The Nose is not a particularly religious man. He can't remember whether he's a lapsed Episcopalian or a practicing Buddhist. But even at Our Lady of Spiritual Congestion, penance counts for something.

On Saturday, while reaching deep into a kitchen cupboard for a popcorn bowl (and giddy with anticipation, holding an OTB ticket on Smarty Jones), Schnozzster knocked over his spouse's favorite piece of china. She swears this delicate milk pitcher crossed the Atlantic on the Mayflower. The Nose suspects it actually made its way from Shanghai aboard a freighter of Panamanian registry.

But anyway, Lady Nose wasn't home at the time, and since she never uses the damn thing, a cover-up seemed possible. And, feeling guilty, the Nose went even further. By the time the Ball & Chain rolled home, the kitchen had been scraped, Windexed, mopped, Cometed and scrubbed to a blinding shine courtesy of a full can of Barkeeper's Friend. Now, even an Intel clean room has nothing on the Nose's kitchen.

Which, of course, brought Neil Goldschmidt to mind.

Back in the '70s, when Goldschmidt was mayor--and, as we now know, having sex with an adolescent--he focused on civic works, not social services. But a decade later, when his child victim had grown into a very troubled woman (and was regularly calling him in the governor's office), Goldschmidt embarked on a quest to save kids.


What a coincidence.

As governor, Goldschmidt launched his "Children's Agenda," a joint venture between state and county agencies to improve the welfare of Oregon's youth. The initiative never attracted much legislative support, but Goldschmidt promoted it tirelessly.

After leaving public office, one of the first things Goldschmidt did was establish the Oregon Children's Foundation. The foundation's central mission is Start Making A Reader Today (SMART), a volunteer literacy program that has served more than 66,000 schoolchildren and given away more than a million books.

The Schnoz is no more a shrink than he is a priest. But he can't help think that Goldschmidt's desire to help children wasn't all that different in motivation than the Nose's own kitchen-cleaning exploits.

Guilt: It's a high-grade lubricant for the social conscience. Cynics might suggest the ex-guv was being less than honorable when in a 1998 speech at Portland State University he said: "Just as we consider the salmon an indicator of the quality of the environment, our children are the indicator species for our region's lifeblood.... [I]f we don't prevent our kids from making that last bad choice that converts them from a kid with a problem to a kid with a secure can our future be?"

Read today, those words about the value of children may come off as a calculated bit of hypocrisy. The Nose doesn't look at it that way. Instead, he thinks, Goldschmidt, like a china-busting horse-race fan, was looking for redemption. And, maybe, in his own strange way, Goldschmidt was sincere about the effort.

If only his sin was small enough to be wiped away with Windex.