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(Reader beware: This week’s column is being written under “Snow Day” rules. That means a little less formality, a bit more meandering, and an absolute lack of urgency or purpose.)
Writing an op-ed column for a community newspaper like The Forecaster is a pretty sweet gig. Over the past few years it has given me the opportunity and outlet to share my thoughts, opinions and whimsical observations every two weeks – in 800-word doses; just enough time and space to convey perspective – absent the burden and pressure of a daily deadline.
While no one has ever nominated me for a Pulitzer Prize, I enjoy the art of literary conversation and the practice of empathetic communication. What I loathe is the dark and stormy cloud of today’s political climate that now makes writing anything and everything seem like a chore.
To avoid writing about Trump and his band of dysfunctional and destructive pranksters is to ignore the sick, sad and reckless (Republican) elephant in the room – a room that encompasses all parts of Maine, the United States and the world.
Yet, as much as The Forecaster is not a political newspaper, I’m even less of a political writer, with no real interest in participating in the constant din, and generally dumb, “I’m right, you’re wrong,” political chorus.
My preference for this space is to use it as an outlet for a little wit, a touch of questionable wisdom, and a small, light-hearted portal into various insights that delivery more smiles, than frowns.
So here are some random (non-political) Snow Day thoughts:
• Starting this week, high school boys’ and girls’ basketball teams will start their tournament playoffs. Whether or not you have a student-athlete that plays basketball, go spend a couple hours supporting your local team – or any high school team near where you live. I’ve attended thousands of NBA games and have watched Michael Jordan, Steph Curry, and LeBron James, up close, in person; if I had to choose between going to an NBA game or a high school tournament game – high school bleachers here I come.
• Baxter is our family dog and like all of us, he’s getting old. Over the last decade, Baxter has become more of a family member than a pet and his current decline points to a profound loss that’s looming just over the horizon. While I’ve always felt an affinity towards animals of all types, it wasn’t until Baxter joined our family that a part of my heart was unlocked. I recently interviewed the leader of Maine Friends of Animals – an organization that promotes the humane treatment of animals in Maine. If you care about animals, visit the MFOA website to learn how you can help. (Gandhi was right when he said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”)
• Last week I reached the point of technology overload: iPhone, computer(s), television, car GPS, digital camera, hundreds of applications and programs, wireless speakers, online banking, and the ever-expanding list of electronic things that are taking over our lives. I think that I’ve reached my capacity in passwords, user names and terms of service. Remember when the world of information was easily accessed through the three-digit portal of calling 411? Today I tried to call 411 – and a computer answered. Then the computer transferred me to another computer. After five minutes, a human-sounding voice came on the line, listened to my request, and immediately transferred me to another computer. Finally, the computer voice said “thank you” and hung up on me. It left me wondering if the computer itself was “thanking” me. Was anyone really thankful for my 411 call – or are we in a time and place when words from our computers and political leaders lack any pretense of genuine emotion and are instead, merely robotic responses?
(Sorry, I came so close to avoiding politics.)
I’m off to take Baxter for a walk, followed by watching some high school basketball later this week.
Steve Woods is from away, but fully here now, living in Yarmouth, working in Falmouth, traveling the world, and trying his best. His column appears every other week. He can also be heard Saturdays at 11 a.m. on WLOB 1310 AM and 100.5 FM.