Stayin’ alive

George & Dorothy Ellen

George & Dorothy Ellen

Had the good fortune to attend Monday night’s NBA playoff game between the Trail Blazers and the Memphis Grizzlies. Down 3-0 and facing elimination with one more loss, the Blazers overcame a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter and pulled out an exhilarating 99-92 win.

A loss would have ended the Blazers’ season. And it truly would have been a downer, given how well Portland was playing early on. A raft of late-season injuries devastated the roster and deflated hopes for a potential championship run. So it was more than gratifying to see the team, with its back to the wall, respond as it did before the home crowd.

A Blazer believer named Jim.

A Blazer believer named Jim.

My “date” for the night was Dorothy Ellen, a retired educator who’s 92 years young. Her family has owned season tickets since the Blazers’ 1977 championship year. She’s scaled back to one-half of a season ticket — 21 home games — and this year was kind enough to include me and another guy in divvying up the tickets into three equal shares. Each of us got 7 tickets.

Normally, Dorothy Ellen would have gone to last night’s game with her friend and neighbor Deborah, who happens to be one of Lori’s clients. Deborah had a conflict, however, so she asked if I was free to step in for her.

Sure, I said.

It was great hanging out with Dorothy Ellen, a remarkable lady who taught in public schools in Washington and Oregon and also spent several years at Southern Oregon University as an administrator in the early education program. Originally from Missouri, she got a masters degree at Columbia University and returned to Oregon to finish out her career teaching in the Portland Public Schools.

She knows her stuff as a basketball fan. She knows the Blazers roster from top to bottom and that of the opposite team too.

After so many years attending Blazer games, it’s no surprise that the Moda Center staff know her by name. One worker greeted us at the entrance with a wheelchair. Another was there at game’s end to see us to the parking garage elevator.

Blazers 99, Grizzlies 92

Blazers 99, Grizzlies 92

Before Monday, Deborah said she was hoping for “a miracle game.”

“I’m afraid that’s what it’s going to take,” I responded.

Well, miracles do happen. The Blazers are stayin’ alive. Let’s see if the magic continues in Game 5.

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The no-mystery ‘mystery date’

italianstyle1Earlier this month, I popped the question to Lori: “Would you be interested in going out on a mystery date?

“It depends,” she said. “What’s the mystery?”

“If I tell you, it won’t be a mystery.”

It doesn’t involve sports, I assured her. It doesn’t mean going out for burgers or pizza, I added. Plus, don’t you remember how much you enjoyed yourself when I surprised you with tickets to Jerry Seinfeld?

“No, I want to know,” she insisted.

What could I say? My wife had all the leverage. Of course, she prevailed.

I took solace in knowing she liked the idea and I marked the date on the calendar. Finally, Sunday arrived and we went on our no-mystery mystery date.

***

italian style 3

Elegance on display.

We went to the Portland Art Museum, drawn to a special exhibit called “Italian Style.” The focus was on fashion’s role in rebuilding Italy’s economy after World War II. We were treated to a dazzling display of evening gowns, dresses, coats, shoes, accessories of all kinds, and lot of other memorabilia attesting to Italy’s place in the world of fashion.

Now, anyone who’s seen me in my usual worn jeans and T-shirt knows I’m no fashionista.

But this exhibit was painlessly educational — heavy on the visuals, light on the text — and a feast for the eyes. I came away with a better grasp of the designers, materials and industry trends, from couture to ready-to-wear clothing, that have combined to make “Made in Italy” an appealing and enduring brand.

All these names that meant little or nothing to me before — Armani, Ferragamo, Dolce & Gabbani — finally had a context.

Likewise, I could see how cities all over the country — Rome, Florence and Milan, plus Como, Turin and lesser-known places — are connected in producing both men’s and women’s clothing known worldwide for their imaginative design and use of superior materials.

Bikini, tunic, pantsuit and a vintage Vespa.

Bikini, tunic, pantsuit and a vintage Vespa.

Over and over, I found myself describing this piece or that piece as “elegant” or “classy.”

The exhibit runs through May 3. You can see all of it in about two hours. I highly recommend it.

***

As for the second part of the date…I had envisioned an Italian cafe. A sidewalk table, perhaps.

Instead we went to Shigezo, a Japanese restaurant and bar just a couple blocks away from the museum.

A colorful wall mural at Shigezo.

A colorful wall mural at Shigezo.

Nothing like a steaming bowl of ramen and a cold beer in the middle of the day. Lori went for a variety of appetizers and hot sake.

No mystery who chose the restaurant. (Good call, Lori.)

Reverend Paul

Simone, Kyndall & Paul

Simone, Kyndall & Paul

Last summer, as we gathered on a deck outside the Odd Fellows Hall in Eastsound, a dark-haired, bespectacled, bearded man with a gentle manner presided over the wedding of our daughter and her wife.

Eight months later, we joined Simone and Kyndall and Paul, the man who married them, for drinks at a Portland restaurant.

It was a weeknight gathering at the Over and Out, a nice little spot tucked into the back of The Observatory, a popular restaurant in their Montavilla neighborhood. The two places are connected by a hallway and share he same kitchen and staff.t

Over drinks and appetizers, we thanked Paul for becoming a Universal Life Church minister so he could legally perform the marriage ceremony.

Then, as now, I marveled at the bonds of friendship amongst these three, forged in Pittsburgh; sustained despite their living apart on opposite coasts; and reinforced during Paul’s visit to Portland. I know what it’s like to try to show an out-of-state guest the highlights of this city and beyond — the coast, the mountains, the Columbia River Gorge — in just a few days. There’s never enough time.

I’m pretty sure, though, that Paul is getting a pretty good taste of the city, knowing that S&K have so many interesting and gracious friends.

Lori, Simone, Kyndall and The Reverend.

Lori, Simone, Kyndall and The Reverend.

Thinking back to the wedding last August, I remember being impressed by Paul, this unassuming guy from Philadelphia, who found just the right words of welcome to put everyone at ease. With just the right tone, a touch of humor and a genuine respect  for the two strong women standing before him — and all of us — he was the perfect choice for such a special occasion.

Here’s to you, Reverend Paul.

Thorns FC!

Soccer City USA

Soccer City USA

Thorns FC! (clap, clap) Thorns FC! (clap, clap)

We became just a little more “Portland” this weekend. Attended our first professional soccer match at Providence Park, joining in the positive vibes as the Portland Thorns Football Club defeated the Western New York Flash 1-0, on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

The Portland Timbers, the men’s team, has a rabid fan base known as the Timbers Army. The Thorns, who play in the National Women’s Soccer League, have the Rose City Riveters. Both are grassroots groups embodying the spirit of Portland — feisty and fun.

The Rose City Riveters radiate good vibes from the north end of the grandstand at Providence Park.

The Rose City Riveters radiate good vibes from the north end of the grandstand at Providence Park.

The Riveters sit (well, mostly stand) and cheer in a section at the north end of the stadium, decked out in Thorns scarves and T-shirts, waving flags and singing songs, all led by a trio of energetic citizen cheerleaders. It’s fun to watch, even from a few sections away, and the vibe is contagious.

Lori and I agreed it was a wholesome, totally inclusive atmosphere with young families, teenagers, Boomers, hipsters, plenty of same-sex couples and lots of young girls in soccer T-shirts. A real slice of Portland.

Both the Timbers and Thorns are very popular, and it felt like we were initiated into the “club” that supports both teams. Of course, it wouldn’t be Portland without some concessionaire choices that reflect the city’s love of food. Lori had a charcuterie box from Olympic Provisions and I went for the grilled cheese special of the day — carne asada with pepper jack cheese and grilled onions on Dave’s Killer Bread. (Somehow, I passed on the mac ‘n’ cheese hot dog.)

Great seats, great action.

Great seats, great action.

The game itself was low-scoring but still full of action, with the game’s only goal scored on a header by Allie Long.

How cool to see what the seeds of Title IX planted so many years ago have brought us in the way of skilled, dedicated women athletes who no doubt have grown up playing the sport.

The Thorns’ roster is sprinkled with players from around the globe — United States, Canada, Australia, England, Germany, even Equatorial Guinea — and includes at least five who’ve represented their national team in the Olympics.

They are quick, agile, nimble-footed, tough and good sports, too. After 90 minutes-plus of a hard-fought game, the two teams came together at midfield to exchange what appeared to be genuine hugs and handshakes.

Souvenirs.

Souvenirs.

The only glitch came in getting there. We were on the bus headed to the game when I realized I’d left the tickets at home. We got off, I dashed through the Lloyd Center mall near our home, snatched the tickets and caught another bus, knowing Lori would re-board where I’d left her off. We transferred to the light rail and it dropped us off right at the stadium. We missed the national anthem, but got to our seats just in time for the 4 p.m. kickoff.

After the game, we caught the train half a block from the stadium, packed in amongst hundreds of other happy fans. Later, savoring cool drinks in the early evening, we marveled at how lucky we are to live in a neighborhood with such easy access to downtown and our city’s major sports venues. No pre-game parking hassles and no post-game traffic snarls. Just a quick hop onto the train, a single bus transfer and we’re let off a few blocks from home. Easy.

The Thorns play a 20-game schedule from April to September, followed by the league playoffs. They were league champions two years ago. Maybe this year will bring them — and the Rose City Riveters — another championship.

Crowd photograph: Shaley Howard, PQ Monthly,

The Islamic Reformation

In college, I had neither the time nor interest in taking a World Religions class. If I had, I might not have been so ignorant for so long about one of the world’s great religions – Islam. And by “great,” I mean its appeal to people around the globe – not anything inherent about its central tenets.

But, then, being more knowledgable about the world’s most popular religion would have diminished the satisfaction I took from recently reading Reza Aslan’s “No god but God.”

No_god_but_God_(Reza_Aslan_book)_US_coverAslan’s book, first published in 2005 – four years after the 9/11 attacks — and then updated with a preface to the paperback edition, purports to explain the origins, evolution and future of Islam. Ten years later, it reads as fresh and essential as when it first came out. It’s not an easy, breezy read by any means – certainly not for someone with little background in theology and lots of gaping holes in my knowledge about Middle East history.

But with perseverance and the sense that I was reading material that might well be covered in a college-level seminar, I stuck with the book – and I’m glad I did.

**

I picked the book up on a whim during a visit to a thrift shop at the Oregon Coast several months ago. I took a whole week to read during our recent vacation, and I finished the book with at least a dozen dog-eared pages marking facts I simply didn’t know or insights I hadn’t previously grasped.

There were multiple takeaways: Not just an understanding of when and how the prophet Muhammad founded the religion, but a far greater context for understanding more recent events of the 20th and 21st centuries. Just as I finished the book, I came across two important news articles that deepened my understanding of current events while simultaneously reinforcing the historical framework in which modern-day events are occurring.

atlantic-isis-coverIn The Atlantic, Graeme Wood explains “What ISIS Really Wants.

“The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths,” the intro reads. “It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.”

In The New York Times, Scott Shane wrote about a one young man’s journey in “From Minneapolis to ISIS: An American’s Path to Jihad.”

The young man had once talked of becoming a lawyer, Shane wrote, but last year he dropped out of community college at age 20 to become “one of a small number of Americans enticed by the apocalyptic religious promise of the self-described Islamic State, which has seized large sections of Syria and Iraq and claims to be building a caliphate.”

Both are terrific pieces of journalism, straightforward and riveting, in explaining the goals, objectives and appeal – to some – of the Islamic State, which has grabbed worldwide attention with its propaganda videos and barbaric beheadings.

Reading both on the heels of Aslan’s book made for greater impact.

**

Aslan’s book is, in essence, an introduction to Islam. It’s slow going at first because the author begins with a discussion of pre-Islamic Arabia in the 6th Century, sprinkling all manners of names of peoples and places of whom and which I’m unfamiliar.

For example (and I’m really admitting my ignorance here), I didn’t know that Muhammad was a 25-year-old orphan, “with no capital and no business of his own,” who relied entirely on his uncle’s generosity, for his employment and his housing.” I didn’t know that he married a 40-year-old widow named Khadija, who was a rarity, to say the least, “as a wealthy and respected female merchant in a society that treated women as chattel.”

Gradually, though, Aslan’s explanation of competing theologies and the tribal conflicts that went along with them begins to gel. As he tells Muhummad’s story, so too does he tell the story of how Islam supplanted other belief systems and became a dominant social, cultural and political force across the Middle East and, later, into Europe, Africa and Asia.

Abdi Nur, right, posted a photo online from Syria after traveling there from Minnesota. A friend, Abdullahi Yusuf, left, was stopped as he tried to depart. Top, an image of Western passports posted by a Twitter user who says she is an American with the Islamic State.

Abdi Nur, right, posted a photo online from Syria after traveling there from Minnesota. A friend, Abdullahi Yusuf, left, was stopped as he tried to depart. Top, an image of Western passports posted by a Twitter user who says she is an American with the Islamic State.

Aslan paints a picture of early Islam as an experiment in religious pluralism and social egalitarianism. Subsequently, he describes the development of various sects – the majority Shiites, the minority Sunnis and Sufis, and the Puritanical Wahhabis – and more modern developments, including the establishment of Saudi Arabia as “an utterly totalitarian and an uncompromisingly Wahhabist state;” the seeds of the Iranian Revolution and the Ayatollah Khomeini’s rise to power; and the emergence of a small group of dissidents, calling themselves al-Qaeda and led by Osama bin Laden, as a polarizing force dividing the Muslim world into “the People of Heaven” (themselves) and “the People of Hell” (everyone else).

The author provides a glossary and a chronology key events (starting with the birth of Muhammad in the year 570) as helpful resources. But he also frames the book in a way that might surprise some readers – as a narrative of a centuries-old struggle for the heart and soul of a religion, not unlike what we have seen in Christianity.

While it’s easy to focus on radical fundamentalist sects that use terror to intimidate, and to think of repeated attacks as targeted solely at the West, Aslan reminds us that many of these acts of violence have been perpetrated by Muslims against other Muslims. Most notably, in July 2005, when four British Muslims blew themselves and 42 bus and subway passengers up during rush hour. It was an attack carried out in London’s most heavily populated and moderate Muslim neighborhoods, where generations of Muslim immigrants from several countries lived harmoniously for generations.

“Theirs was as assault not only on innocent Britons but on their own community, indeed on the very existence of a moderate, pluralistic Islam that is anathema to their own puritanical beliefs,” Aslan writes. And, like similar attacks in other countries across the Muslim world, it revealed the civil war raging within Islam as much as it did the jihadist war against the West.

In short, Aslan says, “Welcome to the Islamic Reformation.”

**

It’s a provocative framework and Aslan acknowledges that both Muslims and non-Muslims take issue with his characterization of recent events as an internal struggle between Muslims rather than a war between Islam and the West. Certainly, it’s easy to question his thesis in the face of events like this month’s terrorist attack at Garissa University College in Kenya, where members of a militant group separated Muslims from Christians before executing nearly 150 Christian students.

Yet he also points to encouraging signs that young Muslims in the developing capitals of the Muslim world – Tehran, Cairo, Damascus and Jakarta – and in the cosmopolitan capitals of Europe and the United States – New York, London, Paris and Berlin – are merging the Islamic values of their ancestors with democratic ideals.

Think of the Arab Spring in Cairo and the promise it held, briefly, before the Egyptian authorities squelched it. Then think of reformations of the past, which have played out over centuries, amid much bloodshed and turmoil. That’s what we’re witnessing, Aslan contends.

**

The author, Resa Aslan.

The author, Resa Aslan.

The author is himself a native-born Iranian who immigrated to the United States with his family as a young boy after the U.S.-backed Shah had fled in exile and Khomeini had seized power. He has studied religions at Santa Clara University, Harvard and the University of California, Santa Barbara. In addition, he holds an MFA in fiction from the highly respected Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa, so he comes at his subject with the knowledge base of a Ph.D and the skills of an accomplished writer.

Now a professor of creative writing at UC Riverside, Aslan has gone on to write and edit several more books, including “ Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.”

I’m a decade late getting around to his book, but I’ve got to say, I think I made a good decision earlier this year when I chose to buy this book instead of another pair of running shorts.

Photo montage: The New York Times

Author photo: rezaaslan.com

Doggone good weekend

dogs-inthehouse

Otto (from left) chills while Charlotte and Templeton take a break (a brief one) from play.

When I look back on this year’s Easter weekend, I’ll remember two things: an extended dog-sitting job and a superb dinner.

The two things do intersect. Lori and I agreed to take care of Templeton from Friday afternoon to early Sunday evening while Simone and Kyndall went out of town for a friend’s birthday party.

We were happy to do so, figuring that having an extended visit from a four-legged friend of mysterious lineage would be good for our little Charlotte, whose breeding history is only slightly less befuddling. And so it was. Templeton, at about 9 pounds, and Charlotte, tipping the scales at about 12, romped around for hours each of the three days, pausing occasionally for a water break or a chew treat.

Otto, the senior dog, wisely pretty much stayed on the periphery.

Easter dinner: luscious lamb.

Easter dinner: luscious lamb.

Sunday, the girls arrived for Easter dinner with Quimby – Templeton’s older sister — in tow. Lil Q had spent three days with a friend of theirs, as four dogs would have a bit much for anybody. Nathan and Sara joined us, too, and we all sat down to a fabulous meal based around a nice hunk of lamb. Lori had never attempted a dish like this before, but it was luscious.

We raised a glass to toast three new jobs – Simone’s recent move to a senior auditing position at Metro; Kyndall’s landing a lobbying/policy job with SEIU here in Portland (no more traveling to Pittsburgh!); and Nathan’s snagging a line cook job at Olympia Provisions.

Templeton, Otto and Charlotte spend some time on the rooftop deck on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

Templeton, Otto and Charlotte spend some time on the rooftop deck on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

After dinner, it was the usual: unpredictable but entertaining conversation about food, music, movies, TV shows (we plead guilty to not having watched enough of the most highly rated series) and some irreverent humor. By the time we said our goodnights, all the dogs were pretty tired out. It was a low-key weekend, but lots of fun. Only way it could have been better would be to have Jordan and Jamie with us too. Maybe next year.

Breakfast with a stranger

Zell's Cafe; a favorite breakfast spot

Zell’s Cafe; a favorite breakfast spot

Friday I had a rare weekday off. I did a neighborhood run, showered and headed to the credit union to cash that $20 partial refund of a parking ticket I wrote about the day before (“Wheels of justice”).

I headed to Zell’s in Southeast Portland to treat myself to breakfast with the proceeds. It was just after 11 am and the place was packed as if it were a weekend brunch. Every seat taken at the counter and a couple of women waiting with a baby. Not what I envisioned.

Just inside the entrance, a man about my age was sitting alone at a table for four.

“You’re welcome to sit here if you like,” he said. “I can move over.”

“Is that OK with you?” the waitress asked me. “It’s going to be a wait otherwise.”

My mind clicked to another item I’d shared on Facebook that same morning — a co-worker’s essay about the kindness of a stranger who, with no prompting whatsoever, paid for his groceries when he maxed out his credit card (“A simple kindness, or perhaps something more”).

Here was another stranger, offering to share his table in a similar gesture of kindness. This could be awkward. Or … who knows what might come of this?

“Sure,” I said. “Why not?”

“I hope you don’t mind,” I told the man. “I brought a magazine and thought I’d do a little reading.”

“No, no, that’s fine,” he said. “Go ahead. I’m good.”

I sat down and the waitress went to fetch coffee and a menu.

“I’m texting with my son,” the man said. “He’s in Paris. Traveling alone and he’s a little worked up.”

“Paris? That’s cool.”

“Yeah. He just got there a day earlier. He’s a little nervous.”

I put aside the magazine. Never opened it. For the next half hour, I found myself drawn into an impromptu conversation about foreign travel, parenting, education, the Vietnam-era draft and more.

The guy described himself as semi-retired from a major U.S. airline. As an employee, he and his family were entitled to free or discounted travel and so his son had used the benefit to fly to Europe. Both his son and daughter had attended an alternative school through 8th grade but neither had finished high school, he told me.

Interestingly, both had attended the same high school as our two youngest kids. And, ironically, both fell short of a standard diploma despite their mother, his wife, being a school teacher. Yet, both had continued their education, beginning at a community college then transferring to a four-year school, he told me with fatherly pride.

Now the older sister was living in California and pursuing a masters degree. His son, at 21 and with two years of college-level French, was taking a break to travel. The guy planned to meet his boy in Amsterdam and fly home together.

“What about you?” he asked.

I told him about our three munchkins, now living very different lives with their partners. We agreed that parenting adult children brings a different set of worries and rewards. My mention of Jordan’s stint in the Army, including his one-year tour in Afghanistan, took us down the track of military service. Back in 1971, he drew a low number in the draft lottery and wound up in the Army, stationed for much of the time in Germany. I drew a high number and never served. We brought up our dads and learned that both were Navy guys.

He talked of traveling to Spain and Austria. I told him of my one trip to Italy and Slovenia.

The guy took a break at one point to step outside and take a call from his son. As I looked out the window, I could see him on the sidewalk, a concerned father trying to settle his son’s anxieties an ocean and several time zones away.

mark-falbo

My breakfast partner: Mark

I marveled at how life’s little threads sometimes come together in the most unpredictable ways. The refund check. The decision to eat at Zell’s. The essay about a stranger’s kindness in the checkout line at Costco. And now this, a different stranger’s kindness at a Portland restaurant.

We finished our meals and, at last, shook hands and introduced ourselves. His name was Mark. Our breakfast plates were cleared away and I needed to go to the grocery store. Mark said he was heading to his mom’s house to mow her lawn.

At dinner, I shared the story of my random encounter. Lori wasn’t surprised at all. She said she could imagine that happening easily all over in Portland. Even said she could see many of her friends accepting an invitation to sit down with a stranger.

I don’t know about that. Given the choice, I would have opted for a seat at the counter and some solo reading time. I’m glad things turned out differently, though.

Mark’s simple gesture — sharing a table in a crowded restaurant — led to an enjoyable conversation and gave me pause. What can I do to pay it forward? What can I do to surprise a stranger with a simple kindness?

Helluva sentence. Helluva book?

Torday-1

Daniel Torday, writer.

Who is Daniel Torday? And why is everyone heaping praise on his debut novel?

I don’t know, but I intend to find out.

How could I not be intrigued after reading a 2-paragraph review in Esquire with the headline “The Best 149 Words Published This Year”?

Chris Jones, one of the magazine’s fabulous writers, declares:

“The last sentence of Daniel Torday’s debut novel, “The Last Flight of Poxl West,” is one of the great conclusions. Like the novel it completes, it is an elaborate and careful construction. It contains 149 words, 14 commas, 4 apostrophes, 2 em dashes and, finally, a period.”

(OK, I’m interested.)

“Every last one of those punctuation marks has been earned. Torday has written a novel that does more than just build toward its final page.”

(Yes?. Tell me more.)

“After unwinding a narrative that alternates between the unbelievable wartime memoir of Poxl West, a daring Jewish pilot, and his admiring nephew’s reckoning with it, Torday gives his dual protagonists the ending they deserve. It’s not a clean one, or a complete one, or an impossible one. It’s a real one, equal parts inevitable and explosive, the last of the countess bombs Poxl West drops out of the sky.”

(OK. That does it. I’m sold.)

Well, after an endorsement like that, I looked up Torday, where snippets from NPR’s Terry Gross and others only serve to reinforce my interest in this book. The author’s website says he is a former editor at Esquire, an editor at The Kenyon Review, and  Director of Creative Writing at Bryn Mawr College.

(Only one thing left to do. Add “Poxl West” to my list of must-reads.)

Photograph: Matt Barrick 

Wheels of justice

parking-refund

Vindication!

In the pile of another day’s delivery of junk mail, one letter-sized envelope stood out like a precious gem. Through the panes, I could see a document with the official Oregon state seal and it was addressed to yours truly.

Could it be? Yes, it was.

More than a year after receiving a $60 parking ticket, I’d finally — finally! — gotten a response to the letter of explanation I wrote to the authorities.

Hallelujah! It was an overpayment refund of $20.

Now, I realize that’s not a lot of money. But I felt obligated to challenge the citation and vindicated when I saw justice had been served, although it took  WAY longer than it should have, in my humble opinion.

Here’s the deal:

I was cited one afternoon in late February 2014 for “No Meter Receipt” — that is, no proof of payment that I’d bought time on one of the city’s parking meters downtown. It had rained hard that day and I remember having trouble inserting the receipt between the driver’s side window and the rubber strip on the door of my ’67 VW Beetle. There was considerable condensation and the receipt quickly became wet and limp.

When I returned to my car and saw I’d received a ticket, I opened the door and immediately saw that the receipt had dried out and fallen to the floor, between the driver’s seat and the door – an admittedly narrow space where it wouldn’t have been visible to the parking enforcement officer.

I wrote to explain what happened and, being an honest guy, pointed out that I’d actually been a little late getting back to my car. The two hours of parking time I’d bought had expired about 15 minutes earlier. So, although I had overstayed my time, I DID have a receipt and I enclosed a copy as proof.

I’ll cash the check this week with a feeling of satisfaction. This little episode goes to show that you can fight city hall (well, the parking patrol, anyway) if you jump on the issue and make your case. But it also demonstrates how slowly the wheels of justice turn. Almost imperceptibly.

Next time, I’ll ask them to pay me interest on the refund. No, better yet, I’ll avoid the ticket in the first place.