Trees, Steve Loved

Steve's Words:

The driver, the
trees, the sun and the seasons.

Yesterday I named three favorite winter trees at 86th and 5th Ave -
"reaching, curling and spreading".

I've gotten so I love trees. When I first got my glasses in about the fifth grade, I came out of the
optometrist's to realize that I could actually see the individual leaves. I had come to see trees as little kids draw
them - circles of green on trunks of brown.

It was before disease stripped the Midwest of its American elms, which really did make cool arched boulevards of our
modest main streets. Old towns now look like denuded suburbs.

Before that only many decades or the big winds near tornados
could kill off a few of them.

In my backyard there was a huge one which took several kids
to touch hands around.

When we learned to get to its lower limbs with a rope, we
began to build a tree house in a very high crotch. My dad took over and built a
big, solid one, much lower down. For beams he used the varnished hardwood
pieces of a big old pipe organ, which had just been replaced in the next door
church where he was pastor. He did not view little kid helpers as actually
helpful or safe, which I understand, but also regret.

Today, in New York City, I often reverse "you can’t see the forest
for the trees". Here they stand
more isolated, individual.

In winter we can see the fabulous differences of their limb
structure. Since they've been cared for and pruned over their decades of life,
I sometimes wonder if an old arborist could say, "Now that's pruned in the
Mendelssohn manner. And you can see O'Neal's work in that one."

The isolation and care of our trees in Central and Riverside Park and around the Natural History museum may
explain why we enjoy some of the few stands of these magnificent trees which
remain in North America.

We all enjoy the first leaves in the spring. The green that
will later seem uniform at first has great various beauty, just as the fall
dying leaves draw bus tours to Vermont,
but may be less noticed in the midst of our city.

Then of course there are the many stages of a tree's cycle
of renewal that each species present to us as the days grow longer, and then

If we look up close, we can see the wonderful little
structures that nature has constructed over ages to give each tree the best
chance to live on.

Horse Chestnuts are my favorites. Lindens are good too.

As well as the changes over the warmer months, each day
trees present many different views to us. At high noon, the shade of their
leaves cools us, but obscures the tree's details.

But as the sun lowers, its light cuts between the leaves and
lets us glimpse the structure that we love so much in winter.

These are things I've learned to see over time as I grew
older. Who says there’s nothing to look
forward to. Just like the little piece
of white paint that looks like a gold ring on the finger of a Rembrandt

Friday, November 27, 2015

Meeting someone Steve stood up for

Dear Steve,
On a rushed morning this fall I called a cab to take me to work.  Lucy Ramos was my cab driver. She's been driving for five years, and since it always surprises me to find a woman doing this work, I asked how she got into it.  Turns out she was laid off from a baking factory in the Bronx, Kraft. Yes! Stella D'Oro! Your last great mission, dear Steve!  She'd been a packer for 20 years, as an Equadorian immigrant in New York City. She was paid a good wage with decent benefits.  Everything changed when the owners sold the company.  Eventually, the only options offered to her was a job in Ohio where the new owners were moving, or some networking help jumping from one job to the next on the fly. She started driving the cab then.  I wanted to tell you all about meeting her Steve! She and I loved talking about you in the cab ride! It was great to share our stories -- great to feel you within our dialogue!
Love, Neice Audrey

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

SMILE by Steve

Old Good Samaritan 
seeks to thank a younger member of the same tribe 
for return of his wallet.

This 68-year-old white haired man had stopped by for his regular Gray's Papaya at 72nd and Broadway. As usual he carried his treat to nearby Verdi Square Park. He then went to Trader Joes only to discover he had misplaced his wallet.  He quickly retraced his steps to his park bench and then to Grays. No luck. He told people that whenever he found something of value he tracks the owner down and returns it.  He hoped the same might happen to me. The looks were polite but skeptical. 
He returned to his home close to Zabars on West 80th St. where he was meeting a friend. The elevator man said he had an attractive female visitor. "That does not describe my friend." When I got off the elevator a very attractive young brown skinned woman asked me my name. I gave the right answer. My wallet had beaten me home. 

I was overjoyed. I told her of a widening practice of mine of telling people to return kindness, large or small, to a "stranger down the road.  What goes around, comes around." 

She said maybe some would come her way.  This is where my haste betrayed me. She had given her first name. I was not familiar with the name. I should have asked her to give me her name or call me later so I could return her help to me in some more substantial way.

The city has a lost and found service. Call the 20th precinct, give your name and number and I will call. I've left out enough details so I'll know if a call is real.

A few years ago, I found a lonely $100 bill on the floor of the West Side Market.  How was I supposed to find the owner?  My thinking was slowed by the temptation to keep it.
Then I walked through the market asking in a slightly raised voice, "Did anyone drop something?" "A couple of wise guys asked if it was a $20. When I got to check-out a woman was frantically looking through her purse. She had the right answer. She was a housekeeper whose employer had given her the money to buy groceries.  That was a sweet one. 

So please do not call if you're not the right person. I'll know and your name will go on a different list.

Recently a small exercise of this practice gave me a once in a lifetime reward.  I was having a coffee and a smoke on a stoop.  A man approached and said I would not remember him, but he would never forget me.  A few years before he had been way down on his luck -drinking, drugs, jail. He'd asked me for a dollar and I'd given it.  To his thanks, I'd replied, as is my practice, When you get the chance just return it to a stranger and never underestimate the value of your smile."
He told me, "It wasn't the dollar. It was the part about the smile. That changed my life. I'd been a licensed electrician. I got things together a bit/. I heard (a large, semi-public employer) needed electricians. I went to the boss, showed him my papers, and told him about where I was coming from. And I told him about you.  The boss said, Well, I'll know in an hour or two days if you can do the job, so let's get the work.  I've been working there since.  

"Pretty often if the weather's nice I walk uptown to home. It saves a little money, gives me a little exercise and there's nice coffee places through here. But I've also been looking for you.  I knew I'd see you some day. So never underestimate the value of your smile."

Ezaido workers in El Salto, Mexico -- by Steve Kindred

In 2002, the world’s Number Two tire-maker, Continental, decided to close its “Ezaudi” factory in El Salto, Mexico, outside Guadalajara.  Its thousand workers said, “This factory should stay open.”  

But workers always say that. And plants usually close nonetheless.

Yet on February 18, 2008, the Ezaudi workers will celebrate three years of successful, worker-controlled operation of the El Salto tire plant.  How did it happen?

The tale is long and instructive. Labor Notes plans to publish the full story, with all the details. In the meantime, here is the short version.

1. The union local had been independent since World War II.  Most Mexican unions are huge, with historical connections to the PRI, the dominant ruling party. Most are bureaucratic; many are corrupt.

2. The Ezaudi union, however, had always been democratically run. In the 1990s, it had elected militant, politically aware leaders who had been part of a local coalition of union activists similar to Labor Notes in the U.S.

3. Acting decisively when faced with elimination, the union immediately declared a strike against the plant. It achieved great success in persuading the vast majority of employees to turn down the German-owned company’s “low-ball” offer—a lump-sum payment, traditionally offered in place of unemployment insurance. But the workers understood the message: “Take the cash. Lose any rights.” 

They organized themselves—meetings, marches, rallies, pickets. They appealed to other workers in their area and across Mexico for aid and solidarity. The response was good.

When the company went to court, the workers responded with a legal strategy that cited some old, rarely enforced laws protecting workers.  Despite opposition by the government of Vicente Fox, the union won a decision barring company removal of machinery while the strike was on.

The union appealed for solidarity internationally. [sk- I want to leave this in, even if the role of our help is unclear. Sk – “Before they went to a Union conference in Brazil, Dan LaBotz, a frequent Labor Notes contributor and author of “The Troublemakers Handbook” and “Mexican Labor, provided the name of a contact in Brazil.]

With labor union contacts they made in Brazil, the workers went to Germany and met with human rights organizations, German Watch and FIAN International, and with the German metallurgical union.  With the help of their new German friends, they made another trip to state their case at Continental’s stockholders meeting, a move that received substantial publicity.

Because Continental was a sponsor of the upcoming 2006 World Cup in Germany, [Have 4 years elapsed already?  You need a couple of intermediate dates for this to make sense as a sequence] the publicity came at a good time for the union. 

The strike, the legal fight, the solidarity and the publicity had gone on for three years. Management gave up.

Continental gave 50 percent ownership to the union and 50 percent to the tire distributor. But all the distributors want is tires. [and had no interest in running the plant] Who knows how to make tires? The workers now run the factory.  It turns out all those supervisors and bosses really weren’t as vital as they thought. Production has tripled since 2002.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Two Realizations on April 1

By Steve kindred

Seder, kids, 'til I die,

New York in larger natural contexts - even fundamental cosmic ones.

Twenty ----years ago I joined my wife Ellen and son, Benjamin  in a wonderful apartment overlooking the Hudson River.

Guests would marvel and envy our view.  For me looking at the river a couple time a week opened my eyes to something that took years to stir my brain.  My heart was quicker. The surface of the Hudson is ever changing. It can be as smooth as a mirror.  It can have choppy white caps like a lake in a storm.  Sometimes small swells like a giant passing boat go up river toward the river's source in the Adirondacks. Less often, smaller swells push out to sea. My favorite time is when a nearly uniform herringbone pattern covers the river.

Perhaps sitting back and looking around at our Seder in Philadelphia and my good fortune had put me in a reflective mood.  Reading Walter Issacson's recent biography of Einstein had given me a great clear view of the century-long research and discussion on the forces governing our world from the tiniest sub atomic particles to the whole cosmos. 

As I went to bed I took my regular calming glance at the river. But I sat back for an extra minute.  I had guessed for some years that the Hudson's every changing nature was due to the collision of millions of tons of water moved by the tides in the sea with millions of gallons of water flowing down from the river's source.

Just as I had seen something in an instant at the Seder, that extra minute of unthinking calm opened me to a new realization - what I had been watching for all the years came from two separate manifestations of a fundamental natural force - gravity.  The moon's gravity pulls and pushes everything on earth back and forth, usually in ways too small to see. But in our oceans it produces the tides, which push the sea up into the Hudson River. And then it relents and flows back out.

The same gravitational force, but of the earth, keeps us on the ground, holds the air we breath from drifting into space and draws the water downhill toward the sea.

That was enough for one night.  



[[ For several years Ellen had taken a series of photos of our unimpeded view of beautiful sunsets over New Jersey. They were beautiful. We still get beautiful sunsets, of course , when we take a few minutes to look out our window at the right time. We no longer take pictures.  [Ellen had earlier realized that the sun's appearance from behind a nearby building marked the spring ?equinox.] I wonder if glorious sunsets are getting less frequent along with the industrial decline of New York and New Jersey and the general progress in cleaning up the air. ]]

My thoughts on sunsets were jogged by Simon Winchester's recent Times Op-Ed piece on two volcanic eruptions.  He has written a book on the 188-- eruption of Krakatoa. It  led to glorious sunsets around the world as the globe spanning dust from the volcano gavethe sun's light a new mix of atmospheric ingredients through which to refract.  He noted that this episode had given impetus to the Hudson River school of painting with its glorious sunsets. 

He also noted that the addition of new "tracer elements" in the atmosphere had made visible the shifting but persistent high winds we now know as the Jet Stream. The Krakatoa eruption had been huge. The enhanced sunsets lasted over a year. Once awakened our knowledge of the upper atmosphere has grown as technology opened new information and the work of thousands of scientists was added together to give a more complete, though still clouded view.
In earlier times we had discovered other things in a much more painstaking way.  Just think of all the sailors who had recorded winds and currents each day as they traveled to new places around the globe.  Those who survived the trip handed in their records and the knowledge to their governments, which gained commercial and military advantage.

I still remember my excitement as a youth in Iowa during the UN sponsored International coordinated scientific activity, began to systematically explore the winds and currents . It also was the first serious start towards turning a maverick theory - plate tectonics - from a minority view into our current best understanding

[how the fairly small volcanic activity in Iceland has stopped vital air traffic over much of Europe. It turns out this may pass soon as winds shifts and the fine volcanic dust, which corrode plane engines moves elsewhere less disruptive. The dust will dissipate. Some will fall to earth. Some will move upward. It will take weeks or months. Quicker than Krakatoa. Smaller event. Quicker disperal. But in the short term, a big chunk of commerce in Europe depends on shifting winds.

Though these events came from natural causes not subject to human activity, the Iceland event demonstrates how our most developed societies can be affected by small, distant events.  Perhaps this will give the climate change skeptics pause to reconsider.]

Website ..tidecharts, picturs - past present future.
Essays by scientist, resources bibliographie.
Current discoveries on cosmic graivity.
Stuff for kids and teachers
Section on east river - connects long island sound to ny harbor - two parts of the sea, tides on slightly different time tables. Tidal estuary. Roils like a pot of boiling water. Maybe thats why the gangsters put bodies there.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

View, by Steve Kindred

When I entered the University of Chicago in 1962, I loved it and learned a great deal.  I became active in the Civil Rights movement in Chicago. As the Vietnam War escalated, I concluded it was wrong and became active in creative ways I am proud of.

When the student left went crazy in 1969, friends and I decided we didn't want to worship distant “communist” dictators (Kim Il Sung and Enver Hoxha of all things).  I joined a good, albeit still small socialist group and we figured if our politics didn't make sense in people's every day lives they weren't worth much.  

In 1975, I was a founding member of Teamsters for a Democratic Union.  We've won some big important battles that changed things.  We have had some setbacks that didn't knock us out of the box. It has been fabulous.  If nothing else, the people who step forward at great risk awaken us to the hidden intelligence and courage that we pass every day on the street.  

Civics Class, by Steve Kindred

Note: This is a nearly finished, but unsent, letter to my childhood home town paper in Indianola. September, 2007

After returning from a class reunion in Iowa, I cried on a bench in Central Park in New York, my home for the last twenty years.  I was taken back to my eighth grade civics class in Indianola, Iowa.
       I was reading a column in Sunday's NY Times about an interview the famous trumpet player Louis Armstrong had given to a part-time cub reporter in Grand Forks, North Dakota.  
      The Little Rock school integration crisis of fifty years ago was in its early days.  The Arkansas governor had deployed the state National Guard to block nine Black children from Central High.  President Eisenhower had been indecisive so far.  Who would prevail?  An order from a Federal Court or a governor pandering to a mob of adults, apparently driven berserk by hatred and fear.
        In the interview Armstrong responded with a sometimes obscene fury.  Previously he had declared himself “not involved in politics”. Ebony magazine had suggested he was an “uncle Tom”.  He was one of the State Department’s most effective goodwill ambassadors.  [retaliation, solidarity, tears]
        The Des Moines Register and Tribune, for whom I was a delivery boy, had very good coverage.                         
         Perhaps the events themselves would have imprinted on my thirteen year old brain.  But what I remember most clearly is my silver haired civics teacher in a second floor classroom on our Junior High's east side.  Every day of that crisis, he walked our class through its lessons.  He knew a real civics lesson when it happened.  As far as I knew. Indianola was all white.  The few Catholics had to go to nearby St. Marys for the sacraments.  I hope my civics teacher felt no fear.  If he did, it didn't slow him down.  I have forgotten his name[James Kennedy], but I will never forget him or those autumn days.  I had learned that from time to time common people, even children, can do things they never dreamed of. My life would never be the same.  
      I loved growing up in Indianola - riding our bikes out to the muddy pond on Mr. Buxton's farm, finding the fossil sea shell that said the earth beneath my feet had once been very different.  Delivering my papers to the stores and apartments around the square, sitting in a stairway baked by the afternoon sun, eagerly reading of Dr. Salk's discovering the Polio vaccine.  Stopping at Truman’s Drug Store to compare the labels on the then modest selection of pain relievers.  Since they then all had the same active ingredient (aspirin), I wondered what all those commercials with hammers in peoples’ heads were trying to tell me.  Going in the record store off the square's southeast corner to buy Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel with my buddy Bruce Wilson.  At Bruce's house he played the newest albums by strange Black men with slicked down hair.  Only later would I learn, through The Autobiography of Malcolm X, that many Blacks of that time put their hair under hot irons to hide the curly hair of their ancestors.  I also remember a “Minstrel Show” put on by my Cub Scout troop.  My den was assigned to sign a Negro spiritual.  Since we had no idea what that was, we sang the Battle Hymn of the Republic.  It’s an inspiring song and we sang it with fervor.  When an adult in the audience prompted us to “slap your knees like darkies” none of us did.
    Added to the revolt by the common people of distant Hungary against tyranny the year before, I learned good and evil were more complicated than on my favorite TV show, I Lead Three Lives, about Herbert Philbrik, an undercover FBI agent fighting the danger of the tiny and isolated American Communist Party.   It helped me see through the claims by southern sheriffs and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover that Blacks would be happy but for outside agitators.

Police Who Lie, by Steve Kindred

Police who Lie
By Steve Kindred

     My first exposure to  "Lying in the Justice System" occurred in 1970. Based on completely fabricated applications for warrants to invade my home by Chicago Police Officers, I was arrested four times for sale of narcotics in four months. By a complete fluke my attorney was a prominent criminal lawyer, Jason Bellows, who had recently become outraged by CPD behavior affecting a young family member. 
     I had previously (spring 1967) successfully confronted a senior police officer when he had tried to provoke trouble and arrests with the help of a provocateur at a early morning demonstration at the Chicago draft board. He was in plain clothes and I grabbed him from behind and asked if he was a "cop or a drunk having DT's". The draft office was on skid row.       
     I demanded his badge and name and the crowd simply began to chant his name. He must have been as shocked as I was because his efforts to arrest people ceased.  I had not noticed the officers he had brought with him were part of some kind of elite squad. This must have been an embarrassment to him. It was not to be my last contact with James J. Reardon. At that time he was head of the precinct covering the downtown ward of the Democratic Party.  At the time this was publicly described as under mob control.
     On the Saturday after the King assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968, while Chicago was in flames, Reardon came into a demonstration at the Chicago Avenue Armory, walked directly up to me, called me by name and had me beaten (ineffectively) and arrested. When we were arraigned about midnight that night a state's attorney whom I had also offended in 1966 came from the back of the court room shouting that they had me where they wanted me. 
     In the fall of 1968 Reardon was in charge of the police at the "Grant Park" demonstrations during the Democratic Convention. Around this time, Reardon had moved up to Deputy Superintendent, a Department wide position.
     When the arrests of 1970 began, I concluded that Reardon was also a bad boss. One narcotics detective told me specifically how they had committed technical errors in my arrest.  The affidavit for a warrant on another occasion was very detailed with several allegations of drug sale activity.  Fortunately I had been on a car trip to Florida and had gas receipts to prove it. On another occasion a Detective told me, "Anybody Reardon hates like you can't be all bad."  
     Each time a charge was dismissed, the police came back. My lawyer and I concluded Reardon was very serious. A charge of "malicious prosecution" is hard to prove. My lawyer told me I should leave town. I drove back from Los Angeles for my last court hearing.
     I loved Chicago and thought I would spend my life there.  Until 1977 I made only one, very low profile visit to Chicago. In 1977 Reardon was gunned down in a restaurant allegedly stemming from an act of gallantry.  
     When I applied for a job in NY Schools, I was finger printed and learned that these arrests were on file with the National Criminal Justice Information(?) Center.  A friend who was arrested with me has recently had trouble getting a Visa for a European country. Recent changes in the law have made it merely expensive and arduous to get these records cleared. It was previously nearly impossible.
     I believe this practice is widespread in some jurisdictions.  About twenty years ago, former U.S. Attorney General Richard Thornburgh reacted with great indignation to a comment by Alan Dershowitz (sp) on the Larry King show that "testilying" by police was commonplace. Thornburg said this was an insult to people who risk their lives to protect us, etc. etc.  If Thornburgh is not a liar, he is a demagogue.

3 Occupy, by Steve Kindred

three little vignettes from occupy:

1. Talking with a homeless guy, I commented that people in that
neighborhood either had too much money or breaks that were too short
or both.  I noted that the discarded cigarettes around Wall Street was
much more substantial than in other neighborhoods. He replied, "Yeah,
there's them that smokes the first half and us that smokes the second

2. Another guy asked me for a buck to buy a beer.  I said, "A beer
sounds good to me. Let's find a bar and have a sit down beer." I think
it might have been a very long time since he'd had a beer that wasn't
in a paper bag. The bar we found turned to be a hang out for
construction workers and Wall Street types (probably at different
times of day).  The bar wasn't crowded but the guy at the door
expressed concern about "trouble".  There wasn't any. I ended up
learning a lot about his big, dispersed Irish family from upstate New
York and the troubles they'd had and how he ended up on the street.
Six bucks well spent for my education and his self image.

3. A woman guitar player was singing 60's standards at the foot of the
park. There was a break. I asked if I could teach them a song. Yes. It
is one of my favorites - a battle hymn from the Russian Revolution -
Whirlwinds of Danger. I stumble over the words and a guy stood up and
said "I know that song and got up to help out." It turned out he'd
learned from the same guy I had.

I explained that after the horrors of World War One millions of people
were pulling for the Russian Revolution as a hope to change the system
that had killed so many and oppressed so many more.  I said that
despite the defeat and degeneration of that revolution, billions of
people were still desperate for change and were watching Occupy.

I'll wing it on the lyrics -

Whirlwinds of danger are raging around us.
Overwhelming forces of darkness assail.
Yet in the fight see advancing before us
Red flag of Liberty that yet shall prevail.

So forward ye workers. Freedom awaits you.
Or all the world on the land and the seas.
(So stand strong) in the fight for humanity.
(Continue the fight) and ye shall be free.

I was crying at the end and so were a lot of people.
I felt really good.