Readers Shoot Back Pro and Con

1StrawberriesCoverWooden-&-Me-cover-mock-upFor a Personalized Autographed copy of STRAWBERRIES IN WINTERTIME” or “WOODEN & ME” mail a check for $25 to:

Woody Woodburn

400 Roosevelt Court

Ventura, CA 93003

* * *

Readers Shoot Back Pro and Con

My 700-word column a week ago on the Las Vegas mass shooting, where I used the word “dead” 58 times and “wounded” 527 times to emphasize the carnage, resulted in thousands of words in email responses, including these praiseful ones from a reader named Bruce:

“You deserve a Pulitzer! You hit the nail precisely on the head very dramatically and with very few words.”

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A handful of readers, however, were more inclined to think of me as a putz than as a Pulitzer nominee, including Mike “An Ex Subscriber” who wrote:

“Thank you for your article. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I have finally decided to cancel my subscription to the Ventura County Star as I can no longer continue to support such a biased ‘news’ reporting vehicle.

“I’m surprised that you didn’t say we should pass a law to make it illegal to break the laws already in place. How many existing laws were broken in the Las Vegas shooting?1MailbagTypewriter

“I also find it hard to believe that I, as a Law abiding citizen, cannot carry a weapon to defend myself because when seconds count the police are only minutes away.”

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An anonymous reader agreed with Mike “An Ex Subscriber,” emailing just one word to me: “Fool.”

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From Peggy: “My opinion is that we have WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION un-checked. These are wielded by white men, not Muslims, Mexicans, black men, etc.

“No ‘spines’ in Congress.”

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Another Peggy wrote: “Thank you for your unique and startling column that not only disturbingly demonstrates the toll from the Las Vegas massacre, but also draws sharp attention to the change in weapons from what our Founding Fathers initially dealt with.”

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From Bill, who began with a sarcastic, “An impressive column” and proceeded: “But 58 dead by shooting is the average monthly homicides on the south side of Chicago.

“Former President Obama has a ‘residence’ on the white Hyde Park island around the University of Chicago. It is mere blocks away from the daily mayhem that Obama totally ignored while being president for eight years. So, who is really our idiot president?”

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From David: “Impactful article. I agree with your assessment of the American people. We have to be idiots to insist on gun rights and elect the likes of Trump. It’s not his sanity I question – it’s ours.”

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From Jim: “I thank you for making an incredibly powerful argument against the idiocy of our ‘gun love.’ ”

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From Chuck: “I’m sure you will hear a lot of negative feedback from 2nd Amendment, NRA, gun-rights extremists; but your are correct – America is stupid.

“However, I hold no optimism for anything being done about the easy availability and proliferation of guns in the U.S. If the Congress did not have the political or moral will to take any action after Sandy Hook and the slaughter of 24 first graders, nothing will be done now.

“It is sad that U.S. policies concerning weapons meant solely for mass killing in war is dictated by a minority of Americans.”

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Fred disagreed with me at length, but was rare in doing so with civility. He concluded: “Let’s face it Woody, we Americans are of two different worlds when it comes to defining what freedom is, and I hope with all my heart that as a country we continue to challenge each other with ongoing discussions such as this.

“I also hope and pray that we will never (ever!) be of only one political view because that would be the end of America as the Founding Fathers envisioned.”

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Terri echoed the viewpoint of a number of others: “The time for the uproar is now.”

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From Rick: “Thank you Woody, for such an enlightening, informative, cogent Article today. I learned so much. Instead of your usual pithy comments, you waste all of your space on nothing. Congrats!”

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Sorry, but I had no pith in my heart a week past. Next Saturday, I will try to again be pithy.

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Woody Woodburn writes a weekly column for The Ventura County Star and can be contacted at WoodyWriter@gmail.com.

Wooden & Me Kickstarter Front PhotoCheck out my memoir WOODEN & ME: Life Lessons from My Two-Decade Friendship with the Legendary Coach and Humanitarian to Help “Make Each Day Your Masterpiece” and my essay collection “Strawberries in Wintertime: Essays on Life, Love, and Laughter” …

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Boston Massacre Misnamed Today

1StrawberriesCoverWooden-&-Me-cover-mock-upFor a Personalized Autographed copy of STRAWBERRIES IN WINTERTIME” or “WOODEN & ME” mail a check for $25 to:

Woody Woodburn

400 Roosevelt Court

Ventura, CA 93003

* * *

The Boston Massacre Misnamed Today

On March 5, 1770, eight British soldiers fired into a crowd of civilians and the result was The Boston Massacre.

What a quaint use of the word “massacre.” With flintlock muskets of the 19th century, the tally was: three dead and two mortally wounded.

On Oct. 1, 2017, one man with an armload of 21st-century assault rifles and here is what a massacre has become:

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Dead. Dead. Wounded wounded wounded wounded wounded wounded wounded wounded wounded. Dead. Wounded.

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Wounded wounded wounded wounded wounded wounded wounded. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead.

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If this—59 dead, 527 wounded, by one civilian—is what our Founding Fathers had in mind when they wrote the Second Amendment, they were idiots.

I do not believe our Founding Fathers were idiots.

I believe we Americans are.

* * *

Woody Woodburn writes a weekly column for The Ventura County Star and can be contacted at WoodyWriter@gmail.com.

Wooden & Me Kickstarter Front PhotoCheck out my memoir WOODEN & ME: Life Lessons from My Two-Decade Friendship with the Legendary Coach and Humanitarian to Help “Make Each Day Your Masterpiece” and my essay collection “Strawberries in Wintertime: Essays on Life, Love, and Laughter” …

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Thoughts on This, That and the Other

1StrawberriesCoverWooden-&-Me-cover-mock-upFor a Personalized Autographed copy of STRAWBERRIES IN WINTERTIME” or “WOODEN & ME” mail a check for $25 to:

Woody Woodburn

400 Roosevelt Court

Ventura, CA 93003

* * *

Thoughts on This, That and the Other

In protest of our nation’s bitterly divided house, I am taking a knee while offering to all Americans an Irish blessing I saw in a pub in Dublin: “May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night, and a smooth road all the way to your door.”

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Okay, in all honesty, I can think of a few individuals that I have cold words for and wish an endless uphill road filled with potholes.

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Earl Warren, the 14th Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, famously said: “I always turn to the sports section first. The sports section records man’s accomplishments; the front page has nothing but man’s failures.”

Were he alive today, I imagine Mr. Warren would read the comics first – and toss away the sports section and front page.

Twitter and Facebook would surely cause him to smash his smartphone with a gavel.

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I feel a thank-you shout-out is merited for the kind reader of this space who, anonymously, donated a new copy of “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” – which the Conejo Valley Unified School District had considered not approving – to The Brodiea Ave. Books Free Library that I wrote about earlier this month.

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Add Brodiea mini-library: At the recommendation of curator Glenn Egelko, I borrowed a collection of essays titled “Dancing Under the Moon: Love and Sex, Life and Death, and Some Nice Little Italian Restaurants in the Nation of Los Angeles.”

This copy is actually signed by the author: “Happy 40th anniversary, Lois – & 40 more! Al Martinez 8/22/92.”

I hope Lois has now reached a happy 65th. I also wish The Bordiea Library a happy fifth anniversary “– & 40 more!”

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1starsbook

“A boy’s dream is for himself. A man’s dream is for others.” — Wisdom from Roger Thompson

If you see people dancing in the aisles at Trader Joe’s as though they are at a wedding reception, it could be because of this autumn sign now on display: “Welcome to the Land of ALL THINGS PUMPKIN.”

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Add books. In “We Stood Upon Stars: Finding God in Lost Places,” a new offering by Venturan author Roger Thompson, of the numerous beautiful phrases and passages within, I especially love this fatherly wisdom:

“I’ve always had good reasons to not do things, but my boys were getting older. The opportunities would soon pass. If I wasn’t careful, memories of things we did would be eclipsed by regrets of things we didn’t.”

Also, this gem: “A boy’s dream is for himself. A man’s dream is for others.”

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The Ventura City Council didn’t ask me, but I think the downtown parking meters should be tossed into the ocean to create artificial reefs for fish – and not replaced.

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In response to my column about special teachers, reader Robert Newell shared this:

“I remember Miss Look, who was my 5th-grade teacher at Montalvo Elementary. I had a lot of fun growing up on a ranch in Montalvo during WW2. Back then we were all farm kids familiar with all kinds of animals, domestic and wild.

“One day at a recess, one or more boys found a gopher snake and sneaked it into Miss Look’s desk drawer. When recess was over we all waited for the big surprise or scare.

“When she opened the top drawer, Mrs. Look very calmly picked the snake up walked to the window and dropped it outside. Never a word was uttered by her or the boys in our class.”

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Ed Wehan, a local ultra-running legend who – among his feats of feet – placed seventh in the granddaddy 1979 Western States 100 Miler, was also a team captain for the UC-Santa Barbara tennis team.

During his Gaucho days, Ed played Arthur Ashe in the Southern California Intercollegiate Championships.

Thinking of Ashe, let me close here with this wisdom from the late, great champion who once sweated out a 6-3, 6-3 win over my friend Ed:

“From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.”

Be sure to make a life today.

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Warm Handshakes Over Cold Names

1StrawberriesCoverWooden&Me_cover_PRFor a Personalized Autographed copy of STRAWBERRIES IN WINTERTIME” or “WOODEN & ME” mail a check for $25 to:

Woody Woodburn

400 Roosevelt Court

Ventura, CA 93003

* * *

Warm Handshakes Trump Cold Names

“Eighty percent of success is showing up,” Woody Allen is famously credited with saying. While this may very well be true in show business, and even most businesses, I think it falls short in the classroom.

To learn, it helps greatly if kids show up enthused.

Think back to your own school days. I am fairly confident you had one, maybe a couple – and if you were rabbit-foot lucky, a handful – of teachers who made you happy you showed up for class. They made you feel like your veins coursed with carbonated soda bubbles.

My first-grade teacher, Miss Bauer, was one of these effervescent educators. One memorable example of what made her special: she would occasionally greet us outside Room 4’s door with a pop quiz.

And this quiz was as much fun as the recess we were coming in from.

Miss Bauer would do a rhythmic series of knocks on our open classroom door, each unique offering sounding like a mixture of Morse code and drumming. One by one, we needed to duplicate her knockity-knock-knockings to pass the quiz before we could pass in through the doorway.

As mentioned, this grandly fun entrance happened only occasionally. Which is why a teacher in the Wichita Public Schools trumps even my beloved Miss Bauer. I do not know this teacher’s name – I shall call her “Miss Bonjour” – but I have seen a viral on-line video of her ritual with her students that warms my heart.

"Miss Bonjour" starting her schoolkids' days off in a unique way!

“Miss Bonjour” starting her schoolkids’ days off in a unique way for each.

Every morning before the start of class, Miss Bonjour greets each student – fourth-graders, I’m guessing, perhaps fifth-graders – with a handshake. Not any handshake, mind you, but an individualized welcoming for every single kid.

This is no small thing, for on the day the video was recorded 19 students lined up in the hallway waiting their turn. Also, these handshakes are far from simple. They are choreographed and rehearsed routines, some as complex as a Laker Girls halftime dance number.

There are high fives, low fives and patty-cake slaps.

There are fist bumps, elbow thumps and hopping jumps.

There are fingers touched lightly and hands clasped quickly.

Palms are slapped and backs of hands are softly whacked, sometimes in a music-making rapid sequence – slap-whack-slap-slap-whack . . .

Toes are even tapped in a fist-bump-like manner.

All of these various components are combined in singular ways. Some kids incorporate a handful of the pieces and others use the entire kit and caboodle in their signature shake.

While the students only have to memorize their own stylized greeting, Miss Bonjour has each and every one of these “handshakes” down pat – rather, pitty-pat.

A few of the good-morning “handshakes” have a hug, or even two, orchestrated into them between the various hand maneuvers and dance steps.

All the “handshakes” end with a hug – and two smiles, teacher’s and student’s.

The whole procession takes nearly a minute and half, but certainly it is not time wasted or stolen from English, Math or History. Rather, it helps ensure the kids will be enthused learners the rest of the day.

I have watched this video a dozen times, if not twice that, the past month and each viewing has made me smile anew. This week, however, it also saddened me – for why can’t the current president of the United States behave like Miss Bonjour?

Why, instead, must he make up individual disrespectful nicknames for others – such as “Low-Energy Jeb” and “Little Marco,” “Lying Ted” and “Crooked Hillary,” and the bitterly offensive “Pocahontas” for Senator Elizabeth Warren.

And, earlier this week speaking at the United Nations General Assembly, “Rocket Man.” Regardless of which country, which leader, such name-calling is below the dignity of the presidency of the United States.

I wish our president would use his little hands to be welcoming, like a role-model public school teacher in Wichita does each morning, instead of his big mouth to constantly bully.

As Miss Bauer said, and all grade-school teachers do: “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”

Golden advice for all of us, even – no, especially – America’s current president.

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Woody Woodburn writes a weekly column for The Ventura County Star and can be contacted at WoodyWriter@gmail.com.

Wooden & Me Kickstarter Front PhotoCheck out my memoir WOODEN & ME: Life Lessons from My Two-Decade Friendship with the Legendary Coach and Humanitarian to Help “Make Each Day Your Masterpiece” and my essay collection “Strawberries in Wintertime: Essays on Life, Love, and Laughter” …

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A Few Words About A Lot of Words

1StrawberriesCoverWooden&Me_cover_PRFor a Personalized Autographed copy of STRAWBERRIES IN WINTERTIME” or “WOODEN & ME” mail a check for $25 to:

Woody Woodburn

400 Roosevelt Court

Ventura, CA 93003

* * *

A Few Words About A Lot of Words

Last week was my anniversary and I forgetfully let it pass.

Fortunately it was not my 35th wedding anniversary, but rather marked seven years writing this general-interest column on Saturdays. That adds up to 364 columns of 700 words, for a total of more than a quarter-million words.

Hence, a timely topic seems to be to discuss my wordiness.

Rather, my newfound brevity because for 25 years I wrote a sports column of 800 to 850 words each.

When I began this new 700-word challenge, it felt like trying to pack for a two-week vacation in a school backpack. I found myself still saying hello to an essay subject when it was time to bid goodbye.

But a funny thing happened: my frustration slowly shrank and I found myself enjoying the Haiku-like difficulty. Too, I found truth in Ben Franklin’s apology to a friend: “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”1twain

I still usually start by writing north of 900 words, but then I must take the time to write a shorter letter. Oftentimes, eliminating 200 words takes longer than writing the original draft. Trimming the final dozen words alone to get below 700 can take an hour.

Here again I find inspiration in others. Ernest Hemingway had his “Iceberg Theory” in which he believed that the seven-eighths a writer leaves out is as important as the one-eighth he puts in above water.

The poet John Ruskin put it this way: “Say all you have to say in the fewest possible words, or your reader will be sure to skip them; and in the plainest possible words or he will certainly misunderstand them.”

My writing idol, the late Pulitzer Prize-winning sports columnist Jim Murray, once told me: “Try not to run out of your allotment of commas.” He explained that before filing a column, he would re-read it one final time and replace as many commas as possible with periods.

Mark Twain felt similarly about adjectives, advising: “As to the adjective, when in doubt, strike it out.”

In other words, easy reading is hard writing. It requires rewriting, striking out words, rewriting again.

“I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter,” the outstanding novelist James Michener said.

Again from Hemingway, who was more blunt than Michener: “The first draft of anything is (doo-doo).” Although Papa didn’t say “doo-doo.”

Henry Beston, an acclaimed author and naturalist, said he sometimes spent an entire morning on a single sentence. Oscar Wilde was even more painstaking, being credited with saying: “I spent all morning putting in a comma and all afternoon taking it out.”

The importance of a comma or a single word is no small thing. Mark Twain, no doubt taking the time to craft a shorter letter, wrote to George Bainton: “The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter – it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

Henry David Thoreau famously advised, “Simplify, simplify.” His friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson, replied even more wisely: “One ‘simplify’ would have sufficed.”

“Simplicity is the glory of expression,” Walt Whitman gloriously expressed in a mere six words. Leonardo da Vinci, however, needed only five words: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

It seems to me these thoughts apply to all endeavors, be it writing or engineering or performing surgery.

Simplicity, of course, has its limits. The genius Albert Einstein knew this, explaining: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

Antoine de Saint Exupery agreed: “In anything at all perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away.”

I will close these 700 words with a few from a Woody far wiser than myself – Guthrie, the legendary folk signer: “Any fool can make something complicated. It takes a genius to make it simple.”

This fool will continue his quest to simplify his next 250,000 words so they will hopefully not be doo-doo.

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Woody Woodburn writes a weekly column for The Ventura County Star and can be contacted at WoodyWriter@gmail.com.

Wooden & Me Kickstarter Front PhotoCheck out my memoir WOODEN & ME: Life Lessons from My Two-Decade Friendship with the Legendary Coach and Humanitarian to Help “Make Each Day Your Masterpiece” and my essay collection “Strawberries in Wintertime: Essays on Life, Love, and Laughter” …

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Mom’s Day Gift is Free Library

1StrawberriesCoverWooden&Me_cover_PRFor a Personalized Autographed copy of STRAWBERRIES IN WINTERTIME” or “WOODEN & ME” mail a check for $25 to:

Woody Woodburn

400 Roosevelt Court

Ventura, CA 93003

* * *

This Mother’s Day Gift is for Kids

“Though she be but little, she is fierce!” Shakespeare wrote in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and these words seem apropos when describing the curbside street library on the 2700 block of Preble Avenue in midtown Ventura.

Though it is but little, it is fiercely wonderful!

Indeed, “The Little Free Library” (charter #35222) lives up to its name: it is a mere 21 inches wide by 24 inches tall, with only two shelves. Also, its books are free.

That’s right, people are can take – and keep – a book. No library card is required. Patrons can also return a borrowed book or leave a donated book.1TimCindy

The library belongs to Tim and Cindy Hansen. More accurately, it is Cindy’s – she requested it for Mother’s Day two years past.

Tim and the couple’s adult sons Bernie and Franklin, made Cindy’s wish a reality. Perched atop a waist-high post, the “Prairie Two-Story” model they selected from littlefreelibrary.org looks like an elegant birdhouse with a picture window as a front door.

Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization aimed at increasing access to books for readers of all ages. Annually, Little Free Libraries foster the sharing of millions of books worldwide. In the Hansen’s neighborhood alone, there are two more free street libraries within walking distance.

The bottom shelf of the Hansen’s library is devoted to children’s books, and for good reason: “It’s lower and easier for the kids to reach,” Cindy notes.

Adding to the kid-friendliness are two curbside reading chairs.

Meanwhile, Tim enjoys his own nearby watching chair.

“It is a joy to sit on my porch and watch the birds all flutter away as a child comes running up to look for a new book,” Tim says, his voice filled with flight.

Wearing a navy-blue knit watchman’s cap, even on a warm afternoon, combined with his shrub-thick and long gray beard, Tim comes into focus like a Hemingway character of the sea. Cindy, meanwhile, constantly wears a smile that shines like a lighthouse.

Both have an oceanic-deep love for books.

As a child, Cindy says, the “Little House” series by Laura Ingalls Wilder “opened the world of reading for me.” She has spent her adult life opening up this same world for youth as an educational therapist and school librarian.

“I love to find that one book that lights a kid’s world on fire,” Cindy shares. This included her two sons who, she notes with a laugh, “grew up hearing me tell them to go read a book, not watch TV.”

Visiting Cindy and Tim, it quickly becomes clear that even though their street library has a top shelf of titles for adults among its roughly 50 books, their real focus is young readers. For example, Cindy routinely buys children’s books to ensure the lower shelf remains full.

“During summer, when school was out, the kids’ books really disappeared,” Cindy says, happily.

She adds, also happily: “When I’m gardening here out front, I love to see kids walk by or hop out of a car and get a book. It’s become part of the neighborhood.”

What difference can a mere few dozen books make? I am reminded of the beachcomber tossing a starfish back into the ocean, while hundreds more remained stranded on the sand after a storm, and telling a naysayer: “To this one, I’m making all the difference in the world.”

So it is with this little library, as a journal kept alongside reveals.

“I took a book, I drop a book in the night. Be back, Conrad” reads one entry.

Another: “Thankful to have such thoughtful neighbors. Reading opens our hearts and minds to a world of imagination. I’ll be back. (drawn heart)”

One more: “Thank you for having books. I enjoy it & really appreciate it.”

And, lastly, my favorite, printed in the hand of a young child: “thank you fore this little free labrary this will rilly help : ) Adeline”

I imagine this may be the first library little Adeline has ever visited. I also imagine it will forever remain her favorite.

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Woody Woodburn writes a weekly column for The Ventura County Star and can be contacted at WoodyWriter@gmail.com.

Wooden & Me Kickstarter Front PhotoCheck out my memoir WOODEN & ME: Life Lessons from My Two-Decade Friendship with the Legendary Coach and Humanitarian to Help “Make Each Day Your Masterpiece” and my essay collection “Strawberries in Wintertime: Essays on Life, Love, and Laughter” …

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Little Library Stands Out in Big Way

1StrawberriesCoverWooden&Me_cover_PRFor a Personalized Autographed copy of STRAWBERRIES IN WINTERTIME” or “WOODEN & ME” mail a check for $25 to:

Woody Woodburn

400 Roosevelt Court

Ventura, CA 93003

* * *

Little Library Stands Out in a Big Way

The grandeur of Trinity College Library in Dublin, Ireland, where the famous Book of Kells (dating back to around 800 C.E.) is on display, is breathtaking.

The venerable New York Public Library, similarly, is a cathedral filled with books.

For sheer volume of volumes, the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., boasts 39 million books on 838 miles of bookshelves.

An impressive trio, and yet I have a theorem that the very first library a child visits will forever remain his or her favorite. Thus, the fourth library on my personal “Mount Rushmore of Libraries” visited, joining the three above, is the modest Tremont Public Library in Upper Arlington, Ohio.

Tremont’s children’s section likely did not have 838 feet of shelves. No matter, it was magical to me. The first book I vividly recall using my new library card to check out was “Where the Wild Things Are.”

“The Brodiea Ave. Books Free Library” is little and lovely!

“The Brodiea Ave. Books Free Library” is little and lovely!

Published in 1963, “Where the Wild Things Are” is now on display in the Library of Congress’s exhibit “1950 to 2000: Books That Shaped America.”

Shaping America – and especially young Americans – is a hallmark of libraries, which is why Albert Einstein once proclaimed: “The only thing that you absolutely have to know is the location of the library.”

I recently learned the location of a library that is as tiny as the Library of Congress is colossal, and yet in its own way is every bit as special.

“The Brodiea Ave. Books Free Library” has 16 total feet of bookshelves, not 838 miles; and only about 200 books, not 39 million. All the same, I can imagine – and isn’t imagination what libraries are all about? – no finer ocean view at any library.

Located on the 1400 block of Brodiea Avenue, curbside right on the winding one-way street, the Brodiea Library is basically a dining-room hutch filled with books rather than china plates.

This “hutch” belongs to nearby homeowner Glenn Egelko. He asked his friend, Larry Davis, to build it five summers ago after Glenn read a newspaper article about a “street library” offering books for free.

Glenn’s street library is 6 feet tall by 4 feet wide, with four shelves. To protect the books within, the handsome structure has a shingle roof and two side-by-side, full-length Plexiglas doors that are, in fact, repurposed 99-year-old window frames.

Accenting the beauty of Davis’s woodworking is a stone pathway, potted plants, and the Pacific Ocean far below. The main attraction, however, is the ever-changing collection of books.

“People visit day and night,” Glenn notes, the latter made easier thanks to a solar light in the hutch. “Morning walkers in the neighborhood stop by, skateboards come by, cars drive by and stop at all hours.”

The library has even become a popular spot for taking selfies, but people taking books is its true mission.

“You can take a book and keep it if you want,” Glenn explains. “Or you can bring it back after you read it. People can also leave a book. There are no rules.”

No rules and no library cards, yet returning books and donating extras seems to be the rule more than the exception. To be sure, shelf space – not the generosity of people – is what limits the library to about 200 titles at any given time.

Glenn insists he is not the head librarian, for he does not organize the books, check them out, nor check them back in.

“I started it by putting in about 12 books and it has grown organically on its own from there,” Glenn shares. “It basically takes care of itself.”

Asked what motivated him to create this lovely little library, Glenn answers: “Mostly, I wanted a way I could do something that was not about me. I just hoped people would enjoy it.”

By all measures, Glenn and his wife Elisabeth – an artists who creates free bookmarks for the library – have succeeded in a big way.

As have Cindy and Tim Hansen, whose free street library is even littler – about which we will learn more in this space next week.

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Woody Woodburn writes a weekly column for The Ventura County Star and can be contacted at WoodyWriter@gmail.com.

Wooden & Me Kickstarter Front PhotoCheck out my memoir WOODEN & ME: Life Lessons from My Two-Decade Friendship with the Legendary Coach and Humanitarian to Help “Make Each Day Your Masterpiece” and my essay collection “Strawberries in Wintertime: Essays on Life, Love, and Laughter” …

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Back To School Thoughts, Laughs

1StrawberriesCoverWooden&Me_cover_PRFor a Personalized Autographed copy of STRAWBERRIES IN WINTERTIME” or “WOODEN & ME” mail a check for $25 to:

Woody Woodburn

400 Roosevelt Court

Ventura, CA 93003

* * *

Always Make Time for Playing

 School is back in session and I, for one, will miss having the kids around every day.

No, not my two kids because their last first days of school have passed. Rather, the kids I see daily during the summer out and about at the beach, around the neighborhood, playing at parks.

Here is an example of how random kids brighten my day. It occurred at a local soccer field while I was on my afternoon run.

Five boys, all around age 10, were playing with a Nerf football. Two of the kids were the headliners – make that, HEADliners.

Kid 1: “You keep hitting me in the head with the football.”

Kid 2: “Yeah.”1maya

Boink!

Kid 1: “Hey, are you doing it on purpose?”

Kid 2: “Yeah.”

Kid 1: “Why?”

Kid 2: “Because it’s fun.”

Kid 1: “Okay.”

Me: Laughter.

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Because most things can be improved in some way, it seems to me the word “perfect” is usually not a perfect adjective.

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Monday’s solar eclipse was, I dare say, perfect.

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Add solar eclipse. Maya Angelou’s poetic words seemed perfect for the occasion: “This is a wonderful day – I have never seen this one before.”

Today, too, even without an eclipse.

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The U.S. Navy didn’t ask me, but in the 21st century its ships should not be colliding into tankers and container ships, as has tragically happened twice in the past two months.

Heck, in the 19th century these collisions should not have happened.

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Nobody asked me, but I wish there was as much widespread interest in seeing our natural parks and protecting our oceans, rivers and environment as there was in buying protective goggles and viewing the solar eclipse.

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In response to my column on mentoring, Art Zweig emailed asking me to share information about the local chapter of SCORE (www.ventura.score.org) – Senior Core of Retired Executives:

“It was started in 1964 by then-president Kennedy. We are volunteers who are mentors for people who want to start up a business or need help in a business they already have.

“We meet with people, one on one, free of charge and cover an array of topics – financing, accounting, legal and any other subject they might need. We also have many workshops on a variety of topics every month.

“We also offer programs for Veterans of the Armed Forces called Boots to Business. I would appreciate it if you could mention this in your column so the public is aware that we are available to help.”

Consider it mentioned, Art.

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A number of readers emailed in about my column remembering former Star sports editor John Cressy. Here are excerpts from two:

“It is so hard to lose a longtime friend. I think society undervalues the depth of that loss,” wrote Colleen Cason, my wise colleague. “I wish I had known John better. I saw him a couple months ago at UCSB. He was so upbeat. I’m glad to have that memory of him to hold onto. My condolences to you and all the others at the loss of the leader of the band.”

And from Larry Alamillo: “I did not know the man, but I easily recognized John Cressy’s name. He was one of my favorites.”

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My wife doesn’t have a lot of products cluttering our shower, but these four bottles caught my eye: a shampoo with “coconut milk,” body wash with “vanilla chai,” conditioner with “avocado” and Fur So Green shampoo with “green tea.”

Reaction 1: I’m assuming the last bottle is for our dog Murray.

Reaction 2: I hope there’s no Wheaties with “Dove Soap” in the pantry.

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Coming full circle back to Back To School, a nugget of wisdom Coach John Wooden once wrote to my kids seems worth sharing now: “Please remember that, as the new school year is here, to work hard on your studies – but keep some time for play!”

Probably perfect advice for adults and their working lives, too – keep some time for play!

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Woody Woodburn writes a weekly column for The Ventura County Star and can be contacted at WoodyWriter@gmail.com.

Wooden & Me Kickstarter Front PhotoCheck out my memoir WOODEN & ME: Life Lessons from My Two-Decade Friendship with the Legendary Coach and Humanitarian to Help “Make Each Day Your Masterpiece” and my essay collection “Strawberries in Wintertime: Essays on Life, Love, and Laughter” …

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Magic in Being a Mentee or Mentor

1StrawberriesCoverWooden&Me_cover_PRFor a Personalized Autographed copy of STRAWBERRIES IN WINTERTIME” or “WOODEN & ME” mail a check for $25 to:

Woody Woodburn

400 Roosevelt Court

Ventura, CA 93003

* * *

Magic in Being a Mentee or Mentor

An over-worn cliché has it that something really boring is “like watching paint dry.”

While I have never felt obliged to test the truth of this adage, I do know that watching someone paint can be quite the opposite. An artist working on a canvas, or a craftsman painting a wall with a hand so steady he doesn’t need painter’s tape to protect the ceiling, can be entertaining and even enthralling.

Indeed, if a person paints with passion and mastery, I can sit for a long spell watching. And if an experienced artist is teaching another person – showing and instructing and encouraging – I become spellbound. I feel vicariously like a lucky mentee myself. This is true viewing a master in any endeavor.1mentor

I once watched, totally engrossed for more than an hour, a master bricklayer and an apprentice build a wall. At first, the master did most of the work; by the end, the apprentice was working solo. As it should be.

So it was a great pleasure recently when I got to be a fly on the wall, so to speak, and eavesdrop on a grandly successful business owner enthusiastically sharing his knowledge with a college student.

The business owner, nearly three times the age of the student, is nearing the end of his career. The student, meanwhile, started his own business a year ago and it has become a growing success already.

“The Kid” is entering his senior year at Pepperdine majoring in Integrated Marketing and Communications. He reached out to “The Master” in hopes of gaining a dose of wisdom that is not readily offered in the classroom or lecture hall.

It seems to me The Kid is already on a winning path because few things are as instrumental to success as finding worthy mentors and role models. Eric Greitens, a former Rhodes Scholar and Navy Seal and humanitarian, agrees. In his best-selling book, “Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life”, he writes:

“If I sat down in your living room and placed a giant bag of a jigsaw puzzle pieces on a table in front of you and asked you to put all the pieces together, what’s the first thing you’d ask for?

“I’m guessing you’d ask for a picture. You’d want to know how all of the pieces fit together. You’d want to know what you’re trying to make. Here’s the thing: life only hands you pieces. You have to figure out how to put them together.

“Your life doesn’t come with a picture of what it’s supposed to look like on a box. You have to – you get to – choose that picture for yourself. And you choose it by looking for a model of a life well lived. That’s your picture.”

The Kid has chosen The Master as one of the pictures for how his own puzzle pieces might best fit together.

It is not important for me to share the specifics The Master shared with The Kid during their hour-and-a-half restaurant visit. Suffice to say, The Kid listened raptly, asked insightful questions, and listened some more.

Here is what really struck me: The Master also asked insightful questions and listened fully. The Master is a master, it seems to me, because he knows he doesn’t know it all and wants to learn what he can from the younger generation.

What began as a nervous ask-and-listen session quickly became a comfortable two-way conversation. Afterward, The Kid said it was one of the most informative experiences he has ever had.

I dare say The Master enjoyed it equally. He has kindly offered more of his time and wisdom since. A mentorship was born.

I guess the point of sharing this story is simply to encourage more people to knock down any metaphorical brick walls that are preventing them from reaching out to a potential mentor.

Also, to encourage more of us to be mentors.

After all, it is one thing to be the picture of a completed puzzle – it is even more rewarding to help someone learn how to actually put the pieces together.

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Woody Woodburn writes a weekly column for The Ventura County Star and can be contacted at WoodyWriter@gmail.com.

Wooden & Me Kickstarter Front PhotoCheck out my memoir WOODEN & ME: Life Lessons from My Two-Decade Friendship with the Legendary Coach and Humanitarian to Help “Make Each Day Your Masterpiece” and my essay collection “Strawberries in Wintertime: Essays on Life, Love, and Laughter” …

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Final Farewell to Leader of Our Band

1StrawberriesCoverWooden&Me_cover_PRFor a Personalized Autographed copy of STRAWBERRIES IN WINTERTIME” or “WOODEN & ME” mail a check for $25 to:

Woody Woodburn

400 Roosevelt Court

Ventura, CA 93003

* * *

Final Farewell to Leader of Our Band

Where to begin?

I would like to open with the laughter, but I suppose I had better go with the tears. I would not want my old sports editor to scold me for burying the lede.

John Cressy lost his courageous battle with metastatic cancer last Sunday. He was, of course, too young. He barely made it, by two months, to the Beatles song, “When I’m 64.”

John was the Paul McCartney of our band in the sports department of The Star back when it was The Star-Free Press. From 1987 to 1993 he was our leader, our editor, our “O Captain! My Captain!”

Or perhaps he was our John Lennon, for he similarly possessed a wry and acerbic wit. “Cressyman,” as I called him because he always called me “Woodman,” never met deadline pressure he could not pierce with humor.

I was John’s first hire after he became sports editor. If he ever regretted it, he was kind enough never to tell me so.

He actually had reason for second thoughts early on when a couple other editors complained to him that my writing was embellished with too many metaphors, similes and hyperbole.

Similar criticisms had been voiced at my three previous newspapers. But something different happened now. John had my back. He told the naysayer editors he liked my writing style and that so did the readers.

Most important, he took me aside and told me to keep doing it my way.

This is not to say John didn’t try to help me grow as a writer. For one thing, he made me realize less can be more – that an 850-word column could be improved if I whittled it down to 750 words.

Long after John left the Star, I continued to check with him whenever I used the word “whom” to make sure my grammar was correct. He kept trying to teach me how to figure it out on my own, but I honestly didn’t pay close attention because it was always a good excuse to touch bases with him.

John was not only an invaluable grammar reference, he was a human sports trivia almanac. Before the Internet, instead of Googling a question we would just ask John. He once won a few episodes on a sports trivia TV show. Local bars would even call the sports desk and ask for John to settle trivia bets between two patrons.

My experience of having my sports editor also be my friend was the rule, not the exception, with John. Former Star colleague Doug Thompson succinctly summed it up well for all of us: “I am grateful to have known him as a friend.”

When news got out that John was in the ICU at Community Memorial Hospital, his former writers rushed to see him. Those who could not make it to Ventura sent messages of their friendship and love.

Walking into the ICU, I at first did not recognize John, so frail had he become. Whispering required great effort on his part – and leaning in close to his lips on my part to hear.

Saying hello when my heart was telling me this was also a final farewell was suffocatingly somber. And yet John, with some trademark acerbic quips, made me laugh. When he called me “Woodman” it made me smile.

Most dear of all, the thing I will hold on to from that heartrending visit was how Cressyman asked about my daughter and son, and wife. Nor was he content with brief updates, he wanted details in full.

After leaving his bedside I couldn’t find the elevator at first, my vision too clouded by tears.

But tears are not what John – who had a great laugh, a cackle really, and did not conserve it – would want. He would prefer me to end this column on a lighter note. I’ll try.

It’s funny the things you think of at a time like this. Like, who/whom the heck am I now going to ask about who/whom?

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Woody Woodburn writes a weekly column for The Ventura County Star and can be contacted at WoodyWriter@gmail.com.

Wooden & Me Kickstarter Front PhotoCheck out my memoir WOODEN & ME: Life Lessons from My Two-Decade Friendship with the Legendary Coach and Humanitarian to Help “Make Each Day Your Masterpiece” and my essay collection “Strawberries in Wintertime: Essays on Life, Love, and Laughter” …

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