Barricaded

By Dick Gillett

As I stepped outside my front door last week, anticipating a delicious macchiato at Herkimer Coffee on Phinney Ridge, I was unexpectedly confronted by a barricade. About five or six feet across, it stretched across the handrails in front of me, its multiple strands caught by the morning sun. At its center was a spider, only half as big as the head of a pencil eraser—the architect and engineer.

My wife, ever-admiring of the skill and determination of spiders, was close by and counseled me to leave the spider’s work intact and go out by the back door. I scoffed at her suggestion and crashed through the barrier, the tiny spider sinking to the ground as its net fell.

At Herkimer, I made a full report of this incident to Chad, one of the baristas that I’ve known the longest. He heard me unsympathetically and scoffed at my accomplishment: “Greatest Generation, indeed!” he said.

I scoffed . . . and crashed through the barrier, the tiny spider sinking to the ground as its net fell.

Kelly, the other barista on duty, heard my story and made a face. She related that as a young girl a spider had been trapped in her ear, and later had been bitten by a spider. Little sympathy there, either.

A harmless incident, not worth the telling? Perhaps. Yet as we encounter more and more spider webs these summer months, both my wife and I continue to be astounded by how these tiny arachnids accomplish such immense engineering marvels, the materials for which emerge from their own bodies. Think of their ambition! Even more, ponder their willingness to get up and try again after going down with their creations. Are these lessons worth pondering in our complex and confounding world?

·     ·     ·

Author Dick Gillett is a Member of PNA Village, a retired Episcopal priest, and a regular contributor to our blog. His many articles include ““Generation Nice” at Herkimer Coffee”, “Martín’s Journey to the White House”,  and “Cell Phones, Conversations, and the Common Good”.

Do you like what you read on our blog? We’d love to hear from you! Please use the SHARE buttons below and COMMENT by clicking on “Leave a reply” or by clicking the gray dialogue bubble at the top right of each post!

PNA Swoosh

Advertisements

Cell Phones, Conversations, and the Common Good

The Working Class at Herkimer Coffee (pnavillage.org)

By Dick Gillett

It was crowded the other morning at Herkimer Coffee up on Greenwood Avenue.  I settled in at its long table with my machiatto and a book titled Private Equity at Work: When Wall Street Manages Main Street. (No, I’m not an investor or stockbroker but a retired clergyman trying to understand how economic inequality got so bad in our country.)

Opposite me sat a young man intently reading a paperback book. I immediately noticed that unlike almost everyone else in the café that day, he had no cellphone or other electronic device out, just his book. He appeared to be a “Millennial,”probably on the young end of that age spectrum. Maybe his book was a reading assignment for a class? I made bold to ask him what he was reading.

6751

“It’s a book of essays by David Foster Wallace,” he replied. He explained that the particular essay he was reading was a review of a new dictionary, and that in it Wallace was pointing out how issues of class and power in the modern era are affecting the use of words.

Wow, I thought, this is a subject that even as an English lit major I had never thought about.

Jesse (this man’s name) was not sure he bought the author’s argument.

His mention of the words “class” and “power” led me to comment that the previous night my son and I had watched a little of the Bernie Sanders-Hillary Clinton debate in a pub jammed with young people. “Did you watch the debate?” I asked Jesse.

“No, I had to work,” he responded.

Having pushed the conversation a little already, I resisted the temptation to turn to politics, so I asked him what his work is.

“I work as a host at a Sushi bar,”he said.

I rather lamely responded that I hoped he was doing okay.

“I’m doing OK,” he responded.

19524598We shook hands and I left the table.

Whether or not the politics of 2016 will bring us together as a country, I believe that we desperately need to recover a sense of the Common Good: that we are responsible for each other in our communities, and that “the moral arc of the universe… bends towards justice” (M.L. King).  Meanwhile, it felt very good to have even a brief conversation across the generations that finds common ground—especially without a cellphone lying on the table!

·     ·     ·

Author Dick Gillett is a Member of PNA Village and a retired Episcopal priest. He has written numerous articles for our Village blog including, “The Working Class at Herkimer Coffee”, “Martín’s Journey to the White House”,  and “Johnny Cash & Global Warming”.

PNA Swoosh

The Working Class at Herkimer Coffee

The Working Class at Herkimer Coffee II (pnavillage.org)
By Dick Gillett

Stephen bent over his loom, quiet, watchful and steady. A special contrast, as every man was, in the forest of looms where Stephen worked, to the crashing, smashing, tearing piece of machinery at which he labored.
—From Hard Times, by Charles Dickens

It’s 9:01 on a Wednesday morning as I enter Herkimer Coffee up on Phinney Ridge for my usual caffeine fix. Along the shop’s left wall, an array of people sit at tables, coffee cups within reach, laptops open, heads down—as if the factory whistle just blew and the working class had filed in and bent over their machines.

In contrast, as a “retired worker” I mosey in and take my “work station” in front of barista Chad, who sees me and reaches for the macchiato cup; he knows my drink.
In casual conversation, he and Sean, the other barista on duty, both reveal they grew up as only children, which was my also my situation. (Naturally we understand this makes us special).

This brief palaver serves to lighten me up a bit after reading the print edition (I’m afraid I’m a print news junkie) of The New York Times. The paper continues to tell us about the unending crisis of refuges flooding into Europe, Putin’s Russian jets now in Syria, and the latest special absurdity of much of our domestic political news.

The Working Class at Herkimer Coffee (pnavillage.org)

Of course the laptop “working class” image above is my fantasy. But in my mind, it serves to separate me from my fellow human beings of the succeeding generations. (For instance I don’t have a laptop and only clumsily use instant messaging.) But as it frequently does, the sight of younger people at Herkimer’s—busily working away (or goofing off)—fills me with a certain longing. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have an intergenerational dialogue? An honest-to-goodness dialogue about our insane world, inasmuch as we are all bound together as citizens traveling on Planet Earth?

On the other hand, there would be those who with much justification—seeing as how we of the older generations have screwed up pretty much everything—would say, “And what do you, old-timer, have to tell us to our edification?” My response might be, “And how do you, one or two generations removed from me, see yourself and your families, especially your children, in relation to our current and future world?”

Could a starting point be a reflection on Pope Francis’ recent visit to the U.S.? I hear that there are intergenerational dialogues going on here and there on such topics, some even within reach of our Phinney Neighborhood Association. Might our own PNA Village be a catalyst for such?

·    ·    ·

Author Dick Gillett is a Member of PNA Village and a retired Episcopal priest. He has written numerous articles for our Village blog including, “Martín’s Journey to the White House”“Johnny Cash & Global Warming”, and “Monthly Book Group at Couth Buzzard”.

PNA Swoosh

“Generation Nice” at Herkimer Coffee

"The Millenials" by Bon Duke © The New York Times

“The Millenials” (Bon Duke © 2014 The New York Times Company)

By Dick Gillett

A few weeks ago, as I reported to my regular coffee hangout at Herkimer Coffee, on Greenwood and 74th, Josh, the barista greeted me as I put in my usual order for a macchiato.

“How are you, Dick?” he asked.

“Terrible,” I responded. I’d just finished reading the morning papers, their headlines proclaiming depressing news the world over.

“That was your mistake,” he responded cheerily.

·    ·    ·

Since my wife and I arrived in Seattle in 2007, I’ve been going to Herkimer’s for my morning macchiato at least three times a week, and a good part of the reason I go is the baristas who work there. To a person they are cheerful, upbeat and just plain nice. Most are “millennials”, born between about 1980 and 2000, although a few are “Gen Xers”, born from the early 1960s to about 1980.

At about the same time Josh joked with me about the news, a prominent story titled “Generation Nice” in the New York Times made me think of this barista crew at Herkimer’s. In the few minutes conversation affords while your coffee is made I’ve learned a surprising amount about them over time. As a member of the so-called “Greatest Generation” (putting me in my 80s), I’m interested in building bridges between generations. We of Planet Earth are going to have to make it together or not at all.

So here’s a glimpse of their thoughts and aspirations, mundane and otherwise.

One early conversation I had with Josh, for example, touched on the 19th century Danish philosopher and theologian Soren Kierkegaard we both knew.

Then there is Chad, a UW grad with a master’s degree in sculpture, who wears T-Shirts that frequently prompt you to ask about them. Recently one bore just the word “Claptrap”, so I asked him what it meant.

“It’s the name of a “fictional, 1920s-era robotic band.”

O ka-a-a-y.

Then we have Cassidy, a serious musician whose indie rock band Pickwick appeared on stage this summer at Benaroya Hall with another group, Sir Mix-a-Lot, and the Seattle Symphony! And Jay, who is studying at Seattle U. for a masters degree in music administration.

Also in the arts is Janelle, an anthropology major who became seriously interested in Arab music and dance. This in turn has informed her of the great importance of valuing Arab culture and history, and she’s been twice to Egypt. She also dances and teaches dance.

Marisa was a Spanish major at UW (we have practiced Spanish occasionally). Her plans are to complete the prerequisites for a degree in occupational therapy. And Elaine, the manager, has worked for Herkimer’s for six years and likes the coffee business as a profession. She also has her bachelor’s degree.

Finally, Erin is a writer on food issues. She’s soon leaving Herkimer’s to work as assistant web editor at Yes! Magazine. She recently reviewed a conference convened in South America for subsistence farmers at high altitudes, whose crops are becoming at risk due to global climate change.

At my age I may not be alone in thinking the world is going to hell in a hand basket; that we of the generations preceding have left an awful, awful mess. I sense that these Herkimer millennials and Gen Xers know that. Yet they are smart and cheerful, and appear to have a sense of where they are going.

Maybe we are going to make it!

·    ·    ·

Author Dick Gillett is a Member of PNA Village and a retired Episcopal priest. His previous article, “Martín’s Journey to the White House”, was published August 26, 2014.

“The Millennials Are Generation Nice” by Sam Tanenhaus, published August 15, 2014 by The New York Times.

PNA Swoosh