Thanks from Prison

Last night I dined in the North Visiting Room of the Denver Women's Correctional Facility (DW). The Department of Corrections threw a thankyou banquet for approximately 100 prison volunteers, mostly from churches but also including a handful of us AA volunteers. We were served chicken, roast beef and vegetarian lasagna and delicious homemade eclairs by women inmates from DW who are part of a culinary training program. After dinner, two DW inmates and three men from Camp George West, a minimum security state prison in Golden, gave brief and heartfelt tributes to the volunteers.

The first speaker began by quoting the passage in Matthew which includes the statement, "I was in prison and you came to visit me." From then on, we volunteers were thanked over and over for our saintly compassion. It finally got too much for me, and I leaned over to my AA friend Dave and whispered, "Me, I just come here to stay sober." Which is the truth. I am seldom further from my next drink than on the drive down Havana, leaving the state prison next to DW where I help Dave lead AA meetings twice a month. But looking around the room at all the church representatives who spend time holding Bible studies and prayer meetings inside, I did feel proud to be among them.

The keynote speaker, Clint Pollard, retired early as a Verizon executive to go to work for Good News Jail & Prison Ministry. Clint said that we matter because of what we do in the prisons, adding, "and by the way, inmates matter because God SAYS they matter." Pollard said that 85% of the people in prison are incarcerated for crimes he has committed. This seemed like a high estimate for a telephone executive, but you never know. I share Clint's sense that I'm no more innocent in some fundamental sense than the men who attend the AA meetings inside, many of them coming simply to get out of their cells for an hour. I am simply luckier that my crimes against full attention and decent living are mainly private matters of no interest to state authorities.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Brunch is the Anti-Christ

I caught up with my cousin, Bruce Edgerly, yesterday in Boulder. He is an owner and the marketing shaman for a company named Backcountry Access. "Brucie," as I knew him when he was the baby of the cousins on my father's side of the family, is one focused hombre, an entrepreneur and extreme outdoorsman who arrived to meet me at lunch wearing classic Boulder executive garb: shorts, biking shoes, helmet, and "Avalanche Jam" t-shirt. I wore my usual blue blazer and button-down shirt. We could have been Central Casting's idea of Two Guys Living in Wildly Separate Worlds. No matter. We had lots to talk about it. And I had questions.

First, what did he mean by the motto his friends quoted at his wedding, which was at least a decade ago? "Lunch is the Anti-Christ," is how I remembered it. "No," Bruce corrected me. "BRUNCH is the Anti-Christ." The axiom arose from a skiing trip to Jackson Hole when Bruce was totally focused on getting to the slopes in time for the perfect early melt of spring snow, as opposed to a late start which would mean skiing in slush. A quick breakfast = perfect skiing. Brunch = Slush. It was that simple. Bruce, who wrote for skiing magazines before founding BCA with a buddy, also named Bruce but known as Bruno, later stirred up a hornet's nest of reader response when he put his credo into print. He was writing about a George Plympton-style experience of extreme skiing that had been blissfully free of "high-maintenance girlfriends and brunch-eating wives." For the record, Bruce's kindred-spirit wife, Karen, is not a brunch eater.

"Is there a corollary to this axiom?" I asked Bruce. He thought for a while. He is a man unafraid of his own silences. "Yes. Happy Hour." Well, of course. The point is that there is no point to Happy Hour. It isn't work--Bruce has no problem schmoozing over drinks for business--and it isn't skiing or family. So it's as much of a waste of time as brunch.

Bruce has a buddy who is all for brunch and Happy Hours, and their friends have tended to align themselves with one or the other spiritual leader. "As we've aged.." Bruce began. I assumed he was going to say that his brunch-loving friend is gaining converts, but no. "As they realize they are running out of time, more of them are coming to see it my way," Bruce said.

By this time we were walking across from the brewpub to Backcountry Access world headquarters, a 7,500-square-foot beehive of boxes, computer terminals, avalanche trackers, and staff dressed as casually as Bruce, including one guy walking around in his bare feet--economical anti-static gear, he explained. I was introduced 10 or 12 times as "my cousin Lennie," a monikor I haven't gone by in 40 years, but it sounded nice so I didn't protest. The business had a happy hum to it, with a FedEx truck pulling up to the shipping dock to receive a big shipment of boxes to a customer and back room piled to the ceiling with boxes coming or going.

My cousin Bruce delighted me with his terse and smiling account of how he sees life. He has inspired me to look around for the equivalents of brunch or Happy Hour in my own life, things which are not in themselves bad but do get in the way of what I love. I might start with The Financial Times...

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?