August 2014


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!