It takes a tragedy

I just returned from Marquette University where I was teaching a public speaking class for some electeds and women running for office.  On the campus that I almost attended, I was astounded by the friendliness of the humans I encountered.

I asked 6 separate students the cause of this warmth on their campus.

Six.  Separate.  Individuals.

I received the same answer.

Virginia Tech.

I noticed this too.  After the 1989 earthquake we in San Francisco were so nice to each other.  Folks had to carry Kleenex around November 1, 1989 as they came to a 4-way stop with pedestrians in San Francisco, everyone waved the other person to go in front of them….  It was inspiring.

Standing at one of these stops, I watched a homeless man take the money he was given by a passing vehicle, purchase a cup of coffee and hand it to a police officer directing traffic.  wow.
Sad and warm at the same time.

Those aren’t buildings on the horizon

You know it is going to be a good night when

1) you are the only one in the security line at the airport.  no stress.. no hurrying to take off your shoes, take out your computer and undress all the jewelry.

2) your gate, number 7, is 12-steps from the bar

3) you just told a room full of people your darkest scariest secret

I am sitting in the Phoenix airport.  I spent the day, it started at 2:30am thank you Sebastian James Law, facilitating a communcations class for 16 women running for office.

Risk.  We are over messaged.  We are tired of being told in pithy sayings what to think and feel.  We need substance- not enlightened sentences.

As I drink my Chardonnay (Meridium- yum!) I reflect on the breakthrough I had today.   I stood in front of a room full of humans and disclosed my deepest secret.

Why would I do that?  Be vunerable.  Say the truth?

In the middle of teaching.. of wowing the room with my expertise in public speaking and communcation.  I saw her.  She was in the back of the room.  Blonde.  Powerful.  Her face was red.  She had tears welling up.  I realized that in this room we had stirred up some stuff.  Don’t get me wrong, she was strong in her realization.  There was no break down… nothing like that.  I just saw the look.  I knew that look.

So.  I said it.  Out loud.

I often quote Diane DiPrima  “Your opinion of me is none of my business”

Today, I get just how hard it is to live by that credo.  And how damn necessary it is to change this planet we live on.

Thank you.  You now who you are.  I told you.  Thank you

The most productive day of the year

I have heard the man speak 3 times now.  Each time, he basically says the same thing.  Same story.  Same exercises.

Every single time- I leave inspired.  It isn’t what he says- it is how he says it.  He is “sucking the marrow out of life,” he says.

He asked a question yesterday.  What is the most productive day of the year?

Think about it for  a moment.

Now, imagine if every day of your life… you were as productive .. as….


the day before vacation.  What, my friends, would we accomplish then?

More than I did today.


Christmas 1973

My dad wrote this poem in 1973. The holiday doesn’t apply to much of the world: the sentiment does.

Christmas 1973

Christmas this year

Should cost at least

A thousand dollars.

It should be

In the Ideal Bar & Grill

On 163rd and St. Nicholas

Waiting for the first

Tattered little boy

To come in selling

Tomorrow’s morning papers

Roughing up his hair,

Giving all his papers away

And giving him

A hundred dollar bill

It should be

Walking through the Bowery,

Finding the drunk

Shivering in the dark doorway

And giving him,

Instead of a religious tract

Or lecture,

A hundred dollar bill.

It should be walking,


Beale Street


Stopping the first

Poor black child,

Giving him a smile

And a hundred dollar bill.

It should be

In Albuquerque.

Not a donation to a fund,

But taking the time to find

The sad-eyed Chicano child,

Taking him to a toy store

And letting him run riot.

Picking up the tab, the toys

And him.

To take them to

Wherever or to whatever

His home may be,

And leaving him the change

Of a hundred dollar bill.

It should be in San Diego

Out on the wharf,

With the old fisherman

Who mends nets

Because the tuna

Don’t run for him Anymore.

A “Vaya con Dios”

And a hundred dollar bill.

It should be

In a Santa Monica Bar,

Smiling at the tired barmaid

Who came to the coast

To be a star

And only found reality,

Giving her conversation, Respect,

And a hundred dollar bill.

It should be in

A Nob Hill restaurant.

Giving the maitre d’

A smile. And the busboy,

Who no one has noticed

All year,

A hundred dollar bill.

It should be

With a little old lady

In San Francisco’s

Mission Street


Selling flowers, Late at night

In the Tenderloin

Taking all her

Wilted posies,

Giving her a kiss

And a hundred dollar bill.

It should be

In Seattle’s skid row

Down near the Totem Pole


Pioneer Square


Giving the startled
Indian panhandler

A measure of returned pride

And a handshake

And a hundred dollar bill.

It should be the last saved

For the thief


Who needs it worse

Than anyone,

Not just the money

But the need to

Be superior to someone.

Let him steal from me

A hundred dollar bill.

But most of all…

To have any value at all,

Let Christmas Day find me


With empty pockets

Hanging inside out,






By Robert H. Harbridge