Racism, E-Waste and a Fried Bologna Sandwich

December 18, 2023

I went to lunch with my new friend Joshua T. Smith (of Improve Your Tomorrow) recently. We went to a nice white-tablecloth kinda place. The kind of place with a special lunch wine-list. Joshua ordered some foofy salad and I ordered the fried bologna sandwich. It was what you think, with potato chips on the side. It was $20 for a bologna sandwich. I was not the only one in this fancy restaurant that ordered it. It was going everywhere. All kinds of fancy rich people that lobby the CA government were there pretending for a moment to be just regular folk that like bologna.  

This has become a thing Josh and I do. We go to a nice lunch and sit across the table and have what is likely the most uncomfortable conversation possible. We talk about systemic and generational racism. We talk about what was one of the worst times in the history of the world… and I look forward to it maybe as much as anything I do.

My friend Joshua is a 31-year-old black man from the deepest of the deep south. His life could not be any more different than mine, as I am a 58-year-old white guy from the SF Bay peninsula. I grew up in Portola Valley, Cali. Google it. It is not the deep south.

I didn’t necessarily have it super easy. I have been piss-broke more than once. The second time my Datsun pickup was stolen, I didn’t even bother to report it. I lived in a house with three other piss-broke musicians. I took a job palletizing dog food to make ends meet. Nobody handed me much… except one thing. I’m white.  

I don’t intend to dig into the whole mess we have made of race relations in the U.S. right here. It is too complex for a knucklehead like me to communicate. But I can tell you now that I understand a ton more than I did before I met Joshua T. Smith in the Denver airport by chance. I am lucky I did.   

Without giving away too much of Josh’s personal stuff, I will tell you that he is the first one in his family to get a college degree. His entire extended family. My family donates to Stanford. Like I said, we could not be more different. We talk about it openly and freely. What his work life is like. What mine is like. The different roadblocks we face. It is wonderful and horrible to hear… but he and I are making a difference. There are no politics. We are friends and we are learning what it is like to walk in each other’s shoes.

This never would have happened without Christina DeBono and the SAVe organization that she and Kelly Perkins started. In one day, this 58-year-old dude set in his ways was taught that he could actually make a difference. They taught me that any difference, no matter how small, was indeed a difference. Lot’s of little differences make up a big difference. Rarely does one person change the world by themselves. Often a large mass of people change the world.  

I am penning this today because Pat Birch from our office showed me a CBS news report on E-waste in Ghana. It was great to see it get national attention… but the e-waste piling up in Ghana is there because of poverty in Ghana. They don’t pile up e-waste in Portola Valley where I grew up.   

It all seems too big to tackle. SAVe has some pretty lofty goals. I thought the idea of ending poverty is too big. It is too much… but now I am doing my teeny tiny little part. It didn’t take some herculean effort. I just needed to think about it for a bit and do some stuff I like to do anyway.  

This note is not about me. It is about others that have inspired me. They are there to inspire you this holiday season. Take off your cynicism-hat for five minutes and just listen to someone that has some philanthropic plans. Just listen for a minute. You don’t have to build a new hospital. You don’t need to save everyone. Just help someone a little bit. Just a tiny amount. Make it part of your routine. You’re not going to win a prize. Nobody is going to notice. Just do it anyway and change the world. Just a tiny bit. Today.

Please go to  

We don’t want a big stack of money. We just want to inspire you. This is not some bureaucracy. It is Kelly, Christina, now me, and a bunch of like minded people all trying to do just a little bit.