Paragraph to Ponder

“Fifty years ago, 90% of black postsecondary students attended historically black schools. In 1990, it was close to 17%. Today, around 9% do.”

From “Historically black colleges, including Bennett in Greensboro, locked in fight for survival”.

Why does it matter? Because nationwide, black students tend to do better overall at historically black colleges. They are more likely to graduate within six years than black students at predominantly white institutions. Also, black students at HBCUs are more likely to go on to graduate school than those who attend other schools.

In recent years, historically black colleges and universities have seen enrollments plummet and endowments decrease. The students in this article highlight the primary challenge the HBCU’s face, initially very enthusiastic about their choice, the students bail as soon as their college’s or university’s accreditation is threatened.

Sadly, apart from 8 figure donations, enlightened financial leadership, and continuing accreditation, I don’t know how the HBCU’s stem the race for the exits.

For a Dad

Consider a “conversation” I had with Eldest this week:

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For. A. Dad. Each word, a separate dagger to the heart. Just goes to show, we often see ourselves differently than others do. In my mind, I’m eternally young and hip to the scene. Well, maybe that’s a touch hyperbolic, but I definitely don’t want to be put into a “dad box” with the concomitant jeans, bod, and who knows what else.

You have to give Eldest credit though, she realizes I’m sensitive for my demographic and bends over backwards to make amends.

So I’m “ahead of the curve in my demo” and “sometimes I know better music”. I am not too proud to accept charity.

Instead of writing her out of the will, I went full Michelle Obama and took the high road, recommending a newly discovered catchy/funny track called “Dear Winter” by AJR.

I’m compassionate for my demo, don’t you think?

Postscript: Lil’Picnic, Eldest’s improv friend, has the best nickname of all time.

Wednesday Assorted Links

1. Mariner fans enjoy the fast start because this does not bode well.

2. My parents were well-to-do. When my dad unexpectedly died, my mom was lost in grief and overwhelmed with many new financial responsibilities. Some widows are providing others with much needed roadmaps.

3. When it comes to financial well-being, it’s sad how poorly elite Kenyan runners do.

4. Does massage therapy work?

5A. My last book. Highly recommended.

5B. Current read. Mind blowing. A mentally ill person creates a religion.

 

How To Travel

Differently than the masses with their damn selfie sticks and incessant, narcissistic staged photographs in front of every god forsaken tourist landmark.

Call me hopelessly out of touch. A Luddite. A curmudgeon. A Luddite curmudgeon. Sticks and stones.

Dammit though, when exactly did everyone substitute smart phones for brains?! And my frame of reference was early April, I can’t imagine summer in European cities.

If you live in the US, what would you point a 21st century de Tocqueville to if he or she wanted to understand what life in the (dis)United States is really like? Disney World, the Las Vegas Strip, the National Mall in Washington, DC? If you live outside the US, what would you point someone to if they wanted to begin understanding life in your country in a short period of time?

The trap people fall into is being able to say they’ve seen the most popular places. Others travel in pursuit of good weather, or as a temporary respite from their hectic work lives, or to break out of the mundaneness of their lives.

I’m different, those things don’t motivate me. Not better, just different. I’m most interested in observing and reflecting on what ordinary day-to-day life is like in other places. And then thinking about similarities and differences with my life. I find ordinary aspects of daily life endlessly interesting.

How do parents interact with children? Gently, kindly, absent-mindedly? How much freedom are children and adolescents given? When alone, how do they play together?

Is there much community? How do people create it? In Spain, they go to Tapas bars and eat, drink Sangria, and talk late into the night. No introverts need apply, which probably explains why my application for dual citizenship was summarily denied.

I’d counsel a foreign visitor to the U.S. to skip the big city tourist magnets and instead live for a week or two in a few small to medium sized cities in different parts of the country. Like Marion, Ohio; Valparaiso, Indiana; Seal Beach, California, or Olympia, Washington for example. Attend a school play, get a day pass to the YMCA, attend Olympia’s Arts Walk and Procession of the Species. Go to Vic’s Pizzeria and while eating watch how families interact with one another. At Vic’s, almost always, I’m inspired by the care adults show one another and their children. So much so, I can’t help but think positively about the future. Our politics are hellish at present, but we’ll be okay.

Families—in all their myriad forms—are the building blocks of society, and therefore, a key to understanding any particular place. Whether home or abroad, I’m always eavesdropping on families, in restaurants, in church, in fitness centers, in parks.

How to travel? Go to the world famous museum, ancient city, or cathedral if you must, but resist a steady diet of tourist magnets, instead seek alternative, off-the-beaten-path places as windows into daily life. If my experience is any guide, your life will be enriched by taking the roads less traveled.

Like the Triana farmer’s market in Seville, Spain, where I sat for a long time watching a sixty something father and mother and their thirty something son, cut, wrap, and sell meat to a cross-section of Seville. It was artistry, the way they shared the small space, made eye contact with customers, talked them up, and effortlessly moved product. The son has to take over for the parents at some point, right? He’s a handsome dude with a winsome smile. Does he have a life/business partner to team with? Will he?

Or the small plaza in front of the Sophia Reina Museum in Madrid where school children played a spirited hybrid game of soccer and volleyball while dodging the occasional passerby. Dig that 11 year old girls vicious jump serve. How did she get so athletic so young? A natural. Will she become another great Spanish athlete on the world scene?

Then again, when it comes to alternative tourism, it may be dangerous following my lead. I have 9 pictures from our 11 days in Spain. If someone discovered that at Passport Control at JFK airport in New York, they probably would’ve shredded my passport.

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Another pro tip: always travel with smiley peeps

 

 

 

Why Travel?

Asking why travel is like asking why exercise. Just as it’s a lot easier to be sedentary, it’s a lot easier to stay home.

I have less travel energy than in decades past, but every time I do take off for distant lands, I’m better for it. Better because my understanding of differences expands, which pay dividends long after I return home. Most everyone makes different choices than me about not just where, but how to live. Traveling helps me understand that while I would not make some of the same choices, theirs work out well for them.

Early in our recent trip to Spain, I noticed one of my travel companions saying “That’s weird” on multiple occasions. “That’s different,” I suggested as an alternative.

I’ve been fortunate to see half the world and that one subtle difference may be the most fundamental travel insight of all.

Consider that the Spanish:

  • are more honest about their meat, openly displaying deer legs and dead rabbits in open air markets
  • close most things up from about 2-7p and begin thinking about dinner around 8p
  • pronounce words with an “s” sound—z, s, c for example—as “th”

Not weird, just different. Overtime, if you don’t travel, you run the risk of thinking other ways of life are odd, even inferior to your own. The social scientific term for that is ethnocentrism, but arrogance suffices.

The classic example is the American in London who can’t believe Brits “drive on the wrong side of the road” as if there’s one right side. Actually, that’s not the best example, because most of the time, our arrogance is more subtle and nuanced. When we travel very far at all, we regularly see or hear things that we’re unaccustomed to. We label them weird because we have a hard time assimilating them into what we’re most familiar with. But if we take any time to consider the unique positive aspects of the cultural context, the contrasts in daily life are not weird at all, just different.

Lost in Tiger’s Masters Victory

Understandably, all of the post tourney press is about Tiger’s comeback from professional golf oblivion. Best comeback in the history of sports many argue.

But just like a year ago, when the University of Virginia basketball team became the first #1 seed to lose to a #16 seed in the NCAA tournament, many no doubt missed Francesco Molinari’s master class in gracious losing.

A year ago, after the unlikeliest of defeats, Tony Bennett:

And Sunday afternoon in Augusta, Georgia, Francesco Molinari, taking a page from Bennett’s book:

“I think I made some new fans today with those two double bogeys.” Best runner up interview and line ever. If only all of us were half as centered. As with Bennett, look for Molinari in green sometime soon.

Postscript: How does one explain how Molinari could so surgically make his way around Augusta for 65 holes, then suddenly, as they sometimes say, throw up all over himself? My theory is it had nothing to do with bad swings or Tiger’s death stare, it’s that he could only hold off the weight of the spectators (spare me the “patron” bullshit) for so long. He wasn’t just battling Tiger and numerous other Americans, he was fighting the legion of Tiger fans. How dare anyone, let alone a foreign player, spoil the ending! An empty course and the two stroke cushion he began with is enough to hold Tiger off. Tiger, in other words, owes his victory to the multitudes.