The View from Where I Sit is Actually Much Better than Expected

The Café Compadres, Don and Ed, from WDVR-FM

For someone who has spent more than his fair share of time over the past 48 years comfortably perched on a barstool, I thought the lack of accessible tavern seating during the pandemic might drastically impact my wellbeing. But much to my surprise, the same eyes that so often basked in the sublimity of a field of vision filled with gleaming taps, dusty bottles, and neon signs are now quite content to gaze upon open fields, village greens, and backyard gardens as this newly ordained outdoorsman raises a pint or two. While I may not express that same appreciation for Mother Nature’s pub when those cold winds of December freeze the foam in my IPA, I still won’t be as quick to move the festivities indoors. COVID has caused me to look at people and places in a very different light.

Recently, I heard an NPR interview with Ron Finley, known globally as the (Gangsta Gardener). This Los Angelas based artist and fashion designer has, for the last ten years, made it his mission to bring beauty and sustainable agriculture to the inner city. He has successfully transformed narrow swaths of urban environments into food gardens for those populations that often would not have access to or the resources to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. The model is simple yet effective–better nutrition fosters better outcomes in both the health and education of our children–and those outcomes foster better communities in our future. But there is also another aspect to this idea of the greening-up of urban America.

Our ability to cope with and overcome life’s challenges can be as much about geography as it is about genetics. When I walk out my backdoor, I step into a world of flowers, trees, hills, and an abundance of wildlife. I could not imagine having to have faced this pandemic and the current political and economic upheaval in an environment wherein even in the best of times, there is little to soothe the troubled soul.

Please don’t take this as a knock on city life. As a former Manhattanite, I find nothing more invigorating than immersing myself in a day of urban culture and architecture. But the beauty and benefits of gentrification seldom reach the steps and streets of those poorer neighborhoods that unfortunately make up a disproportionate part of the American cityscape.

So on this warm autumn afternoon, I will a raise glass to the Gangsta Gardener as I tend to my own flowers–and I will raise another to all those among us who bring beauty and hope to those who cannot find it on their own!

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Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

In the Event That This is My Final Post–Please Do the Following

Indian Rock, Upper Black Eddy, PA

“Some men see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.” Robert F. Kennedy

Throughout the journey, which has served as my own minuscule piece of the puzzle called life, I was pretty much convinced that I was more than ready to deal with whatever hand nature dealt. My deterministic tendencies toward the consideration of our collective fates always took into account the possibility of pandemics, apocalyptic pandemonium, and political pestilence. But the idea of facing such scourges without the benefit of an open bar was simply inconceivable–suffering without solace–retribution without refuge!

As to the possibility of this being my last post, I’ve always been aware of those ever-lurking threats to my mortality. And while I don’t consider myself to be in that high at-risk group during this particular health crisis, I do tend toward increasing my odds of injury and death whenever some extended period of being housebound presents a reason to tackle some long-overdue upgrade or repair. At this juncture, I’ve come to the unequivocal conclusion that I’m actually better off on a bar stool than a step stool.

While I may appear to be unduly lamenting the lack of local libations, it is not by any means my intent to downplay the seriousness of the situation. Thousands have suffered a dreadful passing, and thousands more will probably leave this life without the comfort of having loved ones at their side. And for the vast majority of us, it seems that there is little we can do other than to shoulder the fear and uncertainty as we maneuver around the masked scoundrels, scam artists, and self-absorbed survivalists in the paper goods aisle of our supermarkets.

Again, if this is to be my final post, the previous paragraphs could be my last chance to achieve my lifelong allotment of alliteration. So with this clustering of consonants in concert now, hopefully, out of my system, I will endeavor to continue in a more acceptable literary fashion.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a ‘glass is half-empty’ kind of guy. So even amid this extreme threat to our human family, I believe that for every conspiracy-minded individual, political hack, grifter, criminal, and malcontent attempting to take advantage of our misfortune, there are thousands of heroic people performing immeasurable works of care, sacrifice, and charity!

Unfortunately, history has too often shown that while the ranks may swell with good soldiers, the outcome of most conflicts will be determined by a handful of people at the top. And, sadly, it always seems to take an event of extreme magnitude to nudge leadership in the right direction. So all of us are forced to suffer to some degree during Mother Nature’s version of timeout in the corner. As for myself, I have chosen to view this as an opportunity for all of humanity to reflect and reboot. There could be, in fact, a rather profound gift attached to these hard times–that rare second chance to address the disparities that have always plagued our shared existence on this planet.

While this period of sheltering in place may present its own set of problems and put additional strain on our close-quartered relationships, there are, in fact, some unintended benefits. Crime rates are down, home improvements are up, we’re emitting fewer greenhouse gases, and in what is my favorite bit of irony, the Saudi-led coalition has initiated a two-week ceasefire in Yemen with the goal of slowing the spread of coronavirus. Imagine the idea of stopping a war in order to promote better health practices.

So the real question is not who are we now at this moment in time, but who will we be on the other side of this global crisis. And while we are not totally to blame for all of the hardships that befall our kind, those mysterious forces of nature, that almost seem to conspire against our survival, are on occasion culpable in our plight–but the solutions are almost always within our grasp. If our species is to have any chance of outlasting its excessive stockpile of toilet paper, there first has to be a realignment of human consciousness. And then we must finally, with one voice, resolve to irradicate hatred, hunger, homelessness, and poverty.

And for all of that to happen, we are going need one hell of a lot of kindness, consideration, cooperation, and that which needs no alliteration–Love!

So in the event that this does turn out to be my final post, please bartender–fill my glass to the brim!

Stay Safe and Cheers!

Below are links to a couple of songs that have helped to sustain my spirit during these difficult times. Hopefully, they will do the same for you.

Bob Franke: Trouble in this World

James Maddock: My Old Neighborhood

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Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

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