Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Letter To The Editor Of The New York Times

To The Editor:
Re "Bipartisan Hunting Buddies," by James A. Baker III and John D. Dingell (column, Jan. 30):

While I commend the attempt of the bipartisan friends Misters Baker and Dingell to fix the problem of guns in this country, I do not believe we can end violence with violence as they suggest with parents taking their children out to hunt instead of leaving them in front of "shoot-'em-up video games". Jesus taught this, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught this. Mahatma Gandhi taught this. The intended design of a gun is violence, period.

Rather than shooting animals, may I suggest adopting a dog or cat from your local SPCA and teaching your child the life affirming act of caring for an abandoned animal. Feeling its heartbeat with your hand versus ending it with a gun may just instill the importance of nurturing life, not taking it.

Toy guns on the children's playground have been replaced by real guns in the adult playground. An alternative moniker for the NRA should be Never Reconciled Adolescence.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

iOS 6

I love my Apple products but not the new iOS 6 map app. It doesn't have the walk or bus option when planning a trip from a to b. Perhaps the engineers live in their cars and are oblivious to other modes of transportation. Google maps were very helpful to this person...

Friday, April 13, 2012

Letter to The NY Times

Reading Nicholas Kristof's "Is An Egg for Breakfast Worth This?" (Op-Ed 4.12.12) was more than food for thought. While the plight of animal suffering for our consumption has been the basis of Animal Rights group's newsletters, preaching to the converted has only made us angry. That the mainstream press is catching up and publishing these horrors is preaching beyond the choir to a larger audience whose naïveté and obliviousness perpetuates these creatures suffering as well as the people who work in the industry. An enlightened society is marked by awakened beings both great and small.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

How To Make Work Work

Here are some thoughts on how to make your time at Peet's (and elsewhere) more meaningful and less stressful. I didn't say enjoyable necessarily. We're all looking to have a little joy in our life. Meaning(ful) on the other hand connotes a degree of importance which verifies our experience. It may be fun, joyous or orgasmic. Perhaps it's saddening, flat or painful. And then there's just, plain neutral. The label is extra. No matter what happens, life moves on--things change and knowing this will enable you to live more lightly and grateful. You'll be less likely to get bogged down in our endless likes and dislikes which ping-pong us back and forth into wanting it to be different than what is. 

If you've heard or read Buddhist or Zen teachings some of this will sound very familiar. Many of these suggestions are not exclusive to Zen but spiritual practices found in all religious traditions. Transforming our working hours into looking within will result in a richer expression without.

The Physical Attitude

  1. Keeping your back straight will keep you more alert and allow your breathing to go through its natural cycle more easily. It also enables you to receive the world more completely.
  2. Following the natural rising and falling of your breath is not only a calming experience but also an opportunity to tap into something deeper which lives within us. Since we can't lose it, it's just a matter of remembering to take that opportunity. When? In-between customers, between taking their order and fulfilling their request--and not only with customers but while sweeping, taking out the trash and other so-called mundane activities.
  3. At the urn, for instance, wait till the coffee stops dripping before pulling the cup away. These extra few moments create a space or comfort zone in-between customers. Feel the waves of the coffee as you stir the brew within the filter. There's a whole universe at the end of that spoon.
  4. Do things completely, it's easier for everyone. Don't leave things "half-done" for others to finish.
  5. Handle things as if they were the most precious things on earth. Have you ever noticed how you handle expensive jewelry, clothes or musical instruments with great care and a scoop of coffee or a paper cup somewhat haphazardly? Never mind the cash value, its disposability or that you don't "own" it. A respectful physical attitude transforms our mental attitude (more below). Scale pans and scoops returned gently to their place will slow you down and minimize the frenzied atmosphere perpetuated by the banging and clanging. Think of how many trees were cut down (or foreign oil refined) to produce those cups. Use a ceramic mug for personal use instead of a paper cup or plastic! Did you know that every two coffee beans or tea leaves represents one plucking hand-motion of a laborer? It takes a tree one year to produce one pound of coffee! It take two to three thousand hand-plucked shoots of tea to produce a pound of tea! Think of the innumerable foreign labors which brought our livelihood to us (not to mention the Peetnik's efforts closer to home). Handling their efforts mindfully instills a spirit of respect--for it and yourself. Less is wasted on the floor and in our minds. Slowing down and paying attention will enable us to bring forth an appreciation of the myriad phenomena we sleepwalk by daily. Jamming currency into the cash drawer slows down the subsequent transaction when one has to unravel and "face" the bills counting out to the customer. Breathe in-between the coming and goings of the payment for the drink or the packaged product. Breathe spaciousness into each moment when you can remember.

The Mental Attitude

What do you do with your mind during the day? Don't do anything with it. This is one of the most difficult things to accomplish or simply accept. We all have a life outside of Peet's. It is important to cultivate that life since it fulfills you in some fundamental way. However, at work you're selling yourself short by not being fully present. We all fall into daydreaming--reveries about the past or concerns about the future. These thoughts do have a legitimate place in our life and need to be clarified for future planning or simply to have closure to some history, but what about what's in front of our noses? It may not appear as exciting or sensual as our "outside" life but it does contain all the material for awakening to the richness of this life. Keep coming back to this.

  1. Slow down. There are plenty of opportunities to do this. While grinding coffee you'll be standing in place for a while. Follow your breath. Listen. Smell. The eye of the hurricane is peaceful in the midst of this swirl of activity. Putting out pastries, cleaning the condiment area, counting money or simply washing your hands can reveal much about ourselves. Ordinary and extraordinary. One needn't wait until a break to experience it. If you want to be somewhere else it's going to be really hard to be here. The result of this dividedness can range from spilled beans to misdirected emotional output. When you do leave for the day, though you may be enjoying yourself at a party, gig or your lover's arms for instance, the unsettledness remains latent within you and will manifest again at the slightest provocation. Emotions and their root cause don't know (or care) about clocking in or out.
  2. You don't have to take the abuse of rude or thoughtless customers. Don't take their pain on. Don't take it personal. People often dump their pain somewhere and we're easy targets. Can you be neutral and diffuse their discontent? James Joyce wrote in Ulysses, "A soft answer turns away wrath." While it is their issue(s) driving their negative emotions, karmicly we're in it with them. After the transaction try not to carry them around with you. If you do, ask them to split your rent. It's the least they could do.

At The Bean Counter

Protect and Respect Wrists of Self and Other:

When first going into the bin to scoop coffee don't take so much.
The extra weight adds unnecessary stress on your wrist.

Before exiting the bin tilt your scoop back slightly. This mindful
act(ion) helps prevent spillage.

Every two beans represents one hand motion of a coffee picker.
Establishing this foundation of awareness brings you:
a) In touch with your work
b) Respect for their work
c) The interconnectedness of our work together


Ross @ Vine
3.01.12 (revised)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Last Moments with the Superbe

Just shy of ten years of riding my '71 Raleigh Superbe, today, 1.26.12 my seat was stolen from it. Bob & Erica found the bike in Santa Cruz and presented it to me in June '02 along with a tailor-made maintenance list and resource file for this vintage. Amazing gifts those two...

Recently I had been thinking about letting go of my bike since I ordered a Moulton that's due any day now. In fact, on Tuesday a seemingly homeless person with a British accent was eyeing my bicycle with affection outside Vegi-Food restaurant on Vine. When I asked him if he had a bicycle he said he did in a wistful manner while smiling with appreciation at my Superbe's English pedigree. Part of me just wanted to give it to him but I was still too attached. The next day he wandered into Peet's and stood off to the side fingering his change for an inordinate amount of time. Before he entered the waiting line I got a cup of coffee and presenting it, bid him a good day.

Today, two days later, as I came out of Local 123 Cafe on San Pablo Avenue Diana Krall was singing "Pick Yourself Up And Start All Over Again" on my iPod. I then discovered my locked bicycle and the missing seat. I paused in surprise, upset and finally acceptance of the situation. At first I thought to just unlock it and walk away thanking the universe for providing me with a solution to the question of not really wanting two bicycles despite a recurring thought of retaining the Superbe as a "beater" or commuter bike. The cost of another Brooks saddle and seat post was more than I felt compelled to spend given my current thinking. I then thought to donate it to The Missing Link who have been great at maintaining it over its life with me as a thank you and letting them keep the money from selling it to a customer. They're a co-op and after all, I got it as a gift--easy come, easy go.

On the walk up Addison Street to the bike shop I came across this license plate apropos to my recent awakening--look closely at the bicycle's down tube...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

I was struck at the size of the leviathan 
Not in the sea but the car dealership
What disproportionately huge vehicles
These small mortals drive! Exit on bicycle...


Memories are but precious morsels for sustenance 
brought out into the light from one's pocket when 
hungry for either the bitter or the sweet...