Rachel Krumholz, Printers’s Devil

This kid, a kid you’ve never met before, shows up at the coffee shop. She takes the stool next to you and wants to know what you’re doing. She’s genuinely interested.

You’re struck by her curiosity.

“I’ve always been a writer,” she tells you. That explains things a bit.

At one point she imagined a future as a makeup artist but that was before she walked into Room S105 where her high school’s newspaper is produced.

She immediately wanted in.

“Democracy can’t function when there are untold stories.” the young printer’s devil explains.

She’s currently writing about her school which is a mix of urban and suburban, poverty and wealth, a jumble of religions and languages. Her question is why students cluster in a self-imposed segregation.

Last year she caught the attention of the powers-that-be when writing about sexual assault — they hoped she would tone it down. Her stats were challenged by a few students who tore up their copies in protest.

“I don’t mind being controversial.” she admits.

She wrote about a district-wide dress code that got tangled up in race and gender; and about teenage use of marijuana for medical purposes (with and without a prescription).

On one of her early assignments someone grabbed the wrong photo of a classmate attending a testy, essentially whites-only country music festival. It was a painful mistake. “We can’t pat ourselves on the back.”

The sixteen-year-old who recently got a driver’s license, juggles advanced-placement work plus soccer and the newspaper. She allows herself a minor meltdown now and then and sorely misses having time to read for pleasure.

If you’re one of those people who disagree with the cost, or the very idea of public education, you should have a cup of the house blend with a kid like Rachel Krumholz.

Rachel is your tax dollars at work.

It’s too early to tell but it’s possible that cutting through fake news and alternate facts will be Rachel’s way to provide a return on our investment.

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Patriotism, Protests and the Flag

POTUS at his
most ignorant.
When President Trump condemns peaceful protests during the National Anthem as disrespectful to our men and women in uniform, he is at his most ignorant (and most dangerous).

It’s not Old Glory or the Pledge of Allegiance or fireworks on the Fourth of July that members of the Armed Forces take an oath to defend.

They solemnly swear to defend the Constitution itself.

They are sworn to risk their lives so that all Americans — NFL players, owners, coaches and trainers; and members of the Armed Forces themselves — can petition for equal protection under the law.

Maybe this president can be forgiven for not appreciating the fundamental mission of our Armed Forces. Thanks to his deferments, he never got close enough to the military to hear its oath being administered.

U.S. Armed Forces Oath Of Enlistment:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) Read more…

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I Shot A Man in Reno

There’s a guy at our neighborhood coffee shop who writes a blog. He’s been at it for years.

He keeps a notebook where he details the genius and the idiocy of humans like you and me. The things we do fascinate him no end.

Blogging is like putting a message in a bottle and tossing it in the ocean. There’s not telling who will find it.

One audience the man keeps in mind is his grandchildren’s children. He imagines they’ll be given school assignments to write about relatives who lived back in simpler times like ours.

He imagines them desperately rummaging through the family cloud the night before a project is due (procrastination is an inherited trait) and lifting entire passages from his posts (plagiarism is too).

As a writer he worries whether particular ideas or catchphrases will make sense to future readers. What was Y2K? There once were 50 states? When in doubt he turns to the baristas on duty.

He asks Hollie what she associates with the phrase:

“…a man in Reno.”

Hollie draws a blank. Minutes later he adds a clue:

”…I SHOT a man in Reno.”

Horror flashes across Hollie’s face.

”On no!” she cries.

At which point the dirty-chi, the medium-drip, and the soy-cappuccino in the window turn and chime in with the precision of backup artists in Nashville:

”…JUST TO WATCH HIM DIE.”

Hollie laughs in that infectious way she does.

The blogger makes a note to embed audio into his post. He fantasizes that his great-great greats will score points by playing ‘The Folsom Prison Blues’ during their show-and-tells, some hundred or so years from now.

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Crystal Ball

The older crowd at
our neighborhood coffee shop…
uses Harold Schlegel’s crystal ball to look at the past. The younger afternoon crew is more interested in seeing the future.

The accuracy for the two modes are an amazing 97.052% and 98.308% respectively.

There are risks involved of course. No one is quite the same after even a brief encounter — $179.95/minute — with the past or the future. It seems our neural synapses aren’t so different from those of our Neolithic ancestors after all.

Harold will explain the dangers of his app before you ever touch his silicate sphere, and his legal team will insist that you sign a waiver. Don’t be deterred.

The one thing my colleague’s groundbreaking process fails to do, at least as of this writing, is to make sense the present and the colorless, odorless truths floating over our heads.

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Taking A Knee

When you think
of the Patriots
you think of
New England.

But there are patriots who play for other NFL franchises as well. Last Sunday in Cleveland is an example.

These are the athletes who choose to take a knee during the playing of the National Anthem, risking the careers they’ve worked to build. Putting your hand over your heart looks lame in comparison.

We kneel before the Almighty as a show of reverence. We kneel before kings when we are knighted. Our grandfathers knelt while proposing marriage to our grandmothers.

No one is harmed, nothing is damaged, no laws are violated. This is what the First Amendment looks like when it’s done right.

Some people believe it’s unpatriotic for players to speak out about problems in our criminal justice system. They choose not to see what video after video shows us.

Professional athletes are role models both on and off the field. They stand tall when they kneel silently, respectfully, and petition for the equal protection of the law.

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Moonwalk

They kept the bedroom ready in case of one of their three sons would need to return home.

They could stay as long or as briefly as they wanted, no questions asked.

The couple knew the boys would leave in due time just as they had when they married.

The last son to leave was the first to return. He had made beginner’s mistakes in a business startup, out-of-state banks were calling at all hours.

His mother replaced the metal, barracks-style beds with more comfortable ones. His father cleared a space in the basement where his son would freelance until an offer came along.

At that time an event was unfolding that would mesmerize the world.

We all stopped and watched as the Apollo XI Moon Mission launched from Cape Kennedy. We didn’t breathe until Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon four days later.

How do the events on the Sea of Tranquility connect with those in a modest living room 252,700 miles away?

The boy’s father hadn’t been well for years and decided not to stay up for the moonwalk. If ever a moment was meant to be shared, it was this one. What could it have been but cosmic fate that plopped the young man down next to his mother in front of the TV that evening?

Sharing that unfolding drama along with cigarettes and ice cream and his mother’s lady fingers, was the last memory he would have of her as the still vibrant woman who had raised him. They had a big night.

Other moonwalks followed but the long-married couple didn’t pay much attention. Another son had come home to claim the bedroom and brought children who visited on weekends and vacations.

Explorers like Aldrin, Conrad, Bean, Shepard and Mitchell couldn’t begin to compete with the gravitational pull those kids exerted on their grandparents.

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Tom and Frontier Justice

You be the judge about what the boys did when nobody was looking.

There were seven and a half guys in the group.

One of them had been diagnosed with a hole in his heart. He used it as an excuse never to climb the fence and retrieve the basketball. He counted as only half a guy.

They lived in a neighborhood that straddled several school districts. The boys were too far from their schools to hang out with classmates so they formed a group strictly out on convenience.

As a matter of survival, they worked tirelessly on the your-dick is-so-small style of humor they’d need in high school. They had heard that Cruncher and The Holocaust were coming their way and they were nervous.

It was in the spring when the thin, blond kid named Tom got strange. Suddenly and for no apparent reason, Tom couldn’t control his mouth.

He’d took to ridiculing one guy’s acne. He made slutty-divorced-mother-with-peroxide-hair jibes that drew blood. His cruelty could have been forgiven if he hadn’t developed a trait even worse.

Tom had become annoying.

He laughed too hard at his own jokes and he spit dumb-fuck insults out of the side of his mouth. You wouldn’t have liked it.

The guys gave Tom more than his share of second chances. None of them expected it and they hadn’t planned it, but one afternoon they took matters into their own hands.

They proceeded to indict Tom. They invoked a jury and held a trial. After finding him guilty they imposed the maximum sentence — they banished him from the face of the earth.

A movie about a lynching “The Oxbow Incident” often appeared on TV. Civics teachers across the country assigned it for discussion in class. The boys began to doubt whether their frontier justice had been just, if they should have entertained appeals.

A decade later one of the group ran into Tom at a singles’ bar — both were back in town for Thanksgiving. They shared several rounds of drinks without bringing up the past.

Tom had tried various lines of work in California and as much as he loved the ocean he was thinking about moving home to finish night school.

He was as thin and blond as always and, now in his twenties, he was as pleasant and sincere a man as you could ever hope to meet.

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Trump and Police Conduct

When Donald Trump urged
police officers not to protect the people they take into custody, he was just joking.

At least that’s what his press secretary said.

He was just funnin’ when he suggested police officers shouldn’t help suspects after they cuff their hands behind their backs. If prisoners slice their heads open while being loaded into police vans, he chuckled, well they probably deserve it.

Police forces around the country weren’t laughing. They immediately condemned Trump’s remarks. (The Boy Scouts of America was forced to apologize for his comments just a week earlier.)

The president’s speech didn’t do our men and women in blue any favors. His words feed the mistrust that puts them and the public at greater risk. A law enforcement community that honors its oath to serve and protect is one or our nation’s greatest strengths.

If articles of impeachment are one day drawn up against Donald Trump, his use of police brutality as a punch line should be one of them.

Pranksters Update

— The ‘poster boys’ took a break from summer vacation to hijack billboards across the country. Read more…

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The Peddler

The man hoped
his call would get lost within the bowels of the city’s communications hub.
That would give him an excuse to put off the chore he dreaded.

But that kind of luck wasn’t to be.

Minutes before the Community Development Department officially opened for business, Chris pick up her phone and asked how she could help. “That’ll be simple enough.” she assured the caller.

There weren’t many requests like his so they’d have to do things the old-fashioned way — using pens, paper, staplers, etc. Chris wasn’t apologetic about that, she liked working with her hands.

She told her constituent he would need proof of identity. His passport would do and if he had a driver’s license he should bring that too. They made an appointment for that same day.

She took one look at the tee shirt the man would be selling and disappeared into her boss’s office. “We’ve decided to give you a special unauthorized discount.” she whispered in a conspiratorial tone.

She laminated the certificate he would wear around his neck and punched holes for a string. She slid her card across the desk and said if the police gave him any trouble they should call her.

“Congratulations, Peddler #7!“ The city wishes you every success!”

The word ‘peddler’ caught the man off guard, he didn’t like the sound of it. His mother hadn’t carried him seven months and eleven days so he could be a common ‘peddler,’ All he wanted was to unload a few tees.

The next morning he schlepped his wares to a neighborhood street fair where he found it intensely, acutely, profoundly painful to approach strangers. He experienced an immediate respect for the age-old profession that has helped shape civilization.

A city can issue a license and a badge, Peddler #7 will tell you, and it can give you access to its streets. But what it can’t provide is the grit, the heart and the cleverness it takes to survive out there.

NOTE: By regulation a peddler is not a street vendor. Vendors can set up a stand to display their goods but the peddler needs to keep moving.

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