Here We Go Again on Gun Control

It amazes me that people who seem to think more guns owned by citizens would make mass shootings a thing of the past believes that. One of the views posed by these armchair Monday morning quarterbacks is that if more people had guns at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando then the death toll would have been less.

Let’s take a moment to lay out the situation. People are at a nightclub. For those of you who have ever been to a nightclub, you know that a club is all about having a good time. Part of that good time is great music, which usually means it is loud. You’re going to have pulsating music with a loud beat. That’s why, for those of you whom have never been to a nightclub, people have a hard time hearing one another. You have to yell to someone next to you, in most cases, to be heard.

A club is going to have pulsating lights and the room will be dimly lit, which makes for a certain kind of atmosphere. Yes, for those of you whom have never been to a club the flashing lights in a dark room makes it hard to see. The strobe lights don’t help the eyes to adjust. The view in a nightclub, even when the lights aren’t pulsing, is pretty rough because it’s so dark. With flashing lights, it can take the eyes time to adjust.

So, just at the start of our ‘armed citizens can take out a bad guy’ scenario you have disorienting sounds and lights that have to be dealt with in the Orlando shooting. Now we need to talk about drinking. A nightclub, by its very nature, means alcohol will be served. Some may drink a lot, some may drink a little but if you take any alcohol in an environment where your senses are already impaired, it will be tough to overcome all of that to react to the risk of a deranged person with a gun.

There are a number of other factors that can be brought up, but the point I’m trying to show is that when you are out in the real world, you don’t automatically survey the environment for threat, check out exit points, work out strategies for extraction and all sorts of other hostile threats and counter actions for them. If you are going into a club, in fact if you’re going about your everyday routine, you’re not thinking like you’re in a combat zone. You’re not thinking about exit strategies, about possible threats or other hostile intentions by others.

When there were a rash of black men getting shot by the police, and there were cries of racist police, one of the things local police agencies across the country did to show how difficult it was for police to make split second decisions was to take reporters and community leaders onto training grounds to show them how tough it was to make decisions ‘on the streets.’ As hokey and obviously biased as those stunts were in my eyes, it did illustrate that shooting decisions are quick and irreversible. You can’t hit a reset button; you can’t get more lives by getting the golden coin. The split second decision to fire the gun can have life changing consequences. In the cases the police faced with shooting black men, most of those were out in the open, in daylight, with no impairment with alcohol, strobing lights or pulsating music.

Take the argument about guns to another level. In the example I gave about reporters going through those police shooting grounds, police are initially trained for months about gun safety, proper use of the gun and the legal consequences of using the gun. They have annual tests to show they are proficient with the gun. They have the practices on the training field with the gun to make sure their marksmanship is on point. On top of everything else, they have a group of fellow officers that have had the same type of training, so when a hostile situation shows up each officer has an idea of what their fellow officer, their back up, will so in the same situation. The same would go for those who have military service, in the fact they have the same rigorous training, probably more, than an officer does in dealing with a threat.

However, with all due respect, an active military person who trains with a group isn’t the same as a lone active military person in a hostile situation. What I mean is if you have trained with the same group of people for months and you go out on patrol, you have been trained as a unit to look for danger and how to react to that danger as a team, because you have trained with the same people for months if not years. You will know how your fellow active military person will act in a combat situation.

It might be possible if that same active military guy was taken from his group and placed into another group of similarly trained active military people and thrown into an active hostile situation they might be able to subdue the active shooter, but there might be mistakes. If you don’t think so, then, going back to the police. Why would so many officers kill unarmed black men if they have the massive amount of training they have?

If you can have incidents where police who have constant training, partners and other coworkers with the same intense training and they can make mistakes, why would you think it is a good idea for less trained citizens, with varying degrees of training, if they even bother to train at all on a regular basis, have the firepower and more importantly the permission to attack an armed suspect?

Noticed how I worded that because that is the real question we have to ask ourselves when people proclaim that if more people had guns in a situation like the Orlando shooting the death toll would be less. What these advocates are saying ultimately is they want to give ordinary citizens the permission to have a gun so if a hostile incident occurs they can, with the blessings of law enforcement and society, use deadly force to take out the suspect. In this particular case, would you honestly think one of more gun toting club goers is a good idea?

Let me lay this out again. So if I’m at a nightclub with friends, with the flashing lights, the loud music, the mass of people and alcohol flowing with others and themselves, and if a gunman comes into that scene and is shooting, the armchair Monday morning quarterbacks want to say it’s OK for a number of those people who might have guns on them to shoot away. So one person with a gun in a chaotic situation could become a lot of people shooting at each other in a chaotic situation.

How could anything go wrong with that?

There are a lot of super pro-gun advocates out there who may have a good argument in saying that no law would have prevented this one lone gunman from carrying out his massacre. The problem is they’re so hung up on the second amendment right to bear arms they’re willing to sacrifice the needs of the many for the needs of the few. They want the rest of us to accept that Johnny Six Guns, the honest citizen down the street, has a right to buy as many guns and as many types of guns as he wants, all in the name of freedom, protection and the second amendment. It’s not acceptable to them that Johnny might have to wait 15 days to get the gun. They want him to be able to waltz into the nearest Walmart, put down a few hundred dollars and walk out with an AR-15 with no questions asked.

They don’t want to think about the reasons why Johnny Six Guns may want to have multiple guns. They don’t want to ask the question why Johnny Six Gins would want an AR-15. They will always argue, in any mass shooting case, that no matter the law a bad person will always get their hands on guns, thus it doesn’t make sense to them to hinder the rights of law abiding Johnny Six Guns because the crooks, no matter what laws we put on the books, will be able to get a gun.

My argument would be that we shouldn’t make it easy for criminals to get assault weapons that can kill 10 of people in a second. So what if the law abiding citizen has to wait 15 days or more to get an assault rifle, and I want to make clear I’m talking about assault guns, not hunting guns, not pistols; I’m talking about military style guns which, in a perfect world, would be desired by gun collectors to place in their homes for display. They aren’t using them for self-defense or for an imminent threat. Let them, and the criminals, wait for some time before purchasing the weapons. If you really believe that it won’t prevent a tragedy like the massacre in Orlando, then why can we not have a law that makes people wait? The gun collector and Johnny Six Guns are law abiding people and we’re only asking for a delay in the purchase. They will ultimately get the gun.

Why not have something in place, at the very least, will demonstrate that if a person is determined to do a massacre we make them work for it. In that case, if they are captured and brought to trail, there is no question in anybody’s mind that the individual was determined to do the vile action.

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History, Trump and T’Pring’s Logic

You’re not sure where you’ll be or the state of mind you’ll be in when history changing events happen. You’re never sure what your reaction will be at the time because when significant events happen you seldom realize at the time it is significant. It could take a few minutes or it can take years for you to understand the significance of an event.

When the BP oil spill occurred, I was in South Carolina visiting my parents. It was a few days before my birthday and I had the bright idea that visiting my parents. Actually, being honest, it was suggested by someone that I see my parents. The trip was stressful, not because I hadn’t seen them in a few years since they moved to the South but because, as many people will tell you, to the rest of the world you can have a sense of yourself, a feeling of being in control of yourself but once you’re in the realm of parents all of their controls kick back in. You don’t really revert back to a child but if you’re parents have been with you in your formative years they know what buttons to push to make you happy, sad, compliant and irritated. At least for me there was the euphoria of memories that were of a happy life, but I also know as an adult I have my own opinions about things and those are trumped when I’m with my parents. It’s not something I want to surrender control to but it is easier to back down than to confront.

The BP oil spill news was background noise to the drama I was working on with my parents and other relatives on the visit, plus of seeing things in the South that were things I had seen in old black and white reels that I thought were long gone yet were remarkably intact in the modern South.

Until I got away from the South and away from my parents did the significance of the spill hit me. When I heard the numbers of gallons that had spilled at the time, the efforts that had been done to cap the well and the response made my BP and the government to the incident, I couldn’t believe how we as a nation were so unprepared for the events that occurred. Of course social media exploded with people incredibly concerned and wanting to do something, but many responded in the usual ways. In other words, people talked a good game and did nothing. Of course there were people that acted, but I had people I knew who were very angry about the spill, about the response to the spill and they only expressed their anger through retweets and sharing on Facebook. There were a very few who said they were committed to actively doing something, who had means and access but did nothing.

Two days ago I walked past the breakroom of my job, leaving for the bus and on the television I saw Ted Cruz on CNN. The Indiana primary had just closed and Trump was the projected winner. When I got to the bus stop I decided, and I hadn’t done this in years, to switch to the conservative radio station that broadcast out of LA. On the radio I heard Ted Cruz suspend his campaign after his loss in Indiana. Just after 6pm local time, on the same radio station I heard Donald Trump give his speech.

Yesterday, back in the breakroom on CNN I saw a crawl on the screen during my break that said John Kasich was dropping out of the race. To the right of me, there were three men sitting at the table. I’m not going to call them coworkers because, as I’ve said since I’ve had this job, the job hired me and many of the immediate people I work with through a temp agency. While we are made to think we are part of the ‘family’ we aren’t. Anyway, these three men were pleased that Trump was now the clear choice of the Republican Party. I heard words from them such as Trump would make the country great again and how much they disliked Clinton.

I listened to them for a good 10 minutes of my 15-minute break talk about how much they supported Trump. I listened to them talk about how the country would be better under Trump and how it would fix ‘the mess we’re in now from Obama.’ The men were what I would call midlevel executives in the company. They had health insurance from the company, as long as they didn’t royally screw up they had a secure good paying job with the company.

Listening to those men was a contrast to what the media has shown as the typical Trump supporter. When Trump was campaigning in South Carolina, I remember a report I saw online where a reporter interviewed some people outside of his rally. You had the missing teeth, thick country accent, Dixie shirt wearing ‘Merica crowd whose support for Trump was a mixture of star struck and frustration with the empty promises of canned politicians. They were the Americans whom I see riding public transportation everyday who wants someone to be straight with them and to bring ‘good paying jobs’ back to this country.

Listening to pundits over the last two days, especially on progressive radio, they still live in the bubble that Trump has no chance of winning the election. What I see from my vantage point is something different. People may want to say Trump has the appeal of the tooth missing, Southern speaking, NASCAR loving ‘Mericans but with Trump as the nominee of the Republican Party he will be a candidate that shakes up establishment politics and reach people who are followers more than voters. Voters are people, if they have the time to wait, will go to the polls and vote for a candidate. A follower will work hard for the candidate and, no matter what, will vote for their candidate.

In the job I have I get calls from most of the country and I can tell you the majority of people I talk to are in the same boat as myself. They have low paying jobs, working for bosses who only care about profit. The workers have no incentive and no personal motivation to think for themselves. It’s all about pleasing the boss, doing what the boss says without thinking about ways to make their job easier. Get them out of their lane and they freeze up like a deer in headlights.

The other group I get calls from are the people you’ll see in any political ad. They are the smiling hard hats, the bearded dock workers, the blue collar Americans who, and I love this term I heard from Bernie Sanders, showers after work not before work. They’re Americans who get their hands dirty. Trust me when I say that group of people I’ve talked to are Trump supporters. That’s a good distinction to understand because you can have people who are Republicans who may not agree with Trump. The people I’m talking about love Trump. I’ve had people from that group, which I never asked about, who have been like the white collar guys I listened to in the office. I guess because I’m so willing to help and they talk to me so much they feel they ‘know’ me and they have on occasion told me of their dislike of Clinton and Obama.

See, the first group I talked about, the low paying job workers, they are so concerned about their next paycheck, which they should be, they will not have the time of motivation to vote. They aren’t going to study the candidates or look at their policies. Let’s me be honest and say if you have people who have been so unmotivated in their job to think about improvements why would they take time in their busy schedule to vote, especially with bosses unwilling to allow them time to do so?

When I saw the announcement of Kasich getting out of the race and the comments by the men in the room, I got a sinking feeling in my stomach. I don’t think this election will be anything like we have seen in modern times in America on elections. Just like the BP oil spill, or the kidnapped girls by the Boko Haram or any countless other events, we give a lot of talk, do a lot sharing memes and express outrage in hashtags but the vast majority of Americans will not learn about the issues and vote when the time comes. Every excuse in the book will be given when it is time to vote and so many people will assume their voting and efforts will not count. The truth is no amount of talking will convince them to expend real time and energy to support their candidate.

Part of the appeal of Trump with the men I heard yesterday was that Trump beat the system. Think about the Trump narrative for just a moment. When he started the race, going down the escalator and then, at his announcement, making the comment about immigration, there were so many pundits that thought he was a joke. He was a non-politicians going up against governors, senators and congress people. How many times was he called a mere reality star? People can talk all they want about the press giving so much free airtime to Trump, but the people heard what he and all the other candidates said and did and Trump is the last man standing for the Republicans. For all the talk about party elders wanting to stop Trump, they may have done too little too late but the end result still has Trump at the top of the ticket, a feat no one would have predicted when he got in the race.

There was another event I saw yesterday about Trump that was mystifying to me. There was a woman who was part of the Stop Trump movement and she was asked, since Trump is pretty much the nominee, would she support Trump? She gave a hesitant no, but it was a politician no. What I mean is, and this sounds so sexist, her mouth was saying no but her eyes were saying yes. This was confirmed when asked if she would vote for Hillary Clinton and she couldn’t say no quick enough. I have already seen that Republicans are holding their noses and aligning with Trump and the reason for this is simple. They don’t have respect for Trump but they dislike, no they hate Clinton. What I think is funny about this scenario is that the Republicans are in a winning position.

OK, you think that’s crazy but think about it for a moment. The Republican Party has made the Democrats, especially the Clintons, the demons of American politics for over 20 years. If someone from the inside of the party had gone up against Clinton and lost, there would be a good number of supporters who would conclude the Clintons are immune to the establishment Clinton attacks. Hillary Clinton herself has said on many occasions this election cycle that the Republicans keep attacking her and she survives stronger than ever. Any establishment Republican candidate that went up against Clinton and lost would have been a blow to the party’s image.

In geek terms, the strategy that might be playing out is similar to the Amok Time episode of Star Trek, when T’Pring, who loved Stonn and not Spock, chose Kirk to fight for her. Here is the line that explains the logic of T’Pring’s decision:

T’PRING: You have become much known among our people, Spock. Almost a legend. And as the years went by, I came to know that I did not want to be the consort of a legend. But by the laws of our people, I could only divorce you by the kal-if-fee. There was also Stonn, who wanted very much to be my consort, and I wanted him. If your Captain were victor, he would not want me, and so I would have Stonn. If you were victor you would free me because I had dared to challenge, and again I would have Stonn. But if you did not free me, it would be the same. For you would be gone, and I would have your name and your property, and Stonn would still be there.

Trump isn’t part of the party’s establishment and that has been his appeal to the voters. So, if Trump loses to Clinton, I could see where the establishment in the Republican Party could blame Trump and his outsider image for the loss, especially if the Senate returns to Democratic control, and could effectively advocate that an establishment candidate must be chosen to regain the White House. Now they have the perfect sacrificial candidate to face off against Hillary.

So if Trump loses, it could silence any opposition to outside candidates in future elections. Trump would be blamed for the loss to Clinton, and sense he’s a party outsider, the establishment can present clean hands in the loss, since Trump isn’t one of them. This would probably allow rise of an establishment candidate who will have little opposition in the next election. If Trump wins, the party can claim that victory over Clinton and gain further support among those in the party and outsiders against Clinton. If Trump does win it will probably come with a wave of winners in congressional and senate elections. The win would also allow for the Republicans to get a solid conservative base in the Supreme Court.

Yesterday, like it or not, Trump became the Republican nominee for President of the United States.

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Facebook Friends and Acquaintances

This is something that has bothered me a bit since last Comic-Con in San Diego. One of the toughest things a new creator has to deal with is fans. You can have the crazies, you can have the earnest and you can have the truly appreciative folks who love your work. Something you don’t want to do is blow off fans. Something I realized in high school is you never know whom you might need help from decades later and something we do as people is think in the short term and not the long term.

Last year I had the pleasure of meeting two legendary people in the comics’ industry at the San Diego Comic-Con. They were old pros, and I waited patiently while they reminisced with one another, was patient when they talked to someone else who was also a fan of their work, and when they did talk to me, despite me going into full fan mode, treated me with respect. I appreciated the encounter because it was a schmooze fest that felt like Hollywood I understood, accepted and appreciated that even though I wasn’t cool, as far as I was in geek mode, they treated me with respect.

Before I met them I was with another artist, a new one, whose work I saw on their display and I liked a lot. I wasn’t looking to be friends forever, I wasn’t looking for a love connection, but I did admire their work and was impressed with it. I have self-published myself and even though it was decades ago, I’ve kept up with the industry and know how hard it can be to get a project off the ground. I wasn’t looking to be soul mates but I was hoping, especially after what seemed to be a promising conversation, that common courtesy would be given. To be blunt, I didn’t think I would be blown off. You have to understand, just like I said earlier, I wasn’t expecting to be personal buds with the creator. I thought I hit it off with the creator and when I was asked about the work I had done, I thought by sharing about myself and with a request of sending some of my material over I assumed that might mean a professional assessment of my work.

What should have been a clue to me was when I talked at length about the writing style I was trying to achieve in my work, and as I left I distinctly remember the person talking to another person at the booth and the posture and tone of the conversation, and I couldn’t hear the whole conversation, but I did pick up that the person who represented themselves to me as the writer and artist of the book was only the artist. No big deal from me because speaking to a creative person about the creative process is fine for me, but the brush of seemed odd to me. A month or so later, when I inquired about the script I sent in, I was sent an email about being very busy, which I understood from the schedule I saw, and a thank you for sending it over.

I’ve heard nothing from the artist since the contact and I have been following them on Facebook, from the request I got from them.

Something I don’t understand from people today is it’s very easy to be suspicious of people but it’s also easy to check up on folks. A simple Google search would link anyone to almost anything about me, which would show, on the one hand, I’m not just the geek looking to score brownie points on some conquest or other shallow endeavor. I’m genuinely interested in the career of the artist, no matter if the person is ‘just an artist’ of if they collaborate in their work. I don’t know if I was seen as a stalker when we met, and I will admit it was an off day for me but to defend myself I was suffering from some diabetes junk that day. I met a good old friend of mine that same day at the convention and I felt embarrassed after the fact that I was sweating like a pig because my body was in some diabetic adjustment thing.

When I was working for the man whose name I will not mention and we had, at least what I thought at the time, a good shot at getting one of the shows I had developed produced, one of the things I made sure to tell everyone associated with the project was to treat anyone they met at Comic-Con with dignity. The one thing I told them was a lesson I learn from an old Navy guy I met at a job a long time ago. Never think the big dog is the connection you lead to get what you want. While you might think the captain is the boss on the ship, the paymaster can ruin your week or month by clogging your check in paperwork. Assume everyone is the boss until you know who is the person who runs the day to day stuff of anything. More to the point, the one who has you by the short hairs is the boss, no matter the rank. It was decades ago when I talked to the Navy guy but his message is even more important today. The person you think is a nobody might have a blog with 500 to 500000 followers. You just don’t know how important anybody is so assume, until verified, everyone is important and treat them with respect.

Until I know otherwise, I always assume someone is connected to someone. I don’t dismiss anyone. I’m a bit disappointed with this artist because I have been tossed to the curb and I’m not quite sure why. On a grander scale, there have been a number of people that I have met, who have wanted me to link to them on Facebook, who have tossed me to the curb. I would venture none of them haven’t done a Google search on me. And here’s the thing, I’m not even suggesting that I have the best contacts with the rich and famous, but I bet if a simple search had been done, a dismissal of me might not have been had.

I’m not going to call out names, but I’m going to address an even that happened that a few of the people whom supposedly follow me on Facebook will recognize. In October, before the incident at the San Diego Comic-Con, I worked with a friend of mine on a video shoot. At the time I was mad but in retrospect I laugh about the incident because I had worked with a number of people on previous video shoots and I was treated, to be frank, as dirt. One person acted like I was being introduced to them for the first time, yet I had been on three video shoots for them. I mean, I know I’m a shy, quiet kind of person but how can you not miss me? I’m a six-foot large Black male, how can you miss me? Something else that gets me on meeting new folks is of the folks I met on these shoots, and that extends to now, none of them has done a simple Google search of my name. As savvy as these folks claim to be about the Internet, typing my name would pull up a lot of work I’ve done. I did it for them before I met them and after I met them, just to get an update on their work. Information is a key to understanding.

So if you hadn’t guessed, this is a bit of bitch writing for me, because I’ve had a bunch of folks over the years that have simply pissed me off because they have me as a friend on Facebook but have me there I guess because they need the bodies and not because of some respect for what I do or what I have done of even for who I am. I see where people tolerate this because they don’t cull the people out. Facebook and other social media shows our self-worth and the more people we have the more popular we feel. I feel bad about this because I do have a lot of people on social media, people who are casual acquaintances or people whom I met a few time whom are ‘friends’ of mine and I’ve kept online for fear of offending. I’m asking myself what am I afraid of? What am I worried about?

This is what happens when you get older, boys and girls. You start to realize the friendships you hold dear, especially in the age of social media, aren’t as cherished as you’d like them to be. The more disturbing, or liberating, element of this is you are willing to cut ties because you lived enough to know whatever value you had for them in the past isn’t worth it.

I’m going to give myself a week to evaluate what I’m thinking about and then I’m going to start taking stock and clearing names. It’s funny to me that people I haven’t seen since junior high school and high school I’m keeping in my contact list but people I may have met less than a year ago who apparently have me as part of a social media collection won’t give me the courtesy of having a conversation with me, yet I find it hard to disconnect them. In a week, now that I’m thinking about it, may make it easier to disconnect with them.

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Cruzing The Bathrooms

I want you to take a very close look at the phrasing and word choices that Ted Cruz made in Maryland. This was in response to comments Donald Trump made hours before criticizing the law against transgender people in North Carolina, known as the ‘bathroom law.’

“He thought that men should be able to go into the girls’ bathrooms if they want to. Grown adult men — strangers— should not be alone in a bathroom with little girls. And that’s not conservative. That’s not Republican or Democrat. That’s basic common sense.”

Cruz is a graduate from Princeton and Harvard, was on the debate team while at Princeton and was a law clerk to William Rehnquist, former Chief Justice of the United States. Cruz knows the power of words and to me his comment above was deliberate in evoking the most fearful image imaginable for those who cling to incorrect and harmful stereotypes about people who are ‘different.’

Cruz description of a strange man going into a girls’ bathroom resembles the effort of the anti-HERO campaign in Houston late last year. That ordinance was defeated because the anti-HERO forces used the fear of men attacking, not women, not boys but little girls in bathroom. Now, as was pointed out at the time, there’s very little evidence that rampant attacks would occur from transgenders using gender neutral bathrooms, nor was there evidence that stalkers might dress as women and claim to be transgender to use those facilities. It didn’t matter what the facts were; a conservative element believed this would happen and the flame of ignorance was stoked to bring defeat to the HERO ordinance.

Cruz, I clearly believe, knows he’s bringing up a very powerful image to rally his type of Republican supporter. He’s trying to get the guns, God and morality brigade to race to his side. It’s a long game approach because right now, with the states still holding primaries, aren’t known for their conservative voting blocks. What he’s after is a contested convention where delegates from the South could be the tipping point in getting him nominated. Make no mistake, his message about bathroom attacks of little girls by male predators is aimed at them, trying to convince them that Cruz would protect their families from the liberals and progressive who are ruining the country.

I don’t get the logic of the conservative Republican mind because they focus so much on the liberal boogieman that is ‘ruining the country’ and they turn to the Pied Pipers who promise, by force of will and God behind them, they will return America to a time when things were better. Those conservatives always assume when the clock is turned back, they will reap the rewards. They will get lost jobs back, they will have children who won’t be tempted by ‘the world’ and the world will be a safer place.

If the conservatives would take a little time, walk into a library or check out legitimate sites on the internet and not rely on what Aunt Mamie, Uncle John and conservative media outlets tell them, they might learn that the pristine era they are so in love with wasn’t the nirvana they think it was. A lot of people, when they longingly talk about a simpler time and how wonderful it was, never consider where they might be in that timeline. People always assume the best will happen in the future even though if they look at their own past they will have ups and downs. It’s never just sunshine and happy times.

As fun as the movies and TV might make of the 50s, which seems to be the era conservatives like to focus on, they forget that people like myself has to live with segregation. Minorities in this country aren’t as fond of the ‘Happy Days’ as the majority is of the era. They think that if the clock is turned back they will be in the land of Leave It to Beaver but not every white American was well to do and going to an unknown business job. There were poor white people back in the 50s and the struggles were greater because there were very few government programs to help families keep ahead.

Something else that disturbs me about the Cruz political element is how easily the people who are in support of the anti-transgender bill forget history. Are they forgetting the anti-gay laws in the wake of the AIDS crisis in the 80s? Many laws were passed with the same argument being used; the protection of children. Have they forgotten the scenes of men and women yelling at children because they had AIDS? Did they forget the ugly sermons from the pulpit preaching about how gay men (it’s always the men) who would turn young boys into sex slaves and degenerates? The things we fear we demonize at first glance.

For me, go back a little further in time. Think of all the segregation laws. Blacks couldn’t sit at the same counter as white people. We had to sit in the back of the bus and give up seats to white people. Discrimination was a fact of life. Look at some of the newsreels from that era where they talk about states right and ‘the natural order of things’ and compare that to the rhetoric being used by Cruz and others. It’s the same crap repackaged for a new boogieman.

Fear and ignorance makes people do things that are ugly. We throw away the principles we claim to hold to our hearts. We will demonize those we consider different and do it in the name of God and country. People like Cruz manipulate that fear for short term gains and in the end we all suffer. We want to think of ourselves as a just and moral nation but it’s hard to hold our heads up high when people are willing to exploit weakness for personal and political gain and many of us are willing to succumb to our fear and ignorance.

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Little Hope, No Change

I was watching CNN the other day and they had another bunch of talking heads wondering why there is voter anger over the economy while the economy is getting better. They threw up charts, graphs and talked about a lot of empirical evidence showing things are a lot better than people tend to believe. In the five minutes they were given, they painted a very encouraging picture to illustrate how we are so much better off.

When you have commentators on with nice suits, well-groomed and well-spoken trying to convince Americans that things are wonderful, they forget people like myself are watching their analysis. Yes, I can buy some frivolous item such as some game miniatures, but I don’t have a car to keep up. I’ve done this by choice so I do have extra money, but even the extra money doesn’t keep me comfortable income wise. I work a job that does pay over the minimum wage but it’s not what I would call a living wage. A few weeks ago I worked every day, yes every day of the week, just so I could have a little more money at the end of the month which might help in bringing down some credit card bills.

When talking heads talk about how the economy is getting better, it’s always in the context of abstract figures and modeled constructs. It not in terms of the nickel and dime hits every American faces every day, and those in a lower income are hit harder by those bits and pieces. Just the other day I looked at my bank statement. As many people know, if they get money out of an ATM not associated with their bank, they are hit with a fee from the ATM and later they are hit from their bank for a fee. When I make a payment to my HOA, I get an extra charge for the ‘convenience’ of using my bank card instead of using a check, which if I had checks I would have to buy from my bank. Of course, if I have an overdraft on my account I get a charge. One day I thought about ordering some take-out food to be delivered and considering how much I had to pay for the delivery charge, the minimum that had to be ordered, and the tip that I felt I had to pay, a meal that would be $15 would cost $25. I found something else to eat that day.

I don’t think Americans want gobs of money to waste, at least I don’t, but for us to feel comfortable about the economy we would like to earn enough to take a deep breath and feel free. I’m not opposed to working hard but the reason why people like Sanders, Trump and Cruz are winning and gathering followers is because they speak to the population of middle America that works for companies that have them working harder for less money. They talk to the people who don’t have much in their 401Ks and those who don’t have 401Ks. They talk to the people who have to make a career working at McDonalds, Target or Walmart. They talk to folks like me who are trying to hustle anyway they can and just want someone to understand the pain we go through working long hours on a job.

They also speak to people who have given up, in the sense that they have stopped dreaming about having a better future and are more worried about getting by today. They do live paycheck to paycheck, not having enough to put aside something for a rainy day.

I literally talk to a hundred or more people every day and I would say over half of them could care less about what they do. They haven’t been shown or told they are worth anything. It is something I have seen in the business culture for over a decade. I’ve talked about not wanting to be a cog in the machine but working class people, and that goes from the lowest person in the job pool to middle management folks, are nothing but replaceable cogs that don’t have any worth for the company unless they work harder for less pay. Customers and employees aren’t what companies care about today. It’s stockholders and the companies paper wealth that matters and the people at the lower end of the ladder are getting tired of being perpetually used and thrown aside.

I have to be honest and say I don’t have loyalty for the company I work for now. I’m not even on their payroll. I work for a headhunter company that has me loaned out to this other company. I technically can’t be unemployed because if I get laid off, fired or otherwise quit the job I have now, I’m not hired by them. I’m hired by the agency, which was made clear to me when I filled out my tax forms the other day. In my job I’m constantly having to give people information about their job which should be common sense information, but the different parts of the organization have such a non-ownership and more importantly, a lack of nurturing innovative thought in the corporation, people would rather play dumb and defer simple solutions to someone else rather than taking initiative and solving an issue on their own. Look, I’ve seen ways that can improve the flow of production, but honestly, why would I want to offer my ideas when I’m officially not part of the team? If I offer good ideas, I’m not going to get hired by the main company, I’m not going to get a raise and more than likely the suggestions made will be rejected because they don’t fit within the corporate community think.

The culture of low expectations isn’t something I’ve seen recently at this new job. I’ve seen for decades where the corporate community resists change and innovation. When people stop caring about improvements, about thinking outside of the box they become accepting of the lowest common denominator. They decide to get by rather than forge ahead. I would love to make more money, but as much as I would like to find something different, I know at my age getting something that will pay at the level I can contribute will be close to impossible. I did the math and it is better for me to work a few extra hours a week to earn more money than it would be for me to look for a new job at this moment.

There are millions of people in the country who would love to do better, who would love to explore new options but can’t because the system has impediments that makes the change tough to do. Of course, people can make sacrifices. I know the myth we are told as Americans is making sacrifices is the way you thrive in America, but this is where politicians, especially the Donald Trump types, are making end roads with the American people that the pundits cannot comprehend.

Americans, especially those struggling this economy, want people to understand not all is rosy and bright in the new economy. Yes, we do have a better economy and there should be these wonderful opportunities but all of us aren’t making it as well as should be expected. Politicians always go to the rust belt and talk about bringing manufacturing jobs back to America, but that’s a fairy tale. We want cheap stuff and to have cheap stuff we need cheap labor. We never think in terms of if people made more money they would spend the money on things, easily covering any supposed rise in production costs. Corporations are opposed to raising the minimum wage to a livable level, because they say people won’t pay more for products. During the election of 2012 the owner of Papa John’s was famously against health care for his employees, even though giving them coverage would add less than a dollar to the price of a pizza, if he wished to pass the cost to the customers.

He had this stance while hosting at least one fundraiser in his home which explodes a lavish lifestyle. He didn’t want to add less than a dollar to the price of a pizza yet he wouldn’t take a small loss to his vast income to help out his employees. There are convenience stores all over America that are understaffed and underpay the staff they have because store owners concern themselves more with profit. The safety of employees doesn’t factor into the economic formula, so they work the staff they have hard, then complain when workers who don’t earn enough money to pay rent or keep up car payments don’t care about the business. They complain when workers aren’t ‘loyal’ and don’t care to learn new techniques or are asked to do even more without the possibility of a raise.

The candidates who would be President are promising Americans hope they probably sincerely believe in but, to be honest, have little hope in accomplishing. They can make as many promises as they want, but for things to change the people, the vast large number of Americans who are suffering in this country, need to take an active stand in pushing politicians to keep their promises. The flag waving rallies are nothing more than theater props if the people, after the rallies and the voting, do nothing. Many Americans are feel so defeated they’re unwilling to push forward and hold organizations and politicians accountable. So businesses win and while they make profit, regular Americans struggle.

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Local Phoenix AZ Primary Elections

I watched the news when I got home and realized why the two polling places I saw on my commute home had massive lines. It have to file this under political disconnect with average people. What do I mean by that? Think Flint Michigan. The governor of that state was so concerned about saving money in the short term he and others in his administration didn’t think about long term effects of switching the water supply, even after being warned about the consequences of switching the water supply so soon.

CF20160322aSo here is the supposed logic of local officials. To make things easier, they allowed for anyone (well, I have to define anyone who registered as one of the two major political parties. Someone like myself, an independent, couldn’t vote in this preferential election) to vote at any precinct. So, if you couldn’t make it in the morning to vote at the precinct close to your home, you could vote at any precinct in the state. OK, sounds like a really progressive idea, however the state removed about 2/3 of the precincts from the last election. So, you could vote anywhere you wanted to but the number of precincts was cut dramatically.

CF20160322bThe pictures I’m posting give a slight representation of how longs the line was at the location at the Pyle Adult Recreation Center in Phoenix. The line was possibly a ½ mile or more. When I passed by the location on the bus it had just hit the bus stop at the center. We had to go to the next block before we could be let off. I had seen another voting location on my bus route, about half a mile from by job. I sent a tweet out that the line looked a movie line for a blockbuster film. The same could be said for the Pyle location. The line was long and there were a lot of cars trying to get parking at the site.

What surprised me were comments made by people on the bus and cars that passed by meCF20160322c once I got off the bus. With the long lines I saw at the two precincts on my bus route, I was shocked to see how many people didn’t know why the buildings had long lines. I had truck with a group of guys in it asked me what was going on at the Pyle center. When I told them people were voting, they were a bit confused. When I told them it was election day, they yelled Go Trump.

I haven’t seen a lot about the election in Arizona. Because of the attacks in Belgium, that has been the big focus on the news channels we get at work. Now that I’m home, I still haven’t seen any election results after the polls have been closed for over an hour and a half. I would have to say if the lines everywhere in the state are as I saw at the two voting locations, any preliminary results from the election are going to take a long time. To me it just seems crazy that you would allow CF20160322dpeople the ability to vote at any precinct site, then shut down over half of the sites. In the last Presidential election, the complaint was the long lines at polling places. At that time, you had to go to a designated polling place assigned to you.

So, as I posted earlier in the day, because I am an independent, I cannot vote in this election for the Democratic or Republican election. I have seen a lot of people trying to vote and I have seen for myself the long lines, up to ½ mile of voters trying to vote. It is remarkable people are willing to wait in long lines to get their voices hear but it seems a shame that the long lines could have been avoided with better and frankly common sense decisions by election official.

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Primary Election 2016 Hits Home

The Republican nomination for President in 2012 was called by many pundits as the clown car campaign. There were a few establishment candidates running, including the eventual nominee Mitt Romney, but that election had a fair share of candidates that voters flirted with. Who could forget Herman Cain with his 9-9-9 plan, or Michele Bachmann. The always on the outside Ron Paul ran. Rick Perry was a candidate many thought would be a titan in the campaign, considering his stint as Texas governor, but a number of spectacular failures knocked him out.

In a lot of cases where you have the opposition party going up against an incumbent president, they tend to send up the B-team. Keep in mind, they know they’re going up against an incumbent President, and even an unpopular President still has the wrappings and prestige of the Presidency to make Americans think twice before removing them from office after four years.

It isn’t impossible to defeat a sitting President, just as Jimmy Carter and George Bush Sr. But as Mitt Romney and Bob Dole can tell you, it is tough to knock out a sitting President. That’s why in those years you get unusual candidates running. The odds are rough but a win can happen. Seasoned politicians, however, tend to sit those out. Better to wait when the President is leaving office, because it means the President’s own party will have to field a new candidate, and a free for all election with both parties electing a nominee can be bloody.

This election cycle is very unusual. On the Republican side they have an incumbency election vibe. It kind of makes sense considering who the Democrats have running but I’ll get to that later. The Republicans have the establishment candidates and the odd ones. Well, they had that makeup until Republican voters went to the caucuses and voting booths. Even though Trump was doing well in the polls, conventional wisdom was he would implode and a more established party leader would emerge to face the Democratic opponent. This year the playbook has been thrown out the window. No one took Trump seriously, except for the voters. You can pull up articles where pundits and political leaders talked about Trump failing, then being surprised when his latest escapade didn’t have him fall. One by one established candidates were beaten by Trump. The mistake the party made was just before the South Carolina primaries. That was their last shot to clear the field and make the fight a one on one competition. They didn’t take that opportunity. The second failing was in picking establishment candidates that didn’t appeal to their base.

Right now, the fate of a sound Republican party rests in the hands of Ted Cruz, a senator many Republicans don’t like. He is basically a less bombastic Trump, but with his Eddie Haskell aura he is the only candidate left with a shot of defeating Trump before the convention. The problem is the Cruz factor has happened so late in the nomination process he has slim chance of outright defeating Trump.

What that translates to is the dangerous option of a brokered convention.

One thing both parties do is makes sure their loyal base has enough information to pick who they want, yet not enough information to know all the options. That is going to bite the Republicans come convention time if there is no clear winner after the primaries. Trump will have the most delegates and if he isn’t over the threshold at the time of the convention he will be close. Cruz might have enough to be a threat. The other candidates, those that have dropped out, will have the delegates needed, possibly, to put Cruz or Trump over the top. The establishment has made no secret that they don’t want Trump and aren’t comfortable with Cruz and are looking for a third alternative. The rules say this is possible. Delegates have to be pledged to their candidate on the first ballot but after that they can vote for whomever they want.

While establishment officials such as Paul Ryan have said comments by Trump are irresponsible, Trump is probably correct that if he is close to the nomination and he is denied being the candidate, his supporters will revolt. Even if violence doesn’t happen at the convention, it’s very likely they won’t show up at the polls. That will effect candidates in state and local elections, where a few thousand votes can change the outcome of an election.

The Democrats should be in the catbird seat, considering the chaos on the Republican side. Well before the election, many democratic leaders had a waiting game. What would Hillary Clinton do? It had been assumed she would run for President and if she did, not many wanted to face her. It’s not hard to explain the power of Clinton. With Clinton and her husband as a very powerful political couple, not many want to go up against the Clinton machine. Their power was strong when Obama ran against her, but that was before he appointed her a Secretary of State. With that new title, added to former First Lady and Senator from New York, her resume is impressive. When she finally decided to run, many Democrats, including Vice President Biden, decided not to run.

It came as a surprise that Bernie Sanders, a Democratic Socialist from Vermont, challenged Clinton. Just like the assumptions on the Republican side, many pundits predicted a blood bath, with Sanders being slaughtered by the formidable Clinton. Polls showed him behind by 40% to 50%. But, like the Republicans, those predictions were done before citizens had cast votes, but there were indications the polls didn’t reflect what was really happening. Sanders had huge rallies, comparable to the ones Trump was getting on the Republican side. Sanders got small donations from thousands of people, which only added to his status as an alternative to Clinton.

While the Democratic candidates have been civil in most of their interactions, the same cannot be said of their supporters. There haven’t been scenes of violence as has been seen recently at Trump rallies, but some extreme supporters have raised accusations and have made pledges to not support the opposition candidate in the general election. Progressive radio host have been hit with agitated calls from opposition callers threatening to stop support of their shows because of their support of a candidate. I have seen Facebook posts friends put out pleading for people to be civil in commenting on political issues. Let’s just say those pleas have been met with some people posting even harsher criticism. People have been eager to re-post questionable information about candidates, either in memes or links to websites claiming to be journalistic in nature. The posts from people attacking candidates from opposite parties have been vicious, especially those against the perceived front runners; Trump and Clinton.

It seems at the end of every political cycle we want to say it is the worst cycle in history and we want to think it can’t get worse. If that pattern holds, considering the rise of Trump and the rhetoric from both parties, I hate to speculate on what the election cycle of 2020 will be like.

Today is election day in my state. Unfortunately, I will not be able to participate in the primaries because I’m an independent and since I’m registered as that I can only vote for an independent. I wasn’t able to get into a Sanders rally and I had to work while Trump, Cruz and Clinton campaigned. I did see a lot of ads; I mean a LOT of ads. Yesterday on local broadcasts the furniture and attorney ads were replaced by political ads. It was rare to see a local ad in the commercial breaks as the final push was made to get votes.

What I haven’t seen a lot of in the primary have been political signs. If signs were an indication of the election push, then Sanders would win hands down. I have only seen Sanders ads in my travels. I guess the good thing about being independent is I’m not getting swamped with mailers.

In my state I’m sure Clinton and Trump will win, but it will be interesting to see what the percentages will be, especially on the Republican side. People have been able to put in absentee ballots for a month. People who voted for candidates who are no longer on the ballot cannot change their votes, so there may be some surprises as to what the vote will look like with those absentee ballots. Well, this election continues to be fascinating.

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Feeling the Bern

Monday morning, I learned from the local news that Bernie Sanders was having a rally in Phoenix on Tuesday. It was to start at 6pm. The curious side of me wanted to attend. For various reason I haven’t decided who I wanted to vote for in the primaries, and I’ll write about that another time, but since this is the week where I’m working every day, I was thinking more about getting as much off time rest as I could rather than pushing my way into a rally.

Early Tuesday morning, with all the coverage about Super Tuesday 2 (or was it 3?) in the news and the local coverage about Sanders, I entertained the idea of going. I thought at the very least I could get some pictures of the crowds. Just before leaving the house, still unsure if I was going to go, I left my very professional camera at home, opting to bring my ‘stealth’ camera. I call the HG-20 my stealth camera because it looks like a tourist camera but takes professional images. The reason why I brought that camera was I still hadn’t convinced myself I wanted to go.

After a half day at work, and it was just as busy as it had been the past few days, hearing the type of calls I was getting and dealing with the type of people from the stores I was dealing with, I realized I had to go. I wanted to go for the journalism side of me. I needed to get away from the 9 to 5 grind dealing with the same kind of people and feeling frustrated with the routine. I was still concerned with the travel time to the rally (the rally started at 6pm and I calculated I would get there by 7pm at the earliest) but I figured I would give it the college try.

I got to the Phoenix Convention Center just before 7pm. A lot of people were inside the convention because all that were left outside were stragglers. There were a handful of officers outside, a few guys in suits who were clearly secret service people and a few tables set up for petition signing for various local progressive causes. There was a good crowd inside, from what I could see, but being that close to the entrance I saw a sign posted by the secret service which said that bags were subject to searches.

The culprit

The culprit

That got me concerned. I was carrying my big backpack, which had my laptop and various other electronic devices. Now to me, what I carry in my backpack is the stuff I need, at a moment’s notice, to set up for a video shoot. I’ve gone through airports with the backpack but from time to time I do get stopped and asked about the contents. Once I explain I’m a journalist and those are my tools, everything is fine. I had conveniently forgotten that the news reports said no large bags would be allowed and I thought if I had my professional camera it might allow me to explain the large backpack with the equipment. Just to be on the safe side, I turned on my hotspot and loaded up my website on my tablet, just in case there were any questions about the large bag.

As soon as I walked in the door, I was flagged to head to the hand search line. Once they opened the bag and saw the glow from the hot spot and the tablet I had a feeling that might not have been the brightest idea. Yeah, a big person with a big backpack with active, glowing electronics heading into an indoor political rally. What’s not suspicious about that? I explained I was there as a journalist to cover the story. I showed them my business card and the website from the tablet. They rummaged through and saw my microphone, but they wondered about my power charger. I explained what it was and they wanted me to turn on my laptop.

Well, let’s say when the first screen they saw had resist, rebel and revolt on it with the Guy Fawkes mask on it, whatever headway I had made with them melted away. OK, do you know how tough it is to explain to non-comic book fans that the version of the mask I had on the computer was from the Alan Moore graphic novel and not from the movie version or the one used by Anonymous? Right now, in my head I can see that my explanation could have made me look like Number 6 at the end of The Prisoner when he tried explaining his exploits to the police officer at the end of the series. When I logged on and got to my main screen, the Prisoner quote didn’t help. When I pointed out the Star Trek lcars images, and I did call them lcars, I think in their eyes I was just slightly crazy and not dangerous. It was all very innocent, what I had, but after the Trump incidents I could see how the Secret Service could see a reasonably dressed guy with a backpack full of possibly suspicious material and a laptop that proudly had resistance material might not be the best person to let into the rally. They did tell me if I came in without the backpack I could go in, but I would have to put the backpack in my vehicle. Yes, they assumed I had a car.

All I could do was head to the light rail and go home. The best observation I could give CF20160317babout the rally would be from the people who were leaving early and were on the light rail with me. It was a mixture of post counter culture 60s types and young people who were excited about being part of a political movement but maybe not as informed. It was a lot like the Occupy movement people I saw locally a few years ago. There was a lot of passion about Bernie Sanders and they liked him as a person. The older people, the aging counter culture club, seemed to enjoy the curiosity and energy of the young folks. The young folks loved the party atmosphere. It was an interesting vibe happening and it didn’t surprise me that most of the Bernie supporters exited the light rail in the Tempe/ASU area.

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A Needed Vacation

Today was an odd adventure. A lot of quirky and surreal things happened today. It was like I was living out one of my dream state stuff, so it was like a Doom Patrol story from the 90s when Morrison was writing it. Seriously, if Mr. Nobody had shown up today, and I’m not sure if the heroin / ecstasy dealer wasn’t him, it wouldn’t have surprised me.

CF - 20160305aThings started innocently enough. I wanted to explore early rising Tijuana. With the fog kind of thick around 7am I decided it was good to start a walk towards downtown. The Pueblo Amigo is near the border and since I wasn’t sure if the path I normally take to the border was safe due to construction, I figured it was a good time to check things out. The good news was the path was available, so no need for a taxi ride. The sad news was it was just as congested as ever. It wasn’t even 7am when I got to the border and the foot traffic line was at least three hours, probably more four hours realistically. The car traffic might have been an hour wait, judging that they had new lanes built since I was last in Tijuana for Comic-Con last summer.

The sad thing I saw with the new routing construction to the border was that formally thriving businesses along the old border route are dying fast. No foot or car traffic to speak of and it might be an interesting econ study to see if those businesses are around in five years. Honestly, I’m surprised they have lasted this long since the foot traffic route was changed maybe five years ago. The area is a shell of its former self but it did yield some interesting photographs.

I walked across the Tijuana river, which I have to admit was just as clean as it was in the summer. OK, clean is a relative term but for many years only the adventuresome traveler, and by adventuresome I mean foolish, would use the bridge at all, especially at night. The river was a garbage dump and the homeless element living on the banks of the river were a dangerous lot. Now, the garbage has been cleaned, the homeless element gone and I even saw some construction workers on the bridge. Progress is being made.

This is where the story turns into a Grant Morrison inspired dream. I was wandering where the whim took me and I literally came to a point in the road where I could turn left or right. Going left would take me into semi-familiar territory; right would be a tantalizing new adventure since I didn’t immediacy recognize any of the landmarks I saw, but I kind of knew what they were. Curiosity took over and I went right.

It took me a few steps to hit a place I think was called the Love Hotel. It was one of ‘those’ CF - 20160305bplaces that rented in 4 hour blocks. Something was familiar about the area, but it was really vague. There was so much construction, especially recently, I couldn’t put my finger on why I kind of remembered the place. Walking around some more I came across a street that I kind of recognized. It was another back in my head thing that I knew instinctively I had been in the area but for the life of me I couldn’t place when I had been there. I kept thinking maybe I read about the area and that’s why it seemed so familiar but there was something more than that.

After walking a few more blocks it wasn’t the sights but the smell that activated my memories. I had passed by a lot of food carts but I walked by this one food cart and the smell was so familiar. I must have acted like Wolverine by the way I was smelling the surroundings but the more I smelled the more I remembered, but I still was having trouble remembering the circumstances that brought me to the place in the past. It took one more turn and it all fell into frightening place.

Many birthdays go I met Carlos, a bartender barker whom I introduced Butch to. I’ve talked about Carlos in the past, not in the best of glowing terms, but at the particular time this all happened he was someone I called a good acquaintance. At the time, being that I was in Tijuana and I ‘needed a guide’ in the words of Carlos, we started drinking heavily and went on a blur of an adventure. From what I remember at the time it was a slightly scary but fun drunken adventure. That is how I remembered it for all these years. I was so . . . I was going to use the polite phrase intoxicated but in light of the memories that came back I will use blind stinking drunk, I had to stumble back into the area to realize how much I was played back then. Carlos, and I guess this was his motivation all along, is a long term con guy. He’s not going to take your money right away. He goes for the long game. I say that because one of the things I did remember about that birthday was he was pushing me to go on a fishing trip with him to Rosarito. It sounded fun but I remember getting feelings of being out in a boat in the middle of the water and being shaken down for money and dumped over the side. Paranoia; I’m sure it was but I had a bad vibe about going with him so I never took him up on the offer.

What I remembered today about the birthday drunken trip was Carlos was trying to get me CF - 20160305cto buy for every bar we hit and every woman he wanted to get. Yes, the smells and the area was the strip club/prostitution section of Tijuana. I’m not a prude by a long shot but that area of Tijuana, even at 7am, is one of the sleaziest, dirtiest, grimiest and utterly dangerous places I’ve ever been. The area isn’t a Hollywood version of a sleazy part of town. You’re not going to find Julia Roberts on the corner. You’re not going to find a C-listed actress in one of the clubs. This was real life, no glamor sleaze.

Just as an example, I saw a boy at one of the food carts doing his homework while I think and hope it was his mom who was next to him at the food cart selling tacos and tamales to the patrons and street workers in the area. I wanted to think the woman running the cart was his mom because there was a street walker literally feet from the cart who kept an eye on the boy. She may have been his mother. The street walkers I saw lining this one street were hard women, and I’m only saying women because that was the persona being presented. Some may have been cross dressers but I didn’t take the time to do a full assessment. Back during my birthday, I remember Carlos dragging me from club to club, egging me on to buy drinks, being the birthday boy that I was, and having women trying to get me to buy them drinks and more. I was drunk but I did realize what was going on and didn’t take them up on any offers. That much I know happened because I was so paranoid about the experience back them I remember counting my money back at the hotel that evening to make sure I had all my money and I checked my bank account for a week to make sure no unusual charges popped up.

That area looked dangerous and was busy at 7am. When we went there is was 3-4pm and I remember Carlos telling the place gets jumping at 11pm, which is why he wanted to keep me going all night. I can just imagine how wild that area can get at night.

CF - 20160305dI went to the Tijuana arch and sat down. There was an American sitting across from me. At first I thought he was drunk but he wasn’t; he was mentally disturbed. He was muttering to himself, then his eyes fixed on me. I was a threat to him and he soon gathered up his things and shuffled off. Seconds later I saw this guy wander towards me. He looked like a thug you would see in a straight to Cinemax R-Rated street cop crime drama. Greasy and stained jacket over an equally dirty stained hoodie. Heavily tattooed, including neck and head. Cold eyes and stained fingers suggesting heavy drug use.

He came up to me and explained, without prompting, that he could get me anything I wanted. Ecstasy, heroin, cocaine, pot, PCP, girls; whatever I wanted he could get. Obviously he saw my camera and picked me as an easy mark. I took a cue from the mentally disturbed American and started muttering to the guy that the Kai in him was strong and he should follow the path of the Celestial Hosts. I think I walked away saying Pa Wraith be with you or something like that. Yeah, I think I was mixing up some Star Trek religious icons, but before I started muttering I got a glimpse of the Jehovah Witnesses on the corner and figure doing the odd religious references would work tom my favor.

A few hours later I went to a taco stand a few blocks from the hotel. I thought they had closed down but was told by my favorite concierge at the hotel that the time I saw it closed was just a normal closed day for them. Those street tacos are amazing and paired with bottled, real sugar Coca cola, oh sweet heaven did that combination hit the spot! I couldn’t finish all of the build it yourself tacos, which I got the smallest level, and that and the price of the 2 Coca colas I had was $6. It was so good.

While I was eating a cat wandered up to me. The cat wanted food and I tried explaining to the cat that the food I had wasn’t good for cats. (OK don’t look at me crazy for talking to a cat! I got a cat at home and she listens to me sometimes) The cat wouldn’t take no for an answer so I threw the cat a few scraps. Well that sealed the deal and the cat was my instant friend.

When I headed back to the hotel, I came across something disturbing. There was a pet shop in the mall near the hotel. It has been a long time since I’ve seen what pet shops used to be like in the United States and this place was sad. You could hear the dogs and cats in the back just sounding depressed, and that was what I heard from the outside. I didn’t want to go inside. When I turned the corner I saw two baby chickens in a small cage. I thought they were dead when I first came across them because they weren’t moving and were fanned out in the cage. The dog I saw was in worse shape. The dog kept biting at its nails, which were way too long. I think the cage was too small for its size because I don’t think the dog could have fully stood if it wanted to. I felt helpless because there wasn’t a lot I could do in the situation.

I went back to the hotel, went to the bar and had a couple of strawberry margaritas. Part of whom the Pueblo Amigo caters to are gamblers, especially American gamblers. Oh the sports betting was big and the guys I was sitting next to at the bar were the type of gamblers I thought were TV exaggerations. The three buddies were the Hispanic man who kept using man, buddy and my good friend like some people curse, the young American with the Fred Durst personality and dress, and the Asian guy who spoke very little but when he did it was to curse a play. The Hispanic guy knew everyone near the bar area and was given the remote so he could roam through the channels for his friends. These guys were real addicts. They had their phones hooked up to chargers and were on them constantly placing bets at other facilities. They had betting forms in front of them to track wins and losses. They were even doing bets between themselves.

It was an enlightening but crazy scene.


Day 2

My last day on vacation wasn’t going to be spent in Tijuana but in San Diego. That meant getting up at 3am to get through the border check by 4am. I’ve said this on every trip I do in Tijuana; I have to get up early for the border crossing because missing the window by 15 minutes can be the difference from getting through the border line in 10 minutes or 2 hours. I got through in 5 minutes and this as one of the first times I picked the right feed line to get into, meaning the border workers didn’t have to check out someone for five minutes.

The wait for the trolley wasn’t that bad. It was only an hour wait. Another rule of the border is get the second trolley that arrives, not the first one. Everyone crams onto the first one; it’s standing room only. The second trolley arrives about 10 minutes later and will be less crowded. You’ll have a chance to sit down, which is needed in taking the one-hour ride.

The ride was OK, nothing eventful and I got downtown and had breakfast at Brian’s 24. Brian’s isn’t a bad place to eat at 2am or 5am. Honestly it’s pretty good but I miss the Old Trolley Café that used to be near the YMCA. Brian’s has a hipster’s vibe to it; like it is cool for the sake of being cool. Here’s an example of what I mean; they have an 80s radio station playing at Brian’s. The station, which supposedly associated with one of the original VJs from MTV, plays the music you would hear on neutered MTV. OK, to clarify even better, the music playing was mostly the stuff you would hear on contemporary radio at the time, sprinkled in with some slightly edgier grooves. So you’ll hear a lot of Michael Jackson, The Police, Katrina and the Waves and occasionally you might hear Gary Numan’s Cars. You won’t hear Jo Boxer, The Smiths or even Kate Bush on the station, and the early DJs did play the odd and eclectic stuff on MTV. In SoCal, you had 91X and KROQ playing a lot of alternative stuff. To me if someone is ‘hip’ then they are hip to the outlier trends. Playing the easy stuff is, well, easy. They may not have the license to play their own music or maybe this was a station that closely fits their sensibilities, but it feels like they are trying too hard to be 80s cool. They off just enough that the result isn’t authentic. The Old Trolley Café didn’t try to be anything but a dining place and it catered to the travels and locals. When I would eat there it felt like San Diego; laid back, surprising sophisticated in a non-pretense way and a staff over the years that was loyal and knowledgeable about the offerings.

After breakfast it was just 6am so I took the bus to La Jolla Shores. With my decades in CF - 20160305fSan Diego I took a lot of things for granted so I didn’t appreciate them. I lived in San Diego so going to the beach should have been something I did all the time but I didn’t. I figured I’d have tome and I went to enough parties and gatherings at the beach, maybe once in a year and a half, I was kind of good with heading to the beach. When you live in San Diego, beaches are always crowded during the day so facing the crowds getting to the beach, finding parking, then leaving at night with the crowds, the beach was an all-day traffic jam I didn’t want to be a part of.

CF - 20160305gGoing very early in the morning the only people there were the locals. There were lots of people walking their dogs, talking the exercise stroll or surfing. With the overcast day and the cool winds, it was so relaxing just listening to the crashing surf. It was so relaxing taking everything in. There was this one person who took his exercising seriously. He started off by the children’s play area, using the structure as a gym center. He played soccer for a bit, kicking the ball against the wall. He did a lot of stretching and yoga poses by the water. The coolest or weirdest thing I saw was when he picked up a trash can and started running around with it over his head and using it like weights. I have to say as gyms go, being at the ocean is not a bad place to work out.

A was at the beach over an hour and I did get a feeling of being one with nature. My geek came out while there and I felt like I was Paul Atreides on Caladan. I was savoring the wet sand and the water, especially the water. It was my last day of vacation and the next day I was returning to Arrakis, which in my case is Phoenix. Considering I had gotten to the beach by bus, I wondered why did I waste so much time not going to the beach when I lived in San Diego? I know living in San Diego there were so many things I took advantage of and didn’t explore as much as I should have. One of the lessons I’m learning from this trip is that I have to experience adventure where I am. There are spots in Phoenix I haven’t seen and I should take advantage of being there and exploring the place. Just on a few runs I have come across areas rich in street art and local personality. I need to find more of that in Phoenix.

After I got tired of the beach I was confused by where to go next. I wanted to head to the North Park / Hillcrest areas but I was meeting a friend downtown and wasn’t sure if I had the routes down enough to hit those areas and still be on time for my friend. In decided to play it safe and go back downtown and explore the harbor before seeing my friend. I ended up watching some workers build a set by the new Children’s Park. It was for the famous half marathon, which I started kicking myself about because it would have been nice to photograph that.

I had lunch at a sushi spot downtown that I will never eat at again. The first and second time I went to this spot the food was good. The last few visits for the past few years have been terrible. Each time I’ve gone recently it’s a coin toss to bet on if the food will be substandard or the service staff. This last time was a little of both falling down. I guess another life hack I’ll have to put in practice is never do dining in the popular part of town. You have to look for the pocket places the locals go or avoid the popular area eateries all together. I would have had a more satisfying meal if I went to the downtown Albertsons and bought food. I’ve done it may times and have rarely been disappointed. They have a sushi area in the store with people creating the dishes.

I had some time to explore Horton Plaza and I went into the comic shop they have in the mall. Something I miss from my younger days in San Diego is getting the old smells that I got from comics, books and record shops. There was the smell of the paper, the aged slightly rustic smell I would get coming into a shop like that. The smell was a transport vessel and it’s something missing from the stores today. Back in Phoenix, the comic shop I go to still has a comic book smell to it. Even with the move they made a few years ago, there’s a sense of grounding I get from that shop. The comic shop in the mall didn’t have that. There are lots of comics and other collectibles in the store. The store is rather large and knowing how expensive rent is in Horton Plaza I hope they’re making money at the location. For any modern collector, this shop does have a big selection of comics old and new.

I finally made my way to Neighborhood to meet my friend. I always rave about Neighborhood because it is the type of place I like when talking about exploring a town. It’s close enough to downtown action that it gets the wandering tourist but the vibe I get from Neighborhood is a local vibe. When I walk in the place it feels like San Diego. They have a lot of local beers and other spirits to indulge in. My go to drink is the Julian Hard Cider. I like the name Happy Apple Juice and I have to be a little careful because it does sneak up on me. After getting my drink The Cure starting playing on the sound system. When I mentioned the difference between trying to be hip and really hip, Neighborhood is a place I find hip without trying to be hip. They have a style at Neighborhood that reads neighborhood. It’s funky approachable.

CF - 20160305hAfter that, my friend showed up, we got caught up and we had a great Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride adventure. For me it was great looking catching up just getting the sense back in one another. It would have been nice to see her earlier, but seeing my friend Cody at the end of the trip made so much sense. I have missed the Cody vibe, which like the ocean I have neglected a lot because I always figured she would be there. There’s a few people I get that calming energy vibe with here but Cody’s vibe is something that is almost mystical. Hanging out with her for hours is like being Alice wandering through Wonderland, even down to the cookie.

All of that made this morning a pain. I’ve got about two hours before I fly out, and yes I checked and the time is right. This was a rewarding vacation, despite some of the obstacles, because there was no pressure to do any particular things and I was able to explore and roam.

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Vacation Fog will Lift

I had a kind of weird dream last night. I’m sure it was related to some things that happened late last night. I have to say this trip has been a test of the techniques I have to use at work and that I’ve had to develop and learn for myself when I lost my job last April. I’ve had to learn to cope, adapt and bypass difficulties as the come up. My inner self wants to scream, bully and otherwise muscle my way through difficulties, but I’ve stubbornly learned that brute force and intimidation doesn’t work in all situations. Not that I used to use the brute force technique all the time, but I would get so frustrated in going to the intimidation mode I figured out that my yelling or getting incredibly belligerent with a person only hurt me.

OK, getting back to the story. I had another obstacle on the trip, which caused a small domino effect. I went to sleep thinking I was going to spend another day trying to clear up the issues and in doing so waste another vacation day. In the dream, the only thing I clearly remember was the end of it. I was on Revolucion, a street in Tijuana. There was a bar opening up, I think it was The Cave (an old bar that used to be in the area) and my friend Donna was opening up another bar down the street. The was a crowd at The Cave and Donna’s bar was just opening up and there was no one there. My mother popped up as a hologram and told me if I was having problems breaking the code, Donna would help me hack it when I needed her help and not before.

I woke up right after that. Donna isn’t a hacker, but as I was getting up, feeling refreshed with a huge five hours of sleep, I had a What Would Donna Do Moment. The thing is I know Donna would do the same thing I was thinking of doing, but then I thought if Donna asked me for advice, what would I tell her. That’s when I realized what I had to do to fix the entire main situation and it would in turn fix the minor ones. It took me less than 30 minutes to research and fix the issue to my satisfaction and all the little issues were pushed off to the side because the main issue wasn’t going to happen. So yes, it seems Donna helped me with the life hack and she helped without even knowing it.

My mom would probably say this was a sign from God through dreams. Other people would say my animal spirit guided me. The only thing I do know is I didn’t have a drink yesterday so a delusional drunken vision probably isn’t a good explanation as to what happened. Probably my unconscious creative mind was able to work past my logical mind to give the proper results. All I know is the thing I’m putting into practice this trip is taking the time to use my head to work past obstacles so I can have a satisfying resolution to stressful situations.

I want to say I can now enjoy the rest of my vacation, but I have a feeling littler bumps will come up and we’ll see how I’ll handle them. Now I will hit the foggy morning and see what Tijuana has to offer.

The first full vacation day starts with a cool fog. It will lift just like my spirits.

The first full vacation day starts with a cool fog. It will lift just like my spirits.

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