Monday, November 28, 2011

Velvet, Van Wilder & Character Development

According to the headlines, retailers have cause to celebrate the holiday shopping season.  Apparently, shoppers flocked to stores, both in meat space and online, and whipped out their credit cards.  I have heard that the level of Black Friday mayhem has become an economic indicator in the USA.  Some analysts somewhere count the number of violent incidents and injuries to make projections about our near economic future.  They must be like actuaries.

You have to wonder what would happen if all those crazed Walmart shoppers - and Best Buy and Target and Macy's and Home Depot and Bed, Bath & Beyond, and Barnes & Noble, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera - would stop consuming shit on a sandwich and devote their resources to overturning Citizens United, for example.  Instead of pushing through the doors at Walmart, they could push through the halls of justice and pepper spray Clarence Thomas.

Before that could ever happen, though, the shoppers would have to stop to analyze their own behavior and Contemporary Non-Thinkers in America do not examine the content of their own character.

As hopeful as I am about the spirit of Occupy Everywhere sweeping the nation in the coming months, I'm pretty sure that the consumer crowd doesn't even know that Hillary Clinton was telling the Arab world to pay attention to their disenfranchised youth while our own department of Homeland Security was coordinating a national effort to beat disenfranchised Americans into submission once again.  Like George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan before them, Obama and Hillary use every tool at their disposal to make sure that We the People STFU and shop.  God Bless America.  I can't shake the feeling that somehow Hillary Clinton, as she ages, is turning into Margaret Thatcher.

In other news, there was a family summit in the Triciasphere.  Buzz Kill, Velvet and I sat down together to discuss Velvet's college fund.  His performance this semester has been such that we are all pleased to continue funding this project, but Velvet himself is concerned that he's turning into Van Wilder.

Although I was unfamiliar with the specific character, it was heartening to see that Velvet is focusing on his own character development and does not want to live in Hookah House indefinitely.  He remains more interested in life with his brothers than in school - but that's just because he has no clue what he wants to do with himself and feels certain that his future is pretty fucked.

I wish I could tell him otherwise, but all I could only say that when I was his age and Ronald Reagan was elected, I was convinced we were all going to die in a nuclear war.  We didn't, and I had to get a job.  The same is true for young Velvet.

I'm not sure how things will play out as far as his schooling goes since he clearly needs a program for Non-Traditional Students..  He's planning to take four classes in the spring.  Then he's moving out of Hookah House once and for all.  Cupcake wants for him to come home and go to one of the many fine colleges here in New York City, and maybe he will.  Maybe he'll work for the Parks & Recreation department again this summer; or maybe he'll work for the Fish & Game Department in Alaska and spend the summer counting salmon.  Either way, he's working somewhere.  I have proposed that he remain enrolled at Tree Hugger and do another 90 days in a wilderness environment - but for Tree Hugger credit this time as a semester abroad.  He would be enrolled in the same program where he did the Semester in the Rockies, only this time he'd go to the desert southwest.  I kind of like the idea of sending him on the Semester in New Zealand to spend some time among the Maori in addition to learning about marine ecology via sea kayak.

Monday, November 21, 2011


When I was a kid, and people across the nation were demonstrating for peace and social justice, folks used to say, "Keep the Faith."  The trouble is that you've got to have faith before you can keep it.

Faith and Trust go hand in hand - or at least they do in my happy little world.  That little world wasn't altogether happy last week on account of I shot off my mouth on a friend's Facebook thread.  I'm not sorry I mouthed off on Facebook since I'm pretty sure the best thing we can do during this global paradigm shift is share our evolving thoughts which should, theoretically, strengthen the human connection.

I just wish that I would have been mouthing off about the pertinent topic.  When I saw this Facebook thread talking about how OWS was wrong to tie up traffic at rush hour because it hurt the 99%, I had no idea that a Fox Local News anchorman, Greg Kelly -  son of NYPD Commissioner Kelly who brutally evicted the occupation from Zuccotti Park last week with the help of Homeland Security - went on TV and said that OWS was going to shut down the subways.  I was mad at my FB friends because they said OWS was inconveniencing commuters when the trouble actually involved having more faith in the Mainstream Media than the Movement.

Instead of saying:
You know, that march years ago in Selma led by Martin Luther - what's his name?  That was pretty inconvenient too.  And I'll bet those folks in Pakistan getting hit by drones have also been inconvenienced - but at least they don't have to worry about babysitters anymore now that their kids are dead.
I should have said:  What are you talking about?  Nobody is shutting down the subway today.  Who the hell can shut down the subways in New York City anyway?  Bat Man? 

If I had been smart, I'd have included a link to where OWS publishes their daily plans.  But I wasn't smart.  My head exploded and I got mouthy.   Just as my friend had fallen for the BS in the Main Stream Media, I fell for the "divide and conquer" technique.

The good news is that neither she nor I blocked the other - which I suppose is the FB equivalent of stomping off in a huff determined never to speak to someone again.  It feels more like one of those family dinners where people who love each other get all fired up and start shouting until they realize they are talking about two entirely different things.  We can be grateful that it was way too early in the morning last Thursday for alcohol to be involved.

And we can be grateful that we all learned something important.  I am assuming that my dear friend learned something too.  I can make that assumption because I have faith that no matter what words come out of her mouth sometimes, she's a caring, thoughtful, ethical human being.

My wish for everyone, as we head into another holiday season surrounded by all sorts of relatives is that when we feel our own heads starting to explode, we take a breath and fill ourselves with love before mouthing off.  That doesn't mean we don't state our opinions as strongly as we can.  God knows some there are plenty of dumbasses out there vigorously spouting off about all manner of shit, and that BS must not be allowed to go unaddressed just because we're trying to be cordial over dessert.

I know it's possible to be strong and respectful at the same time because I watched Marianne Williamson do it last Saturday at Middle Collegiate Church.  Although everyone in the audience that day was 100% behind OWS and everything it stands for, during the Q&A after Marianne's talk, it was clear that there were plenty of mouthy, albeit well-intended, assholes.  Marianne softly pointed out that their words carried blame, judgment and an air of superiority.  For example, one man had been down to the park and was delighted to see that classes in non-violent resistance were being offered daily, but he was dismayed to find that the people at the information table were clueless about the teachers' credentials. Marianne said that asking for someone's credentials was inherently shaming - as if somebody needed a pedigree to care about peace.  She said that all anyone had to do was read A Testament of Hope by Martin Luther King, Jr. and s/he would know everything anybody ever needed to know about Non-Violent Resistance.  She went on to say that in reality, the only credential anybody needed was being born, and told the man that he should go back down to OWS and offer to teach the classes himself.   That man sat down with a lot to think about, and Marianne hadn't been rude at all.

It's different at Thanksgiving when we're forced to be nice to miscellaneous family, friends and neighbors who don't know their asses from their elbows - but we are trying to educate people, not eradicate them (as attractive as that notion may be).

Marianne referenced this MLK quote, too:
You can have no influence over those for whom you have underlying contempt.

And this one:
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Martin Luther King, Jr delivering the Time to Break the Silence speech about Vietnam from the pulpit in the church where I work.
It's easy to hate people like Mike Bloomberg, and Rush Limbaugh, and Rupert Murdoch, and Ann Coulter and Grover Norquist, and Dick Cheney and Phylis Schafly et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.  It's not so easy to veiw them from a place of love and respect for their wilted humanity.

If this movement is going to be successful - and I have faith that it is - then we're going to have to nurture our own humanity and help it grow and develop with love.  Most of us will never actually have to speak to Bloomberg or any of those people face to face.  However, we will have to engage old friends, relatives and neighbors in active conversations that facilitate evolution of thought for everyone in the conversation - including ourselves.

Every day people across the world are standing up for economic and social justice, motivated not by hatred of the 1% but by love of each other and ourselves - even those among us who are simply pissed the fuck off and ready to bust windows at the Bank of America.  It's a struggle every day.  But when I see videos like this one Dennis Trainor, Jr made last week of the #N17 demonstration, I have absolute faith in this shifting paradigm and trust we're going to make it to that mountain top Martin Luther King talked about the day before he died even if it takes ten thousand years.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Rush Hour Traffic

Some friends are bitching that the Occupation is holding up traffic.  They say that the demonstration today inconveniences the wrong people - if the 99% can't get to work on time and their pay is be docked, who does that help?

I can see that revolution often disrupts a person's commute. And I know that stock brokers don't take the subway to work. But one woman I know continues to say the Occupation is misguided because a few waiters in Wall Street restaurants got laid off - as if those jobs weren't tenuous already. As if waiters aren't already getting totally screwed by Wall Street. As if thousands of people without homes and health care should be more sensitive.

Let me say, here, that I am fully aware that there are a lot of Occupiers who are misguided about a lot of things. And certainly there are so many voices represented in the Occupation that it's noisy and unorganized.

And New Yorkers bitch about anybody who fucks up traffic for any reason.

But when I hear people who have comfortable jobs - who are still barely able to pay their bills, and who will be completely without health care if they get laid off - complaining that the movement is about to lose popular support because we are inconveniencing folks who are trying to get to work, I despair for our future.

There are plenty of examples of how working within the system, so nobody is inconvenienced, has gotten us no-fucking-where. Two things are stuck in my mind. First, BP and their friends in our government, including Barack Obama, have successfully convinced half of America that everything along the Gulf Coast is fine and dandy. No matter that whole communities are out of work, can't' breathe and have weird skin conditions from the dispersants in the environment. All is well. BP and Haliburton are free to practice business as usual. And secondly, in 40 years of working tirelessly within the system, the LGBT community has achieved the right to get openly shot at in the military - but they still don't have equal protection under the law. In most states, when one partner has been hospitalized, the other cannot visit since s/he isn't family. Both individuals better have their own health care since many employers don't extend benefits to domestic partners. God forbid one dies without a will, leaving the other one homeless and at the mercy of state laws about property. Personally, I don't see how being allowed to serve openly in the military is such a victory for the LGBT community. So many soldiers commit suicide these days instead of reporting for a fifth, sixth or seventh tour of duty in Afghanistan, that the US Military was having serious trouble attracting volunteers.

Meanwhile, the 12,000 demonstrators who surrounded the White House in an effort to get Obama to block the Keystone Pipeline didn't inconvenience anyone. But word has it that the pipeline deal is so done that Bechtel has already been paid to build the damn thing. Obama said he'd delay his decision until 2012, but all he's really done is delay the announcement until he's gotten all those Lesser Of Two Evil votes. So much for working within this broken system.

Years ago, college kids took to the streets because of the draft. Our side said, "Hell No, We won't Go." The Establishment said, "America: Love it or Leave it." Then, as now, the college kids may have been in the forefront, but people from every walk of life finally joined the chorus demanding an end to the Vietnam war. Similarly, during the civil rights movement, African Americans were leading the call for justice, but all kinds of Americans were also involved in those demonstrations.

And all of those demonstrations inconvenienced people. It must have been pretty inconvenient to be blasted with fire hoses, too. Scott Olsen was surely inconvenienced by that tear gas canister.

As a few Americans are taking to the streets today - again - to demand Human Needs take precedence over Corporate Greed, it seems like desperate times call for desperate measures.

Maybe there are more effective ways to demonstrate than marching in the street. Ways that would have a direct impact on the lives of the 1%. Seems unlikely, given that the 1% can effectively insulate themselves from any discomfort and inconvenience with their fortunes - especially when exercising our Freedom of Speech requires more permits than Fracking. If anybody has any ideas, I'd love to hear them.
Today, and every day, I fear for my friends in the streets - as they courageously fight for our rights, while we're going through our ordinary routines in comfort. Any one of those demonstrators could wind up injured like Scott Olsen, or tear gassed like Dorli Rainey, an 84 year-old activist in Seattle.

She's working for a better world, while we're worried about getting to work.

**Thanks to Krell for re-posting this piece at Roundtree7**

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Let the Agita Begin!

Cupcake is coming to Houston with Velvet and me over Christmas vacation.
Here they are at the prom in 2009:

Somebody at my parents' house will surely take their picture together while we're there, unless the whole experience of meeting the potential in-laws sends Cupcake to her room.  My sister's husband the physicist took to his bed a lot the first few holidays he spent with our side of the family.  For the record, his family is no picnic.  I can't remember if his family drinks when they're together or not - and frankly I'm not sure that they'd be any fun under any circumstances no matter how much alcohol they consumed.

Not that we're a bunch of lushes, but it was entertaining the year my sister got soused in Tallahassee on Christmas Eve and demanded we open the gifts instantaneously.  We've always waited until Christmas Morning.

This year, we're Occupying Christmas, and I'm not quite sure how that will manifest.  I am sure my mother will be 100% in favor of the idea of a Buy Nothing Christmas.  Nothing except Dinner, that is.

I'm not exactly interfering in their relationship by inviting Cupcake to join us and paying her airfare.  I could be interfering in my son's life, however, since I figured he wouldn't bitch about being in Texas for three and a half days if Cupcake were there.

Velvet likes his Texas family.  He just doesn't like being stuck in Houston.  I can't say as I blame him.  I like being at my parents', too, and I like seeing my sister's family when they're there.  I especially like three full days of barbecue and Tex-Mex, and talking about politics, current events, theology and the neighbors with my mother - but I don't especially like being stuck in Houston either.  That's why I'm always heading up to Austin when I'm in Texas.  In a perfect world, my mother would finally be able to sell the house, and my parents would move to Austin.

Who knows? Maybe now that the asteroid has passed between the earth and the moon, we'll finally shift into the New Age.  Mother will be able to sell the house for a price that doesn't make her choke; I'll meet a single, straight, attractive, employed, reasonably sober man whom I like instead of another delusional, arrogant fool and Velvet will finally have enough college credits to be a sophomore.

I am pleased to report that the man-child has an A in both his classes this semester.  Sadly, though, since Tree Hugger wouldn't accept the 16 credits in Environmental Science, Ecology and Ethics that Velvet received from his Semester in the Rockies.  He did manage to pass a couple of classes during his previous three semesters at Tree Hugger, but I don't think he has successfully collected 20 credits yet.

Oh Well.  We've finally figured out an approach to higher education that works for Velvet.  For my next trick, I have to convince Buzz Kill to structure the college fund he is required by the divorce to establish this year so that the money also functions to extend Velvet's child support beyond his impending 21st birthday for an additional four years since we all know he's not going to be done with school, working and paying his own rent for quite a while.  Could be he's living at home until he's 30 like many of the folks his age in this country.  If I'm not mistaken, unemployment in that demographic is the highest since World War II at 55%.

I am happy to provide a home for Velvet forever and always.  Cupcake, too, for that matter.  It just means I need a decent sized apartment which will require more money than I am currently making - which is where Buzz Kill and the College Fund come in.  Buzz Kill is already agreed in principle with my proposal.  Now we just have to settle on an amount and create a document that is official enough for me to take to the bank and or co-op board.

Meanwhile, I've been laying the groundwork to make more money.  My first choice is to start teaching courses like Foundations of Modern Education or Curriculum at one of the colleges in the neighborhood.   One of my new responsibilities at work is to coordinate student teachers with these three colleges, and hopefully I'll be able to parlay that into an adjunct position.  Or maybe I'll hit Lotto.

I haven't abandoned the idea of writing a book, or the whole Menopausal Stoners Guide to Parenting idea. I have abandoned the notion that I'll make any money from writing a book or any kind of writing at all.  That's not to say the idea is impossible - but I recognize that the entire lower tier of the publishing industry has been replaced by the internet.  More importantly, though, I realized that my need to publish a book was driven by my need for external validation.  I believed that having a hard backed book for sale on bookstore shelves was the only way to conclusively prove I had a voice.

A couple of weeks ago, I was riding the subway and started noticing all the people reading from their iPads, Kindles and Androids.  In an existential context, there's nothing about the text on a Kindle that could be considered permanent - except maybe the impact the text has on the reader.  Doesn't matter if the author of the text is somebody's friend from High School or Copernicus.  And when you consider the number of folks that self publish via Kindle - or that $5,000 service from Amazon where you get an editor to facilitate the preparation of your book for publication and Amazon will print paperbacks when a customer buys one.  Until somebody orders the book, it's not printed.  Vanity Press of Today.  Anyway - I know plenty of people who have gone the Self-Publishing route so that they have books in print and I don't.  If you're looking to publication to prove your voice has impact and value - as well as your very existence, self-publishing doesn't count.   Seeing the people on the subway equally absorbed in their reading whether they were reading a blog or a "published" work on a Kindle convinced me that if the real thing I want from writing is an indication that my voice exists and has an influence on people - then I've already done that with Menopausal Stoners.

Ergo:  As an Existentialist, I can relax.  As someone who often needs external validation, I can relax.

I can kiss all this relaxation good-bye once Velvet gets home for Thanksgiving.  Cupcake's father wants to have Velvet and me over for dinner now that Cupcake accepted my invitation to join our trip to Houston.  I'm sure we'll all be a little nervous about that.  I'm not sure if Cupcake eats in front of people these days, or if she has overcome that bit of adolescent idiosyncrasy.  The situation will surely come up in Houston since there's a very good reason why we called the family corporation, WFD Inc for What's For Dinner?
Fortunately, my mother and I have already got the sleeping arrangements figured out.  Velvet will be sleeping downstairs in my father's office.  Whenever either of my parents are wandering the halls in the middle of the night, as old poops often do, they will be making sure Velvet is where he belongs.  My mother made it perfectly clear that he and Cupcake will not be sharing a room under her roof.

I doubt Velvet ever imagined he and Cupcake could share a room at my mother's.  We don't know when my sister and her family will be in Houston, but when I talked to my sister last week, the first thing she asked was, "Are we going to get to meet the girl?"  Their family cheerfully acknowledges all manner of idiosyncrasies, adolescent and otherwise.  I'm sure we'll all be playing a domino game called Chicken Foot, or putting together a big, challenging jig saw puzzle like we do every year, and listening to folk songs my mother has chosen to illustrate a point.

The Austin Lounge Lizards aren't exactly folk, but they have the kind of lyrics my mom and dad enjoy.  Here's one of my parents' favorite songs, Old Blevins

Dad says that when he starts rambling like an old poop, we're all allowed to sing the chorus.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Gail and Skipp: Thing of Beauty #35-101

All kind of folks are getting inspired by the revolutionary spirit of Occupy Wall Street.   The fellow who recorded this song and slide show is the husband of my dear bloggy buddy Gail, from Know Your Its.

This video goes to show you that there are all kinds of ways to use your individual talents and creativity to show solidarity and support for The Resistance. It's like Chris Hedges said in Power and the Tiny Acts of Rebellion:
It is time to think of resistance in a new way, something that is no longer carried out to reform a system but as an end in itself. African-Americans understood this during the long night of slavery. German opposition leaders understood it under the Nazis. Dissidents in the former Soviet Union knew this during the nightmare of communism. Resistance in these closed systems was local and often solitary. It was done with the understanding that evil must always be defied. The tiny acts of rebellion—day after day, month after month, year after year and decade after decade—exposed to everyone who witnessed them the heartlessness, cruelty and inhumanity of the oppressor. They were acts of truth and beauty. We must take to the street. We must jam as many wrenches into the corporate system as we can. We must not make it easy for them. But we also must no longer live in self-delusion. This is a battle that will outlive us. And if we fight, even with this tragic vision, we will lead lives worth living and keep alive another way of being.
When this article first appeared last year, the Occupy movement wasn't even a twinkle in anybody's eye.  Punk Patriot told me that Adbusters had been trying to instigate and facilitate a movement for years - Buy Nothing Day, for example, is nearly 20 years old now and is still a hard sell even in an economy when we could all benefit from opting out of the annual overspending binge we call Christmas.

Buy Nothing Day 2011 - Adbusters
Plenty of people have been working tirelessly to promote social and economic justice, peace and sustainability for years and years - and while many of us have supported these efforts in a variety of ways, we've all sort of been waiting on one charismatic individual to lead a national movement.

The cool thing about OWS is that there is no leader - and that's called anarchy in an anthropological context.  The Establishment - as represented by church, state and business leaders - inevitably says that society will deteriorate into chaos if they aren't in charge.  That's Patriarchy and Hierarchy.  Personally, I'm all about managing a community through consensus, but I have trouble imagining the sort of community governance I've observed at a small, idyllic Quaker sleep away camp in Vermont applied to a country with over 300 million people.

I guess that's where the spokesperson model comes in.  David Graeber (my current enthusiasm) writes about this concept in Enacting the Impossible.  I'm pretty sure David Graeber is not single, and even if he were, I don't know how I'd manage an introduction.  He's cute, intellectually stimulating and pervasively passionate, though, which I've come to realize is exactly what I'm looking for in a single, straight man in my demographic who is generally sober with his own source of income.

Indulging my little crush on Punk Patriot helped clarify my boyfriend criteria.  One thing I learned for sure while speculating on a relationship with someone a few years older than my son is that there's no way in hell I would get involved with someone a few years older than my son.  Not for longer than a weekend, at least.  Nevertheless, Punk has the essential qualities - Cute, Intellectually Stimulating and Pervasively Passionate.  My old buddy Woody has those qualities too.  He's hundreds of miles away, however, and cannot be called "reasonably sober."

I say Pervasively Passionate because too many folks associate Passion with Sex.  Certainly any man in my life would need to be passionate about that - but nearly every douchebag on Match dot com says he's passionate when the reality is that they are only passionate about getting laid, watching football and/or baseball and sucking down high fructose corn syrup. Pervasively passionate people are fully engaged in life on a number of levels.

As you can see,  Gail's husband Skipp (aka Babe) shows that he's pervasively passionate in his youtube video.  Some people might think he's goofy - but that didn't discourage him from joining in the Revolution in a way that suited him personally.  Not only that, but he and Gail have been snuggled up together for years and each still believes the other to be Cute, Intellectually Stimulating and Pervasively Passionate.

I'm going to declare that to be Thing of Beauty #35-10.

from realia by Jennifer Morrison

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Going Horizontal

The Punk Patriot has returned to Maine for the moment.  He'll be back for Occupy Central Park on 11.11.11.  Although it's billed as a one day event, rumor has it that there'll be three days of music and fun.  It reminds me a bit of a Happening or Be-In like the hippies used to have back in the day.

These days, I'm thinking that the demonstrators at OWS are definitely reminiscent of  hippies and the counter culture because in both cases, a rejection of Establishment values is at the core of a movement driven by the emerging generation.  There isn't much difference between Establishment values now, then or even back during the Gilded Age when the agrarian populists stood up the the Robber Barons.  Bill Moyers mentioned those populists in his speech at Public Citizen's 40th Anniversary (10.31.11).  Disputes with the Owners have a long history.

I've frequently mentioned that I believe Amazing Grace says, "When we've been there ten thousand years . . . " because it's going to take 10,000 years to get out from under the Patriarchy.  I've come to look at the movement toward Direct Democracy as a shift toward making community decisions via a horizontal process as opposed to a vertical, top down, hierarchal process.   You don't wind up with Super Committees and Citizens United when none of the animals are more equal than others.   David Graeber discusses that horizontal stuff on Alternet (What Did We Actually Do Right?), and Consensus Decision Making in the October 22 edition of the Occupied Wall Street Journal.

from Occupy Media 

OWS is not without problems, however.  Punk and I were speculating on what Bloomberg and the NYPD will do next since cops across the nation are somewhat subdued now that the Oakland police nearly killed Scott Olsen with plastic bullets and concussion grenades.  Punk told me that the cops are already sending a bus load of newly released prisoners from Riker's Island - New York City's main jail - every now and then.  The cops deny it, of course, saying that the inmates are just looking for free gourmet food.  Anyone who lived through Richard Nixon will remember the Department of Dirty Tricks, however.  And they would remember the term Ratfucking, too, which describes infiltrators.  Under cover cops around the nation have been instigating trouble - just like this guy who was the loudest mouth in Citibank when customers were arrested for trespassing when they came in to close their accounts.  He got in the security guard's face and caused enough shit so that the bank manager called the cops, then he arrested the demonstrators for causing a disturbance (Daily Kos, 10.19.11).

I love The Punk Patriot to pieces, but I have to confess that I'm a little star stuck at the idea that Dennis Trainor is coming over to my house.  Punk shot footage for the documentary project and uploaded it onto my computer before he went home to Maine.  Dennis has to come over and get it.

Meanwhile, I'm happy to say I think my hair looks nice.  The Establishment may be fully entrenched with SWAT teams working overtime to maintain the status quo, but they can't stop the movement toward direct democracy today anymore than they could in 1776.  I'm hoping something equally as encouraging happens to me.  Maybe a single, straight, attractive male activist somewhere between the ages of 45 and 60 will finally walk through my door.

Here's me talking to a kid in my classroom.  For those uninitiated to the ways of Early Childhood, the chairs on either side of me are the grown-up chairs.  Note the smaller one to the left of my knee.  It's for kids.  One kid is having snack at the table.  I don't know where the rest of the ruffians were, but they had to be there somewhere.