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Quips, queries, and querulous quibbles from the quirky mind of Don Kahle

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Reconstruction Reconstructed

December 3rd, 2020 by dk

What’s worse than the Black Lives Matter movement showing us racism that we’ve never reckoned with? It’s learning how we were getting it right and then gave up. I’ve been reading about the Reconstruction Era and its demise. It’s a sad, sad story. What it’s not — what history almost never is — is an old story. It’s occurring now.

In some significant and terrifying ways, we’re reliving the Reconstruction Era’s demise today. What happened in the mid-19th century took decades to unfold. We’re experiencing similar political, social, and economic tremors, but much more quickly.

Speaking of quickly, I have 440 words remaining in this space to sum up similarities that rolled out over decades, then and now. I can give you only the start, the end, and the middle. The rest you’ll have to find on your own.

The Reconstruction Era cannot be well understood without going back two decades to the implosion of the Whigs, unable to reconcile the social and economic dynamics of an increasingly urban nation.

Lincoln’s new Republican Party cobbled together a new coalition of voters. Then there was a war, an assassination, and an impeachment-filled Andrew Johnson administration.

The middle of the story features a media star becoming president, political incompetence leading to corruption and public dismay, and the bright prospects of a new technology that promised riches and comfort for all (until it didn’t.)

Lincoln’s plan for the South was to empower former slaves with individual autonomy — “40 acres and a mule.” Johnson failed to follow through on this promise. Chaos was always near.

Ulysses S. Grant’s 1868 presidential campaign promised to “Keep the Peace.” Name familiarity swept him into an office for which he was not well suited. Lacking administrative skills, scandals broke out regularly, often involving his own family members.

Grant needed to rebuild the South’s infrastructure that his troops had only recently destroyed to win the war. The railroads promised more efficiency and connectedness. In return, all they needed was public land and unfettered access — not unlike Internet moguls today.

Railroads promised efficiencies that would bring prosperity to all. The original idea of private sustenance was supplanted by public subsidies. But the promise of a rising tide didn’t lift the boats — it drowned the mule and flooded the proverbial 40 acres.

Ku Klux Klan started as a social club, wearing silly hats. It dabbled in politics, but succeeded only where leaders already preferred their policies. It resisted change best with vigilantism. The hats became hoods.

Then came the 1876 presidential election, and the end of the Reconstruction Era. Democrat Samuel J. Tilden gathered 184 electoral votes, one short of the required majority, thanks to one contested elector in Oregon.

The decision was thrown to Congress. A commission was formed and a deal was struck. Republican Rutherford B. Hayes became president. As part of the deal, Hayes pulled federal troops out of the South, effectively ending the Reconstruction Era.

Sharecropping was formalized. The Klan continued terrorizing. Jim Crow laws replicated the pre-Civil War status quo. The South had lost the war, but won everything back another way.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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Antisocial Media Accelerates Outrage

December 3rd, 2020 by dk

What is real and what is not? What is social and what is not? These questions have been stirring in me this week after driving upriver with a Blue River neighbor to check on things just before Thanksgiving.

The fireplaces of Blue River are now exposed for all to see. What had been the family’s private hearth — often at the center of their home — is now all you can see from a distance. Each one is different, customized for its owners’ warmth and comfort. But all of them are the same, standing tall as sentinels over a landscape that has otherwise been reduced to its lowest carbon denominator.

They might not remain forever. Those who rebuild may heat their homes differently. Many are probably not safe to put back into service. Some will be toppled by shifting soil or hurried cleanup. None of that has happened yet.

I posted to a social media group dedicated to the Blue River community an idea that my neighbor and I hatched during our trip. The chimneys and fireplaces of Blue River would be a fascinating theme for a fundraising calendar.

The response has been mixed. Around 100 people thought it was a good idea and they would probably buy one. Around 100 other people were adamantly opposed and wondered whether my mother had dropped me on my head as an infant. Circles formed to question my judgment and character, and whether I could be removed from the group for promoting “disaster porn.”

I understand the detractors’ concern. I had neglected to add that each property owner would have to grant permission first. Voyeurism would be an insult added to an injury. People continue to grieve and each of us does this in our own way. It wasn’t interpreted as hopeful enough to represent a community in diaspora.

It wasn’t my best idea ever. Throw it on the heap with solar-powered windshield wipers and inflatable dartboards. I’m holding firm to believe that most good ideas are simply bad ones that got improved. Maybe something good will come of it eventually.

What I find remarkable and worrying is how quickly and naturally those who opposed the idea bonded with one another and accelerated their grievances. Those who were outraged fed off each other, speculating about my motives or my upbringing or my mother’s sure-handedness.

I roused a rabble, but oddly, only on one side. Each positive response was essentially one-and-done. Echoing something observed by columnist David Brooks this week, online outrage builds camaraderie with astonishing efficiency.

Negative thoughts and feelings seemed to accelerate much more quickly, spreading (if I might say) like wildfire. Is that the site’s algorithm at work, or is it just how we humans are wired? Worse still, does the algorithm mimic the brain’s wiring, making each participant’s response more intractable? Addressing that problem will require a whole lot more than a fundraising calendar.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at Lane Library League’s fundraiser for rebuilding the Blue River library will remain open for only another week or so. If you’d like to contribute, visit:

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How to Respond to Thanksgiving

November 27th, 2020 by dk

What comes after thanksgiving? If I capitalize the “t,” the answers come easily: shopping, football, leftovers, crowded airports. But what follows the giving of thanks? What comes next in that everyday verbal handshake?

“You’re welcome” is falling out of favor. It’s been replaced, especially by young people, with “No problem.” When I hear that response, I can’t help but wonder what might be their response to an apology. Would it be the same?

If “I’m sorry” prompts the same response as “Thank you,” then another question follows. Are we having a real conversation, or would any three syllables suffice to maintain the expected rhythm of exchange? “Go Duckies!” would at least acknowledge a regional connection between sender and receiver.

My friend Jack Joyce, the late founder of Rogue Ales, tampered with a conversational exchange. He replaced “goodbye” in every phone conversation with “sell beer.” It served the same rhythmic function. He loved replacing convention with intention. We all loved him for it.

“No problem” carries less intent. At least we should hope so. What will become of a world where every expression of gratitude is met with a mild rebuke? We’d train ourselves to do it less, or not at all. Would you prefer a world where no one ever thanked you for anything? I wouldn’t — even if that was a world with no problems.

“You’re welcome” is rooted in northern European etymologies. Depending on who you trust, its roots are at least Germanic, but possibly also Scandinavian. The response conveyed an invitation to “come” — almost certainly “inside.” “Don’t thank me out there in the cold. Come inside where it’s warm.”

“No problem” and its literal variant, “It’s nothing,” come from a tradition rooted in warmer climates. “De nada” or “no mas” makes sense from a hammock where there are more mangoes hanging nearby than either of you can eat. “I may have helped you with that, but it’s not like either of us would have gone hungry if I hadn’t.”

Maybe this explains why “No problem” is multiplying before us. We’ve created a world where scarcity is rare or rarely acknowledged. Abundance is so much more desirable, even if you don’t like mangoes.

Could we compromise and revive “You’re welcome” for the colder, darker months? I don’t want to make a problem for those who insist there are no problems, but being invited inside is still appreciated, as it was by the Norse a millennium ago.

If global warming ever progresses to the point where it’s never cold outside, we’ll have larger problems than anything “No problem” can address. We should get this right while there’s still time.

I propose we take Black Friday back from the retailers and designate the day after Thanksgiving as “You’re Welcome Day.” Think of it as a cultural leftover that just needs to be warmed up to extend the week’s festivities. Or how about this? “You’re welcome” is a pleasure you can have with your mouth that fills your heart, not your stomach.

If you happen to feel the urge to thank me for pointing this out, you’re welcome.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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Tragedy Enhances Thanksgiving

November 26th, 2020 by dk

It’s been almost 12 weeks since the Holiday Farm wildfire took out 431 homes, displacing more than a thousand residents. Only a few of those know when or how they will be able to return, but only one — David Scott Perry — will certainly not be coming back. The 59-year-old plumber and handyman was the fire’s only fatality.

For literally everyone else, this season brings with it a special flavor of thanksgiving. Sure, there’s still plenty of sadness all around, but all that sits atop a quiet gratitude that we’re here to be complaining about how things aren’t quite what they were or might have been. 

In a strange way, the less fortunate among us have a lesson for those who have suffered less. I’ve heard dozens of stories. Each verse is different, but the chorus is always the same.

“If my dog hadn’t woken me to go outside to pee, I never would have seen those flames coming over the ridge toward us. His small bladder saved both our lives.”

“If my neighbor had taken another few weeks to cut the tall grass on his lot across from mine, those embers falling in his yard might have kept us from reaching the road.”

“We stayed in town that night because it was too hot and there’s no air conditioning. We might have gone anyway, but didn’t feel like driving after dark.”

“If one more tree had fallen across Rt. 126 just a few minutes earlier, we might have died on that road before anyone could have reached us.”

“My daughters had a party that kept us all awake later than normal. If we had been asleep under our covers, we might have ignored the sirens.”

“The power went out, which was no big deal except I couldn’t recharge my phone. I went outside when a large branch fell on the roof. That’s when I saw the orange glow and I knew something was wrong.”

“I don’t have a car, but my neighbor was still here. He was sleeping through the whole thing. It took a shovel banging on his door to wake him up, but we got out together.”

“My neighbor made more racket than I’ve ever heard from her. If she hadn’t banged on my door with a shovel, we might not have made it out in time.”

Each story focuses on a small detail that had huge benefits. It prevented a disaster from becoming a fatality. Most involve another person. But here’s the lesson: it’s no different for any of us.

If your partner hadn’t swept those wet leaves, you might have slipped into traffic at just the wrong moment. If you hadn’t gotten the pilot light repaired, your stove might have poisoned your family. If the rattle hadn’t bothered you so much, that rusting axle might have snapped on the freeway during rush hour.

Each day is marked by a well-aimed meteor not sending our planet into nuclear meltdown. Remember David Perry and all those who have died from 2020’s numerous calamities. Then be thankful you are not among them.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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Scenario Straddling: Worst Case

November 22nd, 2020 by dk

To get into the winter holiday spirit, let’s play a game. It requires nothing but imagination. It’s called “Scenario Straddling.” Imagine a best-case scenario and a worst-case scenario. What happens will almost certainly fall somewhere between.

I will fill this space twice — once half full, once half empty. I will leave it to the editors to choose which appears in print, requesting that they post the other online. Here’s a very quick summary of my scenarios for the presidential race outcome.

BEST: Biden’s habits and gifts of magnanimity makes him the most effective legislating president since LBJ. WORST: Trump creates the American carnage he envisioned and frightened Americans give him four more years to fix it.

WORST: Donald Trump’s 2017 “American Carnage” inauguration speech turned out to have been more a promise than a warning. Experts believed that an exploding pandemic would kill his political fortunes, In the end, it’s what saved him, along with a little delayed assistance from the Russians.

Lawsuits over vote-counting were never serious legal challenges. Their only goal was to plant a seed of doubt in enough Americans to create an opening for what came next. The lesson learned in 2000 was repeated. Knowing the outcome of the vote was the obstacle. Making the results seem unknowable was the goal.

Faithless electors were prepared, requiring only that an insufficient number of state-certified vote tallies reach Congress by December 8’s required “safe harbor” deadline. Along with doubt and fear, a few states would suffice. Wisconsin, Arizona, and Georgia, each controlled by Republican state legislatures, would be enough.

Americans didn’t pay much attention to a few government bureaucrats missing a mandated deadline. What else is new? Besides, most people were busy defending themselves against COVID-19 and the havoc it wreaked. The chaos of Corona was more feature than bug for this not-yet-outgoing administration.

The fuse was long, but striking the match was quick. President Trump bombed Iran, showing world leaders that sabers are not just for rattling. Iran promised retaliation. Then it came.

America’s power grid came down and Internet connectivity was severely damaged. Everyone blamed Iran for this, but we learned much later that the Russians were responsible. We should have worried when Russians didn’t seriously meddle with this election. We should have noticed the dog that didn’t bark.

So-called “sanctuary cities” were hit particularly hard, but also hospitals and banks. Americans reacted swiftly and strongly to the pain of confusion. People panicked. They assumed the worst.

The worst didn’t need much assuming. Economic assistance programs from the spring came to a screeching halt on Dec. 31 — unemployment benefits, payroll assistance, eviction forbearance, student loan suspension. People took to the streets, but only landlords boarded their windows because tenants had left or were leaving.

Trump strode back onto the national stage. His promise from 2017 echoed: “I alone can fix it.” Obama’s “hope and change” mantra had finally been replaced with fear and dread. America needed a strongman. Trump accepted his calling. Democrats stepped aside, for the good of the nation.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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Scenario Straddling: Best Case

November 22nd, 2020 by dk

To get into the winter holiday spirit, let’s play a game. It requires nothing but imagination. It’s called “Scenario Straddling.” Imagine a best-case scenario and a worst-case scenario. What happens will almost certainly fall somewhere between.

I will fill this space twice — once half full, once half empty. I will leave it to the editors to choose which appears in print, requesting that they post the other online. Here’s a very quick summary of my scenarios for the presidential race outcome.

BEST: Biden’s habits and gifts of magnanimity makes him the most effective legislating president since LBJ. WORST: Trump creates the American carnage he envisioned and frightened Americans give him four more years to fix it.

BEST: Even before Joseph Biden became our 46th president, it became clear that the Georgia Senate runoffs wouldn’t matter as much as everyone thought. Democrats focused on unseating Sen. Kelly Loeffler and won, shepherded by incoming Secretary of State Stacey Abrams. Sen. David Purdue survived to live another day, without much reason to look forward to it.

Sen. Mitch McConnell retained his majority, but found he couldn’t do much with it. Biden has too many Republican friends in the Senate after 36 years, and VP Kamala Harris knows those he doesn’t. McConnell plays whack-a-mole defense, as Biden peels off one or two Senators to co-sponsor each piece of valuable legislation.

Magnanimity was always how things got done in Washington. We thought the back-slapping had given way to back-stabbing. What we quickly learned is that we haven’t had a truly magnanimous president since George H.W. Bush. Biden offers a night in the Lincoln bedroom, not for Clinton-style financial favors, but for political favors, like LBJ.

Biden’s long history of working with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi makes things a bit easier, but her majority is thin and her caucus is fractured. Too many Democrats are already worried about reelection, but Biden knows the game. He visits members of Congress in their offices on Independence Avenue — taking selfies, raising funds and profiles.

Leaving nothing to chance, Biden carved himself a backchannel past Pelosi and directly to the House’s Black Caucus. Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond came into the White House as a senior adviser focused on public engagement. “You dance with them that brung ya,” and Biden’s learned some new steps from his many non-white staffers.

Even the conservative justices on the Supreme Court have been impressed. Biden reaches across the aisle even when there’s no visible aisle. Dana Remus became White House counsel. She clerked for conservative stalwart Justice Samuel Alito in 2008. She never burned that bridge. Now her boss in the Oval Office can now walk across it.

Dignity and affability are not opposed when you’re the leader of the free world. Biden admits his missteps with grace and alacrity.

America’s standing is rising again, but this time without a shred of narcissism — borne of youth or family trauma — at the top. Americans haven’t had a deeply self-assured leader since Reagan. Many are surprised how much they’ve missed it.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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DIY Reparations Plan: Pay It Sideways

November 12th, 2020 by dk

Comedian Dave Chappelle has come up with a plan for reparations that doesn’t require anything from the government. It fits nicely with Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis’s vision for Eugene to become a City of Kindness.

Chappelle calls his plan “the kindness conspiracy — random acts of kindness for Black people.” Each of us can resolve to give Black people something better than they deserve. Not despite — but precisely because — they don’t deserve it.

Granted, targeting your kindness makes those acts slightly less random, but don’t get hung up on the details. You don’t need to know their family history or whether their ancestors were enslaved. Systemic racism is happening now. If their skin is darker than yours, chances are they’ve had fewer advantages.

We can do more than call this out. We can correct it.

“Randomness” matters less than “undeserving.” Chappelle: “That’s a very important part of it — they can’t deserve it. The same way all them years, terrible things happened to Black people, just because they’re Black (pause) and they didn’t deserve it.”

For years we’ve been having a national debate about reparations. It took a stand-up comedian to show that we don’t need government to right this wrong. We can take matters into our own hands. We can infuse our system with grace. We can model abundance and generosity to one another …

I’m interrupting that sentence to insert a short story about my first Oregon Country Fair visit. I was in line for Springfield Creamery ice cream. The guy ahead of me ordered an ice cream, but he really wanted strawberries on top. He was 35 cents short, so he just asked if anyone had 35 cents, so he could have strawberries. Yes. That’s what abundance and generosity look like.

… but also justice. Any government reparations program will necessarily excuse those of us who have had extra privileges from correcting things with our own hands. The world is not fair, but that doesn’t prevent us from correcting it.

This week we celebrated Veterans Day. Over the past decades have we taught ourselves to say, “Thank you for your service” to veterans we meet. It gave us something to say — an active acknowledgement — when they boarded the plane first or received a special store discount.

You’ve heard of “pay it back” and “pay it forward.” DIY reparations is “pay it sideways,” extending an advantage to those who have received fewer. It’s anti-racism in action.

Chappelle completed his explanation on SNL this way. “If you’re driving through the ‘hood one day and you see a Black dude, standin’ on the corner, sellin’ crack and destroying his community (pause), buy him an ice cream. He’ll be suspicious, but he’ll take it.” Chappelle then mimed a smile-scowl, warily licking the microphone-cum-ice cream cone.

If this kindness conspiracy grows into a movement, we’ll need to be given something to say. Eugene artisan Joe Valasek suggests: “Got your back.” The phrase is quick and it mirrors the traditional African flag colors: green, yellow, black.

We can make the world more generous and just, without a government program.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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How You Can Sway Georgia’s Senate Runoffs

November 12th, 2020 by dk

It took more than a week to have confirmed what looked likely soon after the election. Republicans will maintain control of the U.S. Senate, unless Democrats can somehow win two runoff elections in Georgia on Jan. 5, 2021.

Democrats had their eye on unseating David Perdue during this cycle. When Johnny Isakson stepped down a year ago, Georgia governor Brian Kemp appointed Kelly Loeffler to fill his seat on an interim basis, setting up a Georgia twofer. Georgia law requires a runoff when no candidate wins the majority of votes in November. Perdue faces Jon Ossoff again and Loeffler will be challenged by Rev. Raphael Warnock.

How Washington operates for the next two years has everything to do with the outcome of those two races. If Democrats are unable to capture both, Joe Biden will be the first Democrat to enter the White House without his party fully controlling Congress since Grover Cleveland in 1885.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell famously told a think tank audience in 2010 that his first goal as leader was to make Barack Obama a one-term president. He had only two years to try to accomplish that. If either Perdue or Loeffler successfully defends their Senate seat in January, McConnell may have four years to obstruct Biden’s agenda.

Emboldened by Republicans’ unexpectedly strong showings last week, some wonder whether McConnell will allow any federal judges to be confirmed for the next two years. Refusing to hold hearings on Merrick Garland and then rushing Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court bench did not seem to bother McConnell’s supporters at all.

Over a thousand executive branch appointments require the Senate’s consent. McConnell and a Republican majority could leave every one of those seats vacant, forcing Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to take desperate measures. The uglier it gets, the better Republicans’ prospects may be in 2022 and 2024.

What can you do to prevent this outcome? Hope is not a plan. If Michael Bloomberg has taught us anything, it’s that sending money won’t work. Phone banking can now be done from anywhere, but if you don’t have a southern twang, Georgia residents won’t want to hear from you.

Do you really, really want to sway these runoff elections? Move. Move to Georgia.

Anyone with a permanent Georgia address and a Georgia drivers license by Dec. 7 can register to vote in the January election. Early voting begins Dec. 14. Absentee ballots can be requested next week, in case you’ve already made holiday plans.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting you pretend to move to Georgia, just so you can vote. That would be fraud and it would be illegal. That said, there’s nothing to prevent you from changing your mind later and moving back. When Donald Trump moved his official residence to Florida, he didn’t have to sell his New York penthouse. You can always come back if you don’t like it there.

If you’re retired, or unemployed, or teleworking, consider whether the Peach State is calling you. I’ve heard Savannah is lovely in winter.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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An Exhaustive/Exhausting List of 2020 Fripperies

November 7th, 2020 by dk

Fifth Friday footnotes, follow-ups and far-flung fripperies:

  • An occasional “slipper day” can be nice. “Slipper months” — not so much.
  • My friend made this observation: “Some states are just too dense to avoid COVID-19, especially the sparsely populated ones.”
  • If President Trump offered to sell off the postal service, who would outbid Amazon’s Jeff Bezos?
  • You know anxiety is in the air when you worry that your croutons may be getting stale.
  • People have stopped using their voices. I think I understand why. When the TV’s on, why interrupt people who are more articulate and handsome?
  • Overeating is more fun than eating.
  • A friend asked me to go to a protest in his place. I was a stand-in at a sit-in.
  • We overvalue excellence and efficiency. We undervalue inclusion and authenticity.
  • Why hasn’t anyone designed earbuds that double as earrings?
  • Reading fiction builds empathy.
  • Courage first requires admitting how long things take.
  • If five guys walk into a Five Guys, do they get a secret discount on their burgers? They should.
  • Make a recipe immediately after it intrigues you, or you probably never will.
  • How often is conformity mistaken for excellence?
  • Thanks, Maureen Dowd, for this one: “isolationship.”
  • During difficult times, the people will always raise their vices.
  • Let bygones be bygones, but not while they’re still bygoing.
  • Self-sufficiency was never more than half true.
  • You go to the kitchen not with the pasta you want. You go with the pasta you have.
  • Are you getting tired of looking at bookcases behind talking heads, showing us how smart they are?
  • Watching a movie, set in San Francisco, I wondered why no tech billionaires except Marc Benioff have built prominent skyscrapers. Every wide shot of the city’s skyline reminded me of his company, Salesforce.
  • The greater good is both.
  • Would things be better or worse if the invading virus had infected every computer chip instead, shutting down all machine communications?
  • Our systems force shock or stasis. All defenses align against incremental change.
  • Introverts were social distancing before social distancing was cool.
  • I wish I could reprogram my smoke alarm, replacing its “Fire!” alert with “Mmm. Fried food! Maybe a little overdone … but still, yum!”
  • We’ve been testing fate for years, so why are we surprised when there’s suddenly a shortage of testing kits?
  • America to Coronavirus: “Take my life and liberty, but not my pursuit of happiness.”
  • With infections and unemployment skyrocketing, government should just ban skyrockets. Problem solved. You’re welcome.
  • Do people fret anymore? (Maybe that’s the problem.)
  • I don’t remember the question, but the answer is thicker socks.
  • Americans don’t question authority as much as they think they do. Those annoying “Do Not Remove” tags on pillows and upholstery? That warning was for retailers, not for you.
  • Popcorn is not a crummy snack. No crumbs.
  • Two activities we prefer to describe in the passive voice: haircuts and marriages. Make of this what you will.
  • Once chocolate cake was invented, how did any other desserts survive?
  • When it’s walls versus barbarians, history doesn’t favor walls.
  • How much middle of a toothpick is absolutely necessary?
  • I miss precedented times, when we were in charted territory.
  • Are you a literalist or a lateralist? Do you prefer things to be straight ahead or does sideways motion interest you more?
  • Who has the last remaining kitchen appliance colored either avocado, harvest gold or burnt umber?
  • Multi-tasking is overrated. It keeps most from actually tasking.
  • I marvel at the elegant engineering of a weed-whacker. The name is clumsier than the machine.
  • For long-time residents, the Black Lives Matter protests started off confusing. When we protested against clearcuts, BLM stood for the bad guys — Bureau of Land Management.
  • What are the French trying to tell us? Their word for Warning is “Avertissement.”
  • I hate it when I’m a day late to an avocado.
  • I haven’t set my phone’s ringer on vibrate for seven months. So there’s that.
  • “All Lives Matter” is the goal. “Black Lives Matter” is the next step toward that goal.
  • Let bygones be bygones, but not while they’re still bygoing.
  • The insufferable seem to know everything except that they are.
  • Who teaches tech support to add “for me” to every directive? And to begin some instructions with “Let’s go ahead and ….” ?
  • Arranged marriages are back! In place of parents and tribal elders, we now entrust our familial future to dating site algorithms.
  • How many disposable masks have you not disposed?
  • Have the designers and practitioners of hospice care ever received a Nobel Prize? If not, why not?
  • If you insist on things being black or white, you won’t have much use for gray matter.
  • Is there anything that doesn’t sound better to many people when the prefix “eco-” is added?
  • I feel poor only when I have no leftovers in the fridge.
  • What is Division Street dividing?
  • When we separated algebra from geometry, we divided truth and beauty. Bad move. Elegant solutions must seek both.
  • Now is the time to articulate a better future — before it’s too late.
  • I think the Coronavirus will end up having less impact on us than our stubborn belief that it will have none.
  • Twelve minutes, in and out of Costco, parking included, on the weekend. Where’s my medal?
  • Being a disaster victim during a time of universal tumult is like having your birthday on Dec. 24. Hardly anyone seems to notice.
  • With several months of practice, we’re all learning to recognize the distinctive squints that accompany smiles hidden behind masks.
  • Who knew how much we all relied so much on lip-reading?
  • I’m not the only one wondering how wearing face masks will change the shape of our ears.
  • Rebuilding Blue River: If the people don’t come back, the people won’t come back.
  • Grocery Outlet is the poor man’s Trader Joe’s. Can I get a witness?
  • I don’t always know when I’m right. But I usually know when I’m done.
  • What is the plural of ottoman?
  • I just now got the word play behind Head & Shoulders shampoo.
  • Gone are the days of reckless abandon. Welcome to the days of abandoned wrecks.
  • Why does curry pizza not exist?
  • What happens when the desperate outnumber the poor?
  • Something tells me that work-from-home orders and legalized marijuana are a bad mix.
  • We have “squish” and “quash,” so do we really need “squash”?
  • I’m sorry, but  I don’t have any pans that need handling.
  • I’m worried that Clarence Thomas might announce his retirement after Election Day, leaving McConnell time before inauguration to replace him on the Supreme Court with a 12-year-old conservative.
  • Intentions inhabit your future self.
  • On the topic of pets, do you prefer catalysts or dogma — change or lack?
  • Have you missed fripperies? They’ve missed you.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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Rebuilding Blue River Begins With You

November 6th, 2020 by dk

Everybody who loves Blue River has their own moment when they realized it. For some, it was buying night crawlers and Cheetos in the same store. Or Christmas lights anonymously strung across the downtown bridge. Or the public basketball hoop, complete with a basketball, waiting for a user. Or the tavern that kept the misspelling on its branded T-shirts because the owner thought it was funny.

Neighbors swap these stories — so many stories! They keep its quirky culture alive and constantly growing. My moment was walking into the Frances O’Brien Memorial Library on a Saturday afternoon and meeting Sybil Fillman. At 94 years old, she was still living on her own and volunteering every weekend at the library.

She and others told me stories how the library came to be. For most of its history, the library was open 24 hours. The door was never locked, because what would be the point? To keep people from taking books? That was the point.

Rebuilding the McKenzie River Valley can and will occur in myriad ways, but rebuilding that library is where I would begin. I’m happy to report those efforts are already underway.

The building itself and all its contents were incinerated two months ago. Its leaders have already determined that its replacement will be relocated. A new building will require a larger lot for current and future needs. The books will be replaced, of course, in due time. Support from across the state has been encouraging.

Lane Library League jumped to the rescue immediately, setting up and promoting an online fundraiser. (See link below.) Library supporters have already given $2,410 to begin the rebuilding campaign, including $1,000 from the Lane Library League directly. Their board of directors, led by president and local author Bill Sullivan, didn’t hesitate.

Friends of the Eugene Public Library has tentatively offered to restock the library’s shelves, as soon as there are shelves to be restocked. In many ways, Friends appears grateful for the opportunity to help. COVID-19 has prevented its annual book sale, but book donations haven’t slowed. No friend of libraries wants to see books stored instead of read.

It doesn’t end there. Willa Bauman, Anya Dobrowolski, Eugene Toolbox Project, and others have expressed interest in adding tools to what residents can borrow from their Blue River library. Rebuilding Blue River will be a hands-on affair for many do-it-yourselfers. Access to tools will be as important as access to books.

Matt Sayre and other volunteers from Oregon Internet Response have already begun work to bring more robust Internet access to the area. The future library may become a community hub for those who need to stay connected — with their neighbors, but also with the outside world.

The Lane County Board of Commissioners is busy looking for ways to streamline the rebuilding process across the devastated region. The effort has to start somewhere. Libraries are many things to many people, but they are most often a starting point.

To donate to the Blue River Library rebuilding campaign, go to


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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