dkSez : : : : : : Don Kahle's blog

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

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Pacifica: If At First You Don’t Secede….

December 17th, 2018 by dk

California this summer passed the United Kingdom to become the 5th largest economy in the world. Since the Great Recession, California has added 2 million jobs and increased its economic output $700 billion. It’s time to acknowledge our southern neighbor’s prowess in new ways.

Election returns show what’s been called “the big sort” is accelerating. Blue states are becoming increasingly blue. Red states are getting redder. Democrats attained super-majorities in state legislatures in Oregon, California, and Washington.

On the other end of the country, New England is sending an entirely blue delegation to Congress, except for one embattled, centrist Senator. Many believe Sen. Susan Collins will retire or be defeated in 2020. A clean sweep may be coming soon from that corner of the country.

Returning to this coast, our three governors and their sympathetic legislators should begin crafting state-to-state treaties. It’s time to bind together into a pacific swath of political unity. The New England states have always shared a cohesive identity. Western states have preferred their independence to a single regional image.

We’ve coordinated efforts before, but on a case-by-case basis. The time has come to get ahead of this process and plan for collective action.

We’ve coordinated our efforts on automobile emission standards, net neutrality policies, and the Paris Accord’s climate response. We can do much more — if we agree in advance that we’ll do more. If our three states shared a single identity — call it Pacifica — we might not form the 4th largest economy in the world, but we would have substantial clout.

There are four major computer operating systems in the world today. All four of them come from Pacifica. Apple and Google are in California. Microsoft is in Washington. And the father of Linux recently moved to Portland. What sort of leverage could Pacifica exert for itself by controlling or inspiring how everyone’s computers think and connect?

Once the band is on the wagon, others will want to join us. Hawaii is another Democratic stronghold. British Columbia might be drawn closer to us than to the rest of Canada. Baja California could be next. Alaska might eventually fear missing out. As a political bloc, the western coast of North America could attain a unity that each nation involved currently lacks.

And I know where we can begin. California voters this month ratified Proposition 7, which frees up its state legislature to reconsider Daylight Saving Time. Some state legislators want to skip DST altogether. Others prefer that the state stay on DST year round.

The consensus seems to be that moving clocks twice a year is silly and no longer necessary. It doesn’t save energy and it doesn’t save lives. It just confuses people and cows and everything else around us. We’ve outgrown any need for biannual time shifting.

Oregon and Washington should pledge to follow California, wherever it leads. We should move together as Pacifica. If the federal government balks at giving our states permission to make the time change, we can remind them that everyone’s personal computer clocks are controlled by us. Problem solved, and Pacifica is begun.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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Prepare for Tourism to be Disrupted

December 17th, 2018 by dk

Let me tell you about one of the next industries that will be violently disrupted by the digital age: tourism. Visitors will be offered directions and suggestions based on their browsing and buying habits. People will love it, and it will be horrible.

Nobody enjoys feeling lost, especially with nobody familiar nearby to help them. Rather than ask strangers for directions, we’ll pull an omniscient app from our pocket that has been collecting our preferences for years.

It will be less like traveling to an unknown place and more like being chaperoned by an attentive sibling who knows everything about us, and also everything about our surroundings. Through our earbuds, every step will be customized for us:

Based on your search history, there’s an art museum nearby that you’ll enjoy. On Sept. 2, 2016, you shared an inspirational image on Instagram. The original painting hangs on the 3rd floor in the east corridor. I can take you there.

After that, I found a little shop that sells leather bags similar to the one you put on your Amazon wish list last August. It’s a 12-minute walk from the art gallery, or four minutes by car, considering the traffic today. Should I call an Uber for you?

We should leave the shopping district by 7, because the sun sets today at 6:53 and property crime in that part of the city increases 22 percent after dark. Besides, there’s a little club near your hotel that has a concert tonight by a singer who has recorded three different songs that you’ve saved on Spotify. You’ll like her.

Your Fitbit tells me you’re usually in bed by 10:30 and this club doesn’t really get hopping, based on Yelp reviews, until about 11. You might prefer a quiet evening. I searched Open Table for a restaurant near your AirBNB rental. I see it serves one of your favorite dishes, at a price you’ll like, based on your ApplePay purchase history.

It’s not too late to disrupt this disruption. We travel to places we don’t know to discover things we don’t know. Our befuddlement may feel uncomfortable, but it is shared with others who are doing the same thing. We experience a commonality with them. We rely on — and are reminded of — the kindness of strangers.

Private digital guides could undo all that. Before this innovation happens, let’s flip the script. We can bring tourism back to its etymological and cultural roots.

The Grand Tour was originally a social device used to broaden a person’s perspectives and experiences. The first “tourists” filled a “cabinet of curiosities” with mementos from their travels — representing not what they went seeking, but what they found when they got there.

Rather than giving us all the comforts of home, an attentive digital assistant could silently observe which discoveries especially delight us when we are away. Back home, it could then watch for opportunities to replicate and remind us of those new experiences.

Traveling should help us see new things in our most familiar places, not the other way around.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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Capitol Christmas Tree Viewing

December 17th, 2018 by dk

You probably missed your chance to see this year’s U.S. Capitol Christmas tree. If you happened to be shopping at the Gateway Mall last Saturday afternoon, it was parked outside Cabela’s Sporting Goods.

It must have been quite a sight. The 80-foot noble fir could be viewed through large plastic windows on the tractor trailer, before beginning its trek to Washington, D.C. The tree will make a couple dozen stops, giving curiosity-seekers the opportunity to see a tree that weighs roughly four tons. The tree is accompanied by a banner that will be collecting signatures along the way.

The tree will light up the Capitol lawn for about a month, beginning Dec. 5. Its ornaments will have an Oregon Trail theme, marking the trail’s 175th anniversary and also the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System Act. (If you never knew there was an Act to our nation’s trails, much less a System, join the club. That tidbit was news to me.)

Most of the country needs an excuse to celebrate a tree, and these anniversaries provide it. Oregonians are perfectly happy celebrating the tree itself. What else do you know that grows 80 feet tall and amasses 8,300 pounds in 35 years? Just because it happens all the time and all around us doesn’t make it any less awesome.

Where but in Oregon would residents prepare for a major track tournament by planting giant sequoia saplings? They won’t look like much when the world’s track stars arrive in three years, but that’s OK. Our perspective on such things differs from most of our fellow citizens.

If you’re itching to see a noble fir through plastic windows, start driving east. The ceremonial tree is due in Soda Springs, Idaho later today. You could make that trip in 12 hours, if you really wanted to. By this time next week, our tree should be arriving in Ohio, after stops in Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri.

Or you could pull on your hiking boots and head to the Willamette National Forest. Tilt your head 90 degrees and that is what parade viewers in Scottsbluff, Neb. will be seeing this Sunday. (You’ll have to supply your own plastic window.)

Root around the forest outside Sweet Home and you might come across this year’s U.S. Capitol Christmas tree stump. You’ll certainly encounter thousands of that tree’s siblings — each as healthy as the chosen one, and many too tall to fit on a tractor trailer.

Pay a $5 permit fee, and you can cut down whichever tree becomes your favorite and take it on its own ceremonial tour, ending in your living room. Even better, take along a fourth-grader. They can get the same permit for free this year, as part of the U.S. Forest Service’s Every Kid in a Park initiative.

Just keep in mind that the signature-gathering banner and the plastic windows are not part of the tree’s original design, which remains on display nearby for all Oregonians.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at Details about Every Kid in a Park are available at

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Rebooting STAR Voting

December 17th, 2018 by dk

Lane County voters narrowly declined to endorse Measure 20-290 on Tuesday. It would have ended our traditional “Ebert-Siskel” system — thumbs-up for one candidate — and replace it with a “Rotten Tomatoes” system, where each voter/reviewer assigns up to five stars for each candidate.

If co-petitioners Mark Frohnmayer and Alan Zundel were disappointed in their measure’s defeat, they were careful not to show it. “We were really encouraged that [it] got almost half the votes,” Zundel said. “That was really amazing to us.”

Frohnmayer referred to the defeat as “a phenomenal foundation for a truly groundbreaking reform.” Those are not the words of two guys who are giving up on their dream of changing how voters cast ballots. Looking back, they may have made three miscalculations in making their case to voters.

First, they believed the economics of STAR voting would appeal to voters. Having a single election with its automatic runoff feature instead of two elections would reduced government expenses, but voters care less about money once it’s left their pockets. Government efficiency was in this case not tangible enough to animate voters.

Second, related to the first, backers wanted to introduce the system at a large enough scale that the efficiency savings would be substantial. They focused their initial efforts on two of Oregon’s largest counties: Multnomah and Lane. If voters in Eugene and Portland liked STAR voting, a statewide initiative would be an obvious next step.

Third, they allowed the debate to become focused on the mechanics of the new system, rather than on the tangible improvements that voters, candidates, and even non-voting citizens could see as result of the reform. STAR voting is harder to explain than it is to use. Some things are better done than said.

Frohnmayer and Zundel will learn, because they are determined. I have no doubt they’ve already begun devising their next tack. They shouldn’t be afraid to go small. Cottage Grove has always had a wild streak in their civic life that goes unnoticed by outsiders, until they see something different underway there. Oakridge has made headlines recently that should attract keen interest in electoral reforms.

The Oregon Country Fair values decision-making that is inclusive and transparent. They might want to give STAR voting a whirl. Eugene’s neighborhood associations could also pilot the practice.

As groups or small cities experiment with STAR voting, misunderstanding will emerge. That feedback must be valued. They will form the necessary foundation for training and promotion materials that some found lacking in Measure 20-290’s campaign.

Any populist reform can succeed only if its deep structure appeals to those with a shallow understanding. People like what seems simple, even if it’s not. The engineering behind STAR voting is fascinating, but knowledgeable mechanics don’t always make the best salespeople.

Frohnmayer also runs a car company. His engineers understand that inside a bell housing, a fluid coupling acts as a torque converter to planetary gearsets. But no amount of technical knowledge about the inner workings of an automatic transmission will make the sale. That comes after people take it for a spin.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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Peter DeFazio’s Gavel

December 17th, 2018 by dk

U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio could have just about any Congressional office he prefers, but he’s happy with his corner of the Rayburn Office Building. It’s on the second floor, which affords a bit of privacy, and the balcony is large enough to offer group photos with the Capitol dome as a backdrop.

Many Congressional perks are doled out according to seniority and preferred offices are not least among them. DeFazio has been posing with constituents on that plum corner balcony for more than a decade. No one has ever represented Oregon in the House of Representatives for longer.

DeFazio arrived in Washington to represent Oregon’s 4th District in 1987. He will begin his 17th term in January, after soundly defeating Art Robinson for the fifth time in a row. Robinson’s biennial campaigns have been financed largely by New York hedge fund executive Robert Mercer.

The populist Congressman got on Mercer’s bad side when DeFazio proposed a minuscule financial transaction tax that would dampen stock speculation and reduce its profitability. Mercer originally underwrote Robinson to teach DeFazio a lesson. It didn’t work. Lately, it seems Mercer and Robinson are running their opposition campaigns mostly out of habit.

DeFazio and his 1987 classmates now share the eighth spot on the House seniority list. Only three Democrats and four Republicans will have served longer. At 71, he doesn’t intend to stay in the job forever. When the 116th United States Congress convenes in January, DeFazio will be given something he’s never had in Washington: a gavel.

DeFazio will chair the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, controlling budget and procedural debates for the government’s massive investments in transit connectivity. DeFazio has had his party’s seniority on four of its subcommittees, but now the entire committee’s work will be overseen by DeFazio.

During a time when infrastructure investment is getting dangerously overdue, the committee’s work will be vitally important in the years ahead. If President Trump’s olive branch to the Democratic House includes a revival of his promised $1 trillion infrastructure initiative, those twelve zeroes will be crossing DeFazio’s desk.

It’s about time.

There’s a dirty little non-secret about the legislative branch of our federal government. The political parties have gained such a stranglehold on the institution that most legislators don’t wield very much influence on Capitol Hill.

A Congressional seat offers only four paths to substantial influence — and the first three have very little to do with lawmaking. You can crisscross the country, raising funds and recruiting candidates for your party — as U.S. Rep. Greg Walden has done. You can make yourself available to the media to speak on your party’s behalf at a moment’s notice. You can join your party’s leadership team, whipping votes and setting legislative calendars.

Or you can earn your colleagues’ respect and wait until your seniority number comes up. Even then, seniority doesn’t count for much unless your party happens to also be in the majority. Being the ranking member of the minority party on any committee lost its leverage when bipartisanship became anathema.

The gavel is all that matters. And that’s what will be in DeFazio’s hand.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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STAR Voting is Easier Done Than Said

December 17th, 2018 by dk

STAR voting is harder to explain than it is to use. If Lane County voters approve Measure 20-290, we’ll elect our candidates differently. We’ll abandon the old “Ebert-Siskel” system — thumbs-up for one candidate — and replace it with a “Rotten Tomatoes” system, where each reviewer assigns up to five stars for each candidate.

The five-star system is used more commonly than you may know. Amazon, eBay, Uber, and AirBNB all use the five-star system. These companies reserve the right to use those scores to arrange their listings. AirBNB tracks 5-star ratings to give preferred placement to their best hosts. Uber and Lyft may give more driving gigs to drivers who are ranked best by passengers.

The star rating is not yet ubiquitous, but things are headed that way. Store receipts now often include at the bottom a plea for customers to rate their experience. If I take a few moments to rate my pizza experience, I get free cookies with my next order.

We may feel queasy comparing politicians to pizzas, but pizza can probably absorb any resulting loss of stature. We’ve become an overly transactional society and politics has been worsened by it. It’s not the ideal situation for anyone, but it is how things are.

STAR voting would not only give candidates more plausible paths to victory. It would provide vital information for those chosen to govern. In a crowded field, one candidate could win by becoming the consensus second choice. Determined candidates would knock on every door — not only on those who appear to be undecided.

Talking with a voter who is already devoted to another candidate might raise your star rating. You might also learn something about why exactly they prefer your opponent.

That would make campaigns more interesting and more engaging. Candidates might even be seen canvassing a neighborhood together: “Score me highest and her next” or “Pick either of us, and then the other.” “We agree on most things, but differ on this one issue.”

The resulting vote tallies would be much more interesting as well, most of all to the victor. If one candidate got the most five star ratings, but failed to gather any secondary support, that’s important information for everyone involved. It could even make government more responsive to its citizens. It’s easy to “geek out” on how all those scores could be used, but that’s entirely optional for each individual.

A voter who liked it the old way could still give five stars to one candidate and no stars to the rest. “Thumbs up” is still an option.

The engineering behind STAR voting is fascinating, but only if it works. Some love knowing that inside a bell housing, a fluid coupling acts as a torque converter to planetary gearsets. But for most of us, all we know about our automatic transmission is that “D” is for Drive and “R” means Reverse. That’s enough to get things going.

Knowledgeable mechanics don’t usually make good salespeople. But cars and stars are only complicated if we want them to be. Some things are easier done than said.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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Keep EWEB Building Publicly Owned (But Not As City Hall)

December 17th, 2018 by dk

I wrote last month about why and how city staff should be situated near the Park Blocks. It would be an appropriate honor of the Park Blocks’ past and a sound investment for Eugene’s future. Our first farmers market opened on that spot over 100 years ago. We have an opportunity to remake the Park Blocks as the beating heart at the center of the city. We should do it.

I didn’t address City Councilor Mike Clark’s long-held preference for moving city offices into the EWEB building along the river, because (as of last month) that that idea had come and gone, and come and gone, and come and gone — but most recently gone.

Now it looks like it will come again before the city council, because EWEB may declare its riverfront headquarters as surplus property. This could force the city to declare within 30 days that it will exercise its right of first refusal to purchase the complex. We should also do that.

I am sympathetic with many of the arguments Clark and others have made. The building was well built and it has been well maintained. Its location is both convenient and symbolic. The site has its own rich history. This riverfront location is a jewel that deserves the city’s investment.

These two buildings must stay publicly owned. But the offices shouldn’t be renovated to house city staff, for three reasons.

First, most people don’t go to city hall very often. They only go there when they have to. Forgive me for repeating myself, but city hall, for most citizens, is the principal’s office. It’s been a good day if you didn’t have to go there. Forcing citizens to pay their fines and fees there would be like hoping for a heart attack because those rooms have the best view at Riverbend. That’s no way for Eugene to “return to the river.”

Second, consider all the better public roles these buildings could fulfill. We need a history museum. We want our own art museum. We deserve a place that tells our region’s story. Visitors deserve to know why we love this place so much. Once we start telling them, we’ll also be reminding ourselves.

Third, there is one function of a traditional city hall that we should consider moving to the EWEB site, but it’s a relatively small one. EWEB’s circular north building would make an excellent city council chamber. That is the only function of city government that actively involves the citizenry on a voluntary basis. Arguing budgets and policies in a special and beautiful place makes perfect sense.

I want people watching the nightly news to see the majestic Willamette River, flowing as it always has, while we debate the issues of the day. That gives important context to whatever tempest we hold in today’s teapot. Everything washes away eventually. We’re fortunate we can be reminded of that daily.

So move the city council chambers to the riverfront location as soon as possible, but keep the offices for the city’s employees in the center of downtown.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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Traveling is Like a Terminal Illness

December 17th, 2018 by dk

Preparing for travel is like being diagnosed with a terminal illness, except without the imminent dying part. (That must be the worst part.) If I ever receive such news, my traveling experiences have prepared me well for the other parts.

Modern air travel experience is often compared with death, and not the kind with any dignity. We could have seen this coming when the airports installed “terminals,” but that is neither here nor there. I’m thinking more about when you’re planning for being here, then there.

It takes forethought to be gone well. Who will water the plants and take in the mail? What’s left in the fridge? How low can you set the thermostat without risking a pipe rupture? You don’t want to cause an undue burden, so you write out instructions.

It’s not quite a last will and testament, but it has many similarities. You want the values you hold to be continued, equitably distributed. Lessons learned needn’t be learned again. The cat will eat only a certain brand of wet food, and then only if it’s in that brightly colored dish, which must be washed thoroughly but without scented dish soap.

Truth is, we manage to endings better than to middles, no matter how much more common the middles may be. Every deadline is a killing. If all we had were “middlelines,” we’d never get much done. So it energizes us when we know we have only three days left … before we are leaving.

You want to leave your affairs in order, just in case you don’t return. But even when we’re certain that we will return, we still feel compelled to organize things before we go. My mother never wanted to return to a messy house, so our vacations always began with all of us needing a vacation. It’s the order of the universe.

We tidy up before company arrives, especially for strangers. And so our compulsion to clean honors our post-trip selves — because there’s always the chance that the trip will change us. The person returning may not be someone we already know well. Tidiness is a gift to your future self.

Or we may not return at all. There’s always that chance. In either case, we want to leave with the assurance that we’ll soon be in a better place. After all, why would we leave if we didn’t hope going would somehow be better than staying? Better weather, better company, better mindset — we always hope that something over there will be better.

I know I always travel with a stack of unread magazines and a couple of books that have gathered dust on my nightstand. Because my definition of a better place is where I read more often and more quickly. I lug the extra weight when I leave, promising my future self I will not bring it all back. Similar burdens will await my future self.

And there’s always a time, just before you leave, when you’d rather not go. The tickets are not refundable. The reservations cannot be canceled. The people expecting you will be disappointed. But they’ll survive. We all do. Until we don’t.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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Rainy Political Parades

October 22nd, 2018 by dk

I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, but if there’s one thing we know about in Oregon, it’s rainy parades. They don’t have to be terrible, so long as you’re properly prepared.

Political punditry has relished the historical precedent of any new President’s first Congressional election after taking office. It’s always a bloodbath for the President’s party, and it’s been getting worse as everything has gotten more polarized. Like all the worst misstatements, this one is partly true.

New Democratic presidents taking a shellacking in that first election, but Republicans have been mostly shielded from it. If it’s a referendum on the current presidency, the electorate has been judging Democrats far more harshly that Republicans.

Jimmy Carter lost 17 Congressional seats in 1978. Bill Clinton lost 63 in 1994. Barack Obama lost 69 in 2010. We even have memorable names for the last two uprisings: Newt Gingrich’s Contract With America, and the Tea Party Revolt.

Republicans faced no equivalent bloodbaths. Ronald Reagan lost only two seats in 1982. George H.W. Bush lost nine in 1990. George W. Bush, thanks to the 9/11 attacks, gained nine in 2002. Half the time, the wave has been barely a trickle or less.

Why the “referendum effect” afflicts Democratic presidents more harshly than Republican presidents is just one question we could be analyzing if the broader assumption stopped going unchecked. I suspect that Democrats have a tendency to govern, which upsets some who don’t like the choices that are made, while Republicans don’t do enough actual governing to upset either side.

The next assumption that should be exposed as dubious is that close races have an even chance of breaking in either direction. Again, a closer examination shows that Republicans more often win the nail-biters. In fact, Republicans seem to prefer a close race, because it means they didn’t waste money to secure more votes than necessary.

When it’s money versus manpower, we know which can be reallocated more quickly. (And if the alliterative “manpower” upsets you, that points to another problem entirely.)

Let’s look at another asymmetrical trope: “energizing the base.” Both ends of the political spectrum — and we are talking about the extremes at either end — succeed on this, but with wildly different results. Do I have to tell you which side’s results are more effectual?

When the left gets energized, they hit the streets. They march, they knock on doors, they get active. Trouble is, it’s very difficult to keep all this energy focused in a single direction. It’s so easy for somebody to insist that “personpower” is more important that alliteration. Just like that.

The political right asks for much less from its adherents: write a check or return a ballot. Moreover, their efforts can be focused on just one day a year. When the motivating energy is based on fear or anger, you can keep the resolve focused only very briefly.

This is (one reason) why liberals love vote by mail and conservatives love long lines at the polling sites. Anything that makes people angry just before they vote will favor the side that plays to that anger.

A desire for hope and change may last longer, but it’s not as brutally effective on Election Day as our baser instincts. It doesn’t take much to offer a disillusioned activist something much easier — a lifetime of bitter resentment or docile apathy. If the system doesn’t work, either outcome will suffice.

Finally, don’t discount the possibility of some dramatic move that incites patriotism at the very last minute. Will the military be sent to the Mexican border a day before the election? Will Iran rattle some sabers? Will Russia end our decades or disarmament?

None of these frightening scenarios can be discounted at this point. Republicans — and this president, in particular — don’t distract themselves with what will be necessary the day after an election. That’s what losers do, or those who have a desire to govern.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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Here’s to Our Horizontal Heroes

October 19th, 2018 by dk

We have among us some heroes who you may not recognize. They haven’t accomplished extraordinary things. Rather, they have taken their work to extraordinary lengths. They found what they do best. And they just kept on doing it. I think of them as horizontal heroes.

Minalee Saks and two others started Birth to Three 40 years ago. The organization has grown and adapted, but its mission has never wavered. It equips and connects young parents. Many of those young parents are now grandparents, but their monthly potlucks have continued.

Saks continues to carry the flame for the organization, renamed Parenting Now! It takes a measure of courage to honor the original vision, while also responding faithfully to changes the culture demands.

Parenting has changed a lot since 1978, and it hasn’t changed at all. Saks embraces and embodies both truths. Culture — especially locally — benefits from that complexity.

The same year Saks started connecting parents, Jacqui Willey bought a restaurant. If you’ve never had breakfast at the Glenwood, you’re not yet a true resident. Willey’s restaurants win awards from patrons and food critics, but don’t be distracted by the accolades — because she isn’t.

She shows up for work every day. She still books most large parties herself. She tests new recipes. Many regular patrons know her by sight — she’s on the floor that often. She has remodeled each of her locations multiple times. She’s pioneered take-out alternatives to get families through busy weeks on a budget.

She has adapted to modern demands, without losing sight of her original intent to feed people. Her consistency gives her customers comforts they often don’t know they need. It takes courage to sort necessary changes from passing trends. There wasn’t much demand for a tofu scramble in 1978.

Willey may not do this better than others, but she’s done it longer. Running a restaurant for forty years deserves recognition.

Whenever somebody just keeps going, it’s hard to imagine they’ll ever stop. Expressing our gratitude for their consistency too often waits for a funeral. Chez Ray Sewell’s friends decided to disrupt that habit. They invited Sewell to a “pre-wake” in his honor last weekend at the W.O.W. Hall.

Eulogies were given. Music was played. It had everything you’d expect, except the sadness and the casket. Sewell was seated — not yet horizontal, but already a hero. He enjoyed the show, along with everyone else.

Sewell has fed musicians and vaudeville performers backstage for decades. He toured with the Grateful Dead, ensuring that none of the Grateful went unfed. He has lived at the intersection of cooking and performing. Plans are already underway for Chez Ray’s second annual pre-wake.

Sewell has always been a showman, but the show won’t always go on. You know about horizontal heroes that I don’t. They don’t usually call attention to themselves. We should do that for them. Horizontal heroes give society its stalwart stability. We should thank them for doing the usual so unusually.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at Kahle owns a small advertising agency. The Glenwood has been one of his clients.

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