, though, I quite agree that using Sunday morning to air grievances with a congregation (“especially during the tourist season in front of visitors”) isn’t doing the congregation any favors, even if they do need to be told a thing or two.

Again, I wasn’t there.

All I know is that I’ve been to a service or two where I’ve wondered why I’d gone. I’ll admit to having left services I was in charge of wondering why I’d gone. It’s a terrible feeling.

I’m not saying church should always be roses and milk and honey. If it’s worth going to it should be challenging. Just not in a way that makes you feel like giving up.

Visiting Presbytery officials (or whatever other denominations have) should know this better than anyone else.

Save venting, “talking to” and church politics for a congregational meeting. Put it in the newsletter if you have to.

Sunday morning is for worship.

Orwell Lives

While I was back to the house where I grew up in Canton, Ohio last week my mother showed me a clipping from the paper about plans to redo the “12th street corridor.”

It’s of interest because the house is just off 12th street. 12th street runs most of the way through the town crossing several neighborhoods.

The stretch along my old neighborhood had been named the “Safety Corridor phase” of the renewal project.

Presumably city officials named it the Safety Corridor because the neighborhood is considered unsafe. Apparently someone at city hall thought that calling it the safety corridor would magically make it safer to walk the streets there at night. Or, perhaps under Ohio law when you call something a “safety corridor” it designates the area as a place where police can use their tanks and submachine guns at will.

In either case, the new name for the neighborhood gave it the feeling of being significantly less safe.

Thank you, Mr. Orwell.

Home Again

Another day of driving most of the day.

We’re planning on starting from my sister’s house, east of Cleveland, to get a jump start.

It’s still a long trip and Labor Day weekend traffic, but we might make it home by 4 pm.

Ohio, Day 3 — When They Want Your Phone Number

I didn’t pack enough socks for the week’s trip. There were socks in the wash on the day we left, but they didn’t get into the suitcase.

Silas and Grandma and I went out to find a pack of socks. We ended up at Burlington Coat Factory. We got a pack of six pair of white socks. We also got a new backpack for Silas. We hadn’t planned on that, but when he saw it he fell in love. His old one had holes in the bottom of it. The new one is an Avengers backpack.

We got to the checkout with our two items. The kid at the cash register scanned them. Then he asked me for my phone number to complete the purchase.

“Why?” I asked.

“In case you have to return them,” I said.

“I’m not going to return them. I live in New York. I’m not going to be back.”

“I need a phone number,” he said.

I get that it’s not the kid’s fault. He’s required to get the phone number. He’s been told it’s in case a customer wants to return something. But it’s not. If I need to return it, I have a receipt as proof of sale. It’s so Burlington Coat Factory can call me with special offers.

We gave him Grandma’s phone number. Grandma and Grandpa only ever use their land line as a telemarketer waste-bin anyway.

But it got me thinking. This isn’t the first time a kid at a cash register has needed to collect a phone number in order to complete a sale.

From now on, I’m going to give them 867-5309.

The song was from before they were born, so they’re not going to know the difference.

Ohio, Day 2 — What Became of Buster Brown

Last February I wrote a little reflection on buying shoes. I mentioned that the Buster Brown shoe store where I remember buying shoes as a child had long since gone out of business. As I remembered it a Borders bookstore had gone in that slot at the mall, but Borders has also gone to the great mall in the sky.

Today I had the chance to go wandering around Canton (and to get a birthday gift for my brother whose party is this afternoon), so I went back to the mall to see what was there.

Here’s what I found.

Coach Store at Belden Village Mall where Buster Brown's Shoes used to be

Ohio, Day 1

We made it, and were even in time for dinner.

After dinner there was bicycle riding and stilt walking. Then pumpkin pie and ice cream. Then a bedtime story.

Today we may go to the Stark County fair. Or maybe to the museum or planetarium.

Ohio or Bust

It’s time for the annual trip to Ohio.

Silas and I will be driving all day today. Back on Friday.


Boston Skyline

Boston Skyline from the Media Center at MIT

I’m at WordCamp Boston. We’re on lunch break.

The format for the talks here is 45 minutes plus time for Q & A. That’s twice the time for each as was allowed at the NYC WordCamp a couple weeks ago.

I appreciate the longer format. It’s allowing the speakers to go into far more depth and I’m getting much more from each of them, and all of them so far have been top-notch presentations.

This time, Brooke and Silas were able to travel down to Boston with me. We had a good time exploring Cambridge last night. And no trip with Silas is complete without splashing around in the hotel swimming pool.

They’re spending the day checking out the New England Aquarium while I’m geeking out. They were going to catch a movie at the IMAX theater, too.

We’ll get back together tonight at dinner and head home. We should be back in our own beds at around midnight.

I’ll have more to post on the WordCamp geek stuff on iCaspar next week.

Fran Fest

(The following was submitted to the Jay News today in response to an announcement published on Wednesday, August 20. It may or may not be published in the News later today.

Fran Betters ran a fly fishing shop in Wilmington, NY up until a few years ago. Then he died. Fran’s friends are organizing “Fran Fest” for the second year this year to raise money for a statue they want to be erected (my double-entendre, not theirs) in the Wilmington park near the river. They’ve chosen as their logo a picture Fran had posted at the entrance to his fly fishing shop and have been fiercely defending their “right” to do so, now for the second year.)

franfestYou don’t need to be a woman to be offended by the Fran Fest logo.

Let me be clear. The organizers of Fran Fest have the right to use whatever logo they want. This isn’t about censorship. After all, the drawing reveals less flesh than what you might see on any given summer day at the Wilmington beach.

What’s offensive is the portrayal of women as being stupid, inept and helpless. What’s offensive is that it portrays women essentially as objects unsuitable for an activity as dignified as fly fishing. What it communicates, between the lines if you will, is: “You’d never want to take a woman fly fishing except if she’s curvy and gullible enough to (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) take her fishing.”

The implication is clear enough to the women who have already written with their objections. What hasn’t been said is that pictures like this make it appear that it’s ok for men (and boys trying to figure out what it means to grow into manhood) to adopt this attitude toward women. Except it’s not ok for men to assess the value of women on the basis of their capacity to be taken advantage of. It’s not healthy for men to relate to women in this way. Not for men or women.

I say again, this isn’t about censorship. The organizers of Fran Fest have the right to use whatever logo they want. But using a logo that’s implies to people who didn’t know Fran that he was a womanizing misogynist isn’t doing his cause any favors. Making a stink about people’s objections by snidely slapping “censored” over it and wearing it around town on T-shirts only makes it worse.

Before World War 2 the Indian tribes of the American Southwest used to weave blankets with swastika patterns to sell to tourists. After the war, they found that they couldn’t sell those blankets any more. It wasn’t because they weren’t beautiful. It was because they came to symbolize something hateful. It didn’t do any good for the Indians to complain that they didn’t intend the blankets to have that meaning. They had to change their marketing and use new patterns.

In the 1980’s the Johnson and Johnson Company had a logo of an old man with a flowing beard. A large segment of the fundamentalist Christian market saw the number 666 hidden in the man’s beard and stopped buying the company’s products, accusing the company of being a Satanist front. J and J didn’t intend to cause offense, but they did. Nor did it do them any good to whine about how that’s not what the company stood for. They changed their logo.

I never met Fran. The only basis I (and many others) have on which to judge the man and his memory is the image of him I get from his surviving friends. You can tell a lot about a man by the friends he keeps. It’s really up to them. So I’m asking, was he a great fly fisherman? Or was he a womanizing misogynist. You tell me.