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Black Friday: Mail a Letter, Please

Hey, mail a letter. Here’s why: don’t you want to help your neighbor? Since most of us are kinda worried about the economy and WTF is going to happen if the poop continues to hit the fan… well, it’s time we took matters into our own hands. If you mail a letter or a postcard, you will be accomplishing at least three things:
1) You will express your feelings in a healthy way toward someone who means something to you.
2) You will brighten the day of the receiver.
3) You will help keep the US Postal Service in business.
By supporting local businesses, like your post office, you are keeping commerce local and thus helping your community.
Here on Cape Cod, postal workers have some of the few blue collar year-round jobs. When lots of other people are out of work and waiting for the next tourist season, postal workers are working. They are up early and they are out in all kinds of weather. Those window clerks and letter carriers are using their pay to hire carpenters to fix their roofs. They are going out to breakfast on Sunday. They are having their oil changed and buying new tires for their cars. This is the real trickle down: keep your business local and your community will stay alive. I’m always amazed when someone bemoans the loss of their downtown, yet they buy all their books and towels and wiper blades at WalMart. How do they think downtowns stay alive? And don’t they realize that it’s almost impossible to survive on what you earn at WalMart? Didn’t they hear about Nickeled and Dimed, even if they didn’t read it?

One of the traps set by our truly wondrous Age of Technology is this: you have technology to help you, so you can (and should) do it all. Wrong! Don’t do it all. Let other people do some of it. There’s no reason for you to do it all except to add more stress to your life. Find ways to share the load. When you go to the grocery store, don’t self check; get in line and let someone else do the checking. It’s job security for a person that probably needs the money. It won’t add that much to the cost of your groceries and you can chat with your neighbor in line behind you. I thank my compassionate friend Madeline for that idea.


And since today is Black Friday, how about the crazy spending that so many people do for the holidays? Spending money we don’t have to buy things they don’t need for people who don’t even want them. Who is winning here? How about being the first person in your family to stop the insanity? Tell everyone on your gift list that you’re just not doing it this year. Say you love them too much to stay with them on the slippery slope of mindless consumerism.


If you can’t just stop then maybe try this: make charitable donations in the names of your favorite gift recipients. You can spend half a day at your computer researching charities and making donations. Then take a nice, long, free walk. At the end of the day, your holiday shopping will be done and you’ll have a tax write-off for the total value of your gifts.
And if you simply must have something to physically put into the mail (and I’m not going to stop you from mailing anything- remember, letter carriers go to every house every day anyway), then how about taking your business local? If you’re in Provincetown where I work, you can get locally made stuff to put in the mail. Such as: delicious fudge (made right on Commercial Street) from the Provincetown Fudge Factory or absolutely to-die-for cupcakes from Scottcakes (icing to be applied by the lucky recipient/s). Or buy art! There is definitely accessible art around, like John Choly’s. I also like to send subscriptions to The Sun, which is a gem of a magazine that’s all about humanity. There’s always the Wikimedia Foundation, responsible for, which is one more piece of the technology pie that has changed our world for the better. And none of these people paid me to write about them; I swear!
Or why not take another day and make some goodies to mail? I’m personally very excited about this recipe from Bon Appetit (which may be owned by some nasty persons- you’ll let me know, right?): Cherry Pistachio Nougat. Looks yummy and how great would it be to get a box of this in the mail?

I know that there are folks out there that don’t like the Postal Service. I doubt that many of them are reading this (except for you rotten spies, hehehe) but if you are one of them, that’s fine. And if you are all about consuming, well that’s fine too. And if you wish to pursue ethical purchasing (I don’t give up easily), you can easily direct your dollar choices away from some of the worst offenders of human and civil rights. Say you don’t like the politics of the Koch Brothers, Charles and David. They’re bankrolling the Tea Party with profits from their worker-exploiting, highly polluting industries. I used to buy Quilted Northern toilet paper, until I found out it was manufactured by Koch Industries. I mean, I do think the Kochs should kiss my working class ass, but not like that. Why should I hand my hard-earned dollars over to these guys… so they can use them to torpedo Social Security? Uh, no. You can find out which products to avoid by checking out “subsidiaries” in the wikipedia article on the Koch boys.
It’s not always easy to purchase ethically- I try to avoid companies that do animal testing. Simple enough, right? Well, not really, since everyone seems to want to be on the nice guy bandwagon, even if they have to manipulate reality a little. Like this: “we don’t do animal testing but well… uh, the companies that supply all our ingredients uh… do.” Okay! If you want to avoid animal testing, let someone else investigate for you and just use this list. Another issue: I’m not sure I want to buy gasoline from any of the oil companies but I need gas for my car. Would someone please let me (and the other readers) know if there’s an oil company out there that actually deserves our business?
But seriously, don’t you just love to get personal mail? A tin of homemade cookies, well that’s the ultimate, but how about a note with a photo slipped in, even a postcard, for heaven’s sake… these are simple ways to show your love. And mailing is still really cheap. You can send a postcard for twenty nine cents! I had to write those numbers out just so it would take you slightly longer to read them. Twenty nine cents. The Postal Service is struggling and that’s a real issue for me because they employ me (and the views expressed here are wholly my own, and not those of the USPS, of course!). But all else aside, the mail remains a great value and I am in love with the mission, still.
And it’s great to be in love with the mission, still. There’s a niyama- a yogic principle- called santosha. It translates roughly to contentment. And it’s something you can practice. An easy way to do it is to count your blessings. When you find yourself in a twizz about what’s gone wrong today, think about what’s gone right. Byron Katie, whose work I am only peripherally familiar with, is onto this. She calls her work, uh, The Work, and the practice is about loving what is. This may sound slightly goofy, but I promise you, it’s profound stuff! If this concept interests you and you don’t know where to begin, how about at the beginning, as we know it? Here’s a freebie from Chip Hartranft: The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali- A New Translation. It’s not as intimidating as it sounds, especially with Chip as your tour guide.
Well… here we are, my friends, and how could I let this post slip by without at least a nod to the Pepper Spray Cop? I apologize to those who consider my humor tasteless. Like my beloved Joe Mitchell, I find that graveyard humor is “an exemplification of the way I look at the world.” Remembering November 25th, 1963, (yes, it’s been 49 years!) with a contemporary twist:


Happy two month birthday (11/17) to Occupy Wall Street! Matt Taibbi did a nice short article about Occupy in Rolling Stone, before the eviction. And I have to say that I really enjoyed this Keith Olbermann rant about Mayor Bloomberg, post eviction. If you’ve not seen the bat signal, please watch right now: OWS Birthday Bat Signal Video. I can’t believe that it won’t make you smile. And please, if nothing else, simply remember that Another World Is Possible, Really.



Since You Asked

After a challenging pose, my yoga teacher used to say “Now close your eyes and feel the effects.” This was, for me, very good advice- for life on and off the mat. I forget to do it almost all the time, but when I do, I’m so grateful to her. I try to keep my teachers’ lessons in mind to guide me when I’m feeling lost or scared- or even jubilant.

And I’ll admit it, I’ve been jubilant (that’s right!) over the Occupy movement, stupidly you may say. But I went to Zuccotti Park and I’ve hung out a little at Occupy Hyannis and Occupy Eastham… and feeling the effects of those experiences has been something special. I mentioned it recently, saying it felt like standing up to the class bully. ‘Cause let’s face it: we’ve always had him outnumbered… it’s just that we forgot.

There’s a big zen teaching (the main one, I think) about non-attachment. It’s a hard one for me, so I work on it a lot. I don’t think I’m really getting any better but I keep practicing, and hey, I need to let go of worrying about improving, right? But still, keep trying- that’s the delicate dance we do here in zen-yoga-now-land. So it’s embarrassing to admit this but, well, I have a confession to make: I can’t detach from Occupy. And actually it’s gone way beyond that. I’m obsessed.

I’ve had a couple of weeks off from work and I spend hours every day reading Twitter tweets and poring over the videos and articles gushing forth from this glorious moment (please just let me thrill to it, please). And damned if my ENTJ brain (even while thrilled) doesn’t keep working its way around to demands. Not results… I’ve learned better- hahaha- but really what would I ask for? You know how some people like to wonder: what would you do if you won the lottery? Well here’s the new one: what would you say if someone asked you to articulate demands, in the name of the 99 percent?

I know, I know, the movement is deliberately and uh brilliantly avoiding coming up with demands. Those adbusters kids (and those #Occupy kids and lots of other kids, young and old) are pretty sharp. If that part of the one percent that wants to keep all the cash is writing these kids off, well they are just plain stupid. But back to the demands: mine, that is. Here’s what I have to say to Barack Obama and my other elected representatives as well as all of our elected reps and also the Supreme Court justices. Since you, er I, asked.

  1. Get out of the wars, quickly. Bring ’em home and take good care of them.
  2. Legalize weed. Let all the people busted for marijuana out of jail. Tax it.
  3. Absolutely place a 1% tax on all financial transactions: robinhoodtax.
  4. Make excellent education accessible to all, including reasonably priced state colleges.
  5. Single payer health care. Everyone is covered. Preventive everything. Say you’re rich and you want the surgeon that worked on Tom Brady? Go ahead and pay for it; nobody’s stopping you. Designer medical can be the new status symbol.
  6. Tax everyone appropriately. No free ride for the corporations or the wealthy. Simply stated by Elizabeth Warren (at 0:55 for the impatient).
  7. Get progressive with personnel policies. Example: start folks off with 2 weeks’ vacation and work up to 6 weeks per year. Roll it into the cost of doing business, for everybody.
  8. Undo that bullshit about corporations being people. They’re not. Make corporate leadership answerable to all stakeholders, not just stockholders. That includes their employees and their communities.
  9. Disconnect politics from big money. Campaign reform. Politicians need to serve the people. Elect them by popular vote, pay them well and let them do their real jobs.
  10. You know that Eckhart Tolle stuff which is really that Ram Dass stuff which is really old Hindu stuff about getting into Now? Put it into elementary school curriculum. Oh, and Media Literacy too. And don’t forget to also fund art and music and earth studies, for all kids.
  11. Get serious about climate change and the environmental holocaust we’re committing. Enforce the Clean Air and Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts for a start. Companies’ expense sheets need to cover doing things right.
  12. Tax luxuries. If you really want four houses, five cars and a Humvee plus a pile of $10k wristwatches, go for it. But it’s gonna be just like Monopoly: luxury tax. And hopefully when you’re bitching about the luxury tax, your children (or grandchildren), who will have mastered Being Here Now at seven, will straighten you out.
  13. Capital gains are income. Period.

Since I began to write this, my good friend Dianna has asked the #occupycapecod people to articulate one demand. You’re probably thinking “Why didn’t she just give us that to begin with?” Well, I didn’t start writing a blog to give you just one small nibble. You’re here, so let’s enjoy the whole meal together. But since you asked (or not), here’s what I came up with:


I’d like to deeply feel the effects of that.