I enjoy writing a check for a good cause sometimes. But now I’m confused. Why is it that in order to donate to the charity of my choice, I have to have a bucket of ice water dumped on my head?

I might have this wrong, but I think that at first, you had to accept the ice bucket challenge and if you didn’t, you’d have to donate more money to make up for it. Which kind of makes sense. Now it’s turned into a free for all with people donating and then getting hit with the contents of the ice bucket for entertainment purposes. In Poland, we have a holiday for this sort of thing on Easter Monday called Smigus Dyngus. Every year, people chase each other around with buckets of water, and nobody donates a damn thing. I guess we all like the thought of drenching each other, and just need an excuse to do it.

However, the ice bucket challenge is still a bit murky to me. As someone who takes hot showers even in the middle of summer, I will need this clarified for me before I go anywhere near that icy water.

Another day, another heartwarming Internet meme. This time, it’s the story of over 300 Starbucks customers “paying it forward” and picking up the tab of the next person in line. Nice thing to do? Sure. But it also feels like a distraction. Yes, we can get all mushy about regular people buying each other a coffee. What about some bigger ways of paying it forward?

In the past few years, corporations in this country have made stunning, record-breaking profits. They have made those profits thanks to our very hard work. And they are not paying any of that forward–if anything, they’re doing the opposite. Worker wages, during that same time, have gone down. Likewise, our government representatives are not paying us forward for the votes and loyalty they have received from us. But I suppose that when it comes to the politicians, they have much bigger financial favors to pay back, and those business transactions have nothing to do with us, their constituents.

Americans are truly some of the most generous people I’ve ever met. We also come off looking like chumps sometimes, getting fleeced on every side by powerful interests, and not standing up and speaking out about it like we should. We work harder than any other nation in the world, and are working ever harder all the time, yet getting less and less in return.

Perhaps this serves to reveal the true “Secret” of the Universe, which is that it has a dark sense of humor, and that it does not, in fact, reward kindness with kindness. Good deeds are more likely to be punished, and assholes will always thrive. I guess one answer is to do as most spiritual traditions of the world tell us to do–don’t expect to be compensated for the love you give to others–give it anyway. Unfortunately, I have a handicap–I’m not capable of being a heartless asshole–so I don’t have much choice in the matter.

My life is a daily battle against pessimism. This is not because I’ve had it that hard–in fact, I’ve probably had it easier and have been luckier than most people on this planet. It’s simply because my mind has a natural tendency to move in that direction, to sink into negativity and worry. This means it’s a constant, moment by moment, day by day effort to refocus myself on positive actions and thoughts. Frequently, this effort fails, and then I get back up and start over.

That’s why if I come to you because I’m sad and depressed, it really doesn’t help to tell me to “think positive!” or “choose to be happy!” Because chances are, I’ve already been working on that. I’ve been trying and trying and trying to do that, and it’s likely that by the time I’m coming to you for help, I’m ready to give up. So just give me a sympathetic listening ear. Let me talk about how I feel for a while. It will be a relief for me, and then I’ll be ready to go back to fighting my mind again.

It’s been a nice change to hear depression and mental illness discussed so openly and matter of factly over the past couple of days. It’s sad that it took the death of a wonderful and creative person for us to get here. But this might be a good first step to understanding that there are real ways to treat and address these problems–and that it’s not enough to tell people to smile.

There is a race going on in this country right now which I’m following with great interest, and I’m not talking about any of the 2014 political contests, although I’m sure I’ll do plenty of grumbling about those later. No, I’m thinking of the race to open the first cat cafe in North America.

The idea for the cat cafe started in that home of the strange and bizarre, Japan, and they are wildly popular there–along with other novelty cafes, like ones where you can have lunch with stuffed animals if you’re feeling lonely. The cat cafe trend has since spread to Europe and Australia as well. It’s such an addictive concept that I’m surprised it hasn’t popped up earlier here in the States–you can sip your favorite caffeinated beverage in the company of anywhere between 10 and 30 kitties which you can pet and interact with. Most of the American cafes which are being planned intend to have the cats up for adoption, so they will serve a good cause as well.

Naturally, when it comes to the cat cafe race, I am rooting for Purringtons Cat Lounge, which is tentatively scheduled to open here in the Portland area sometime in the fall. But Purringtons has fierce competition. There are ideas being bounced around for cat cafes in Seattle, Reno and South Florida. And if I were to bet on the winner of the race, my money would be on the San Francisco area–either KitTea, which is trying to open its doors this summer, or the Cat Town Cafe in Oakland, which already has a location and a possible September opening date. I should add that all of these cafes have Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaigns going, so if you want to support your hometown’s cat cafe bid, you can help make the dream happen.

The hilarious part about all of this is that I love cats, but am very allergic to them, so I will probably choke to death as soon as I step foot in one of these fabulous places. But no matter–it will be worth it. A glorious death, surrounded by all those cute cats! If I don’t make it back out alive, remember me as one who adored the kittehz. And best of luck to Purringtons!

I’m not sure to what degree I can trust a magazine called Monocle. But for what it’s worth, my hometown of Portland has landed on Monocle’s annual list of the world’s most livable cities, and it’s the only American city the London magazine has deemed worthy of its attention. Mind you, Portland is number 23 on the list, so America still doesn’t rank very high when it comes to Brits with monocles.

But what’s much more interesting than this supposed honor–we’ve been on plenty of lists, both good and bad–is the reaction of my fellow townfolk to it. Our local weekly posted about the Monocle article on its Facebook page, and here’s just a sampling of the comments:

Put a muzzle on it for feck sake! It’s getting ridiculous around here. Most nights I can’t even park on my own street. We need immigration control in Oregon!

Can we find who is the monstrous PR machine pushing Portland as the fucking mecca and stop them??!! Please! Can we do something to stop all the greedy developers and landlords?? I can’t fucking afford anything now. Kindly fuck off and give it a break with moving here already.

JUST STOP IT FOR FUCKS SAKE!!!! I already don’t even recognize streets from 15 years ago… STOP MOVING HERE!!!!

I get the sense that Portlanders are not crazy about change. Maybe we love our town so much, we want to freeze it in time and keep it just the way we imagine it is or was in the past.

But I’d like to send a completely different message out to all the interesting people of the universe. What you’ve heard is true! Portland is awesome. Come on over, you’ll love it! Help make this place into the dynamic, thriving metropolis it deserves to be. It’s wonderful now, but it has the potential to be so much more. Yeah, I know prices will rise in the process, but if things work the way they usually do, we should be able to make more money too. And I trust that all of you new residents will help expand and improve the art scene and the nightlife, as well. Stagnation is never good, not even when it’s cutesy Portlandia stagnation.

So like the anti-Tom McCall, I’m here to say “Don’t just visit, stay!” I did, over 20 years ago, and I haven’t regretted it. The first rule of Portland, as far as I’m concerned: tell everyone how fantastic Portland is.

What troubled times we live in. Threats and dangers coming at us from every direction, and we seem to be bumbling about in response. Where is that leader, strong and decisive enough to handle Vladimir Putin, the Israel conflict, the disaster in Iraq, immigrant kids and gang violence?

How about Darth Vader?

According to a poll on the FiveThirtyEight website, Americans prefer Darth Vader to any of the potential 2016 presidential candidates. I can see the appeal. Darth could never be accused of being too diplomatic. He likes to resolve problems by blowing stuff up, and at this point many of us may be frustrated enough with the world to want to blow it up too. So what if we end up serving the Dark Side in the process? Do we care?

Well, I hope we do, and that this is just a momentary twitch of stress and bad news overload. If we take these poll results at face value, then the person who should win in 2016 is Dick Cheney. I gotta think that by then our tempers will cool and a more reasonable candidate will get elected.

So it seems we are now deep in the doldrums of a presidency. I guess this is what people mean when they say the second term is always a problem.

And a problem it is indeed. I’m not happy about a lot of things. I’m not happy about the situation with Russia. I’m not happy with the IRS losing e-mails. I’m not happy about the flood of kids coming across our border, although in that case I’m unhappy with both sides for a muddled immigration policy. And I’m very unhappy about the conditions at the VA.

And, with all that being said, I still don’t regret my vote for the President’s re-election. With all the things I’m unhappy about, would I have voted for Romney/Ryan? Nope. I would not have voted for someone who would’ve done his best to repeal the ACA–definitely not voted for someone whose budget plan would have cut Medicare and Social Security. And I would not have voted for someone who would possibly have gotten us involved in another war with Iran.

Politicians are flawed, so they will not always make me happy. As long as I’m less unhappy than I was during the W years, it’s all good. Happiness, after all, is the absence of pain. It will remain to be seen what Obama’s legacy will be in the end, and we will not be able to determine that until his presidency is over and some time has passed. All I know is that one day, when we have a Republican in the White House again? I will miss this guy soooooo much.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 156 other followers