Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sustainable Development 2

Thought I forgot about this one, didn't you?
Okay, what are some of the problems facing us and the generations to come?
Here's an overview provided by the American Council/United Nations University Millennium Project:
"Wildfires annually burn an area half the size of Australia and generate nearly 40% of total CO2 emissions. The cumulative volume of greenhouse gases produced by fossil fuel consumption over the next 50 years could more than double the output during the last 50 years. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates a 1.4-5.8 degrees Celsius warming by century's end, which could raise sea levels by 34 inches, changing human coastal settlements and melting the polar ice cap. Already, atmospheric CO2-which for 400,000 years fluctuated between 180 and 280 ppm-has reached 380 ppm. Only human activity can explain this change, says the US National Academy of Sciences. Three of the last five years were the hottest in recorded history, glaciers are receding worldwide, and global temperature changes threaten entire ecosystems, causing some species migration and having new consequences for human health. Climate change may threaten more than 1 million species with extinction by 2050. The legal foundations are being laid to sue for damages caused by greenhouse gases.

Humanity may have consumed more natural resources since World War II than in all of history prior to that time. Half the world's forests and 25% of the coral reefs are gone. Some 9.4 million hectares of forest area are lost annually worldwide. World leaders' declarations on sustainable development have not yet been matched by concerted actions for global change. The April 2004 meeting of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development reinforced the need for strategic investments in water, sanitation, and human settlements to meet the commitments of the WSSD (World Summit on Sustainable Development). The synergy between economic growth and technological innovation has been the most significant engine of change for the last 200 years, but unless we improve our economic, environmental, and social behavior, the next 200 years could be difficult.

Next to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, unsustainable growth may well be the greatest threat to the future of humanity. Yet without sustainable growth, billions of people will be condemned to poverty, and much of civilization will collapse."

Let me repeat for emphasis, unsustainable growth may well be the greatest threat to the future of humanity. Yet without sustainable growth, billions of people will be condemned to poverty, and much of civilization will collapse.
In other words we are not getting the job done at the present time, and all we have is the present time to do the job, this is not a problem that can be "put off." The consequences of inaction are literally catastrophically unimaginable.
The over view above (I can't sum it up better, so I'm not even going to try) primarily concerns the use of natural resourses and climate change. Many problems exist including the use of pesticides and their accumulation in the environmental and the food chain, pharmaceutical poisoning in the human population (everyone since the 1950s have these drugs to some degree in their body), over fishing (a total of almost 80% of the world's fisheries are fully- to over-exploited, depleted, or in a state of collapse. Worldwide about 90% of the stocks of large predatory fish stocks are already gone), air pollution (disregarding the effects of global warming. President Obama made this distinction in his State of the Union just last week), water shortages (experts are predicting that soon the number of people without access to clean drinking water will climb past 1 billion).
The problems that face us are... daunting, to say the least. The normal political tendency is to put off any systems that are likely to address these issues to a realistic measure. To that I say then the political process needs to be refined in such a way as to address these problems, and others that will inevitably face us in the future. It is my belief election reform in this country is one way to begin.
Other things that need to be done? Again, from the Millennium Project:
"The public has to be engaged through massive educational efforts via television, music, games, movies, and contests that stress the quality of human beings in harmony with nature along with what individuals and groups can do to change consumer behavior, initiate environmental tax reforms, and move from a fossil fuel economy toward a knowledge-consciousness economy. We should bring scientists and engineers from around the world together with new leadership from UN Global Compact corporations to stimulate investments into more-sustainable solutions; establish an environmental crimes international intelligence and police unit; create definitions and measurements for commonly applied tax incentives and labels for more environmentally friendly products; abolish environmentally inefficient subsidies; include environmental costs in the pricing of natural resources and products; invest in socially responsible businesses; spread the environmental standards ISO 14000 and 14001 (standards for environmental management systems) to more countries and companies; create an international public/private funding mechanism for high-impact technologies such as carbon sequestration or space solar power and for acquiring the rights to innovate "green" technologies; declare key habitats off-limits for human development; consider the establishment of a World Environment Organization with powers like the WTO; encourage synergy between environmental movements and human rights groups to make clean air, water, and land a human right; and demonstrate how to change complacency and consumption while increasing efficiency and improving living standards."
There are solutions within our grasp. It's up to all of us to reach out, for ourselves... and all of those who will come after us.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Park

I hesitate to go into this as it's rather embarrassing, but here goes.
Paul announced during the last Resident Meeting (I have no idea why the staff label these informal get-togethers, "Resident Meeting," when they are taken up almost entirely by the staff members themselves making announcements. When the residents do try and bring up issues that concern them, they are quite often told to speak to the case managers, or Tianna the house manager, afterwards. "Staff Speaking at Residents Meeting" would be much more technically accurate, but, I admit, rather unwieldy) that there would be a field trip in two weeks to go bowling, and asked how many would be interesting in attending. A number of men and women raised their resident hands, about ten in all, including my lovely neighbor, Janice, who has been my neighbor for a good six years now, and acts as our hallway's resident sex symbol.
"Why aren't you raising your hand, Rick," she asked me. "Come on... you know I don't go to these kind of things, but I want you to come along."
She had raised her hand, and yes, she did not attend these types of functions often. As a matter of fact she had never attended a field trip, or attended any of the various activities that are available to all on a regular weekly basis, like the Cooking Club, Garden Club, Support Group, etc.
"No thank you," I told her. "I'm about as good a bowler as our President."
"That doesn't matter," Erin enjoined, "we're just going to have fun."
"Yeah Rick," Janice continued, "I've got two weeks to talk you into it."
I had a week and a half to make up my mind, and I vacillated between going and not going, wanting to spend some time out of the house with my friends Erin and Paul, but not wishing to make an ass out of myself on the bowling alley.
A day before the deadline I signed up, telling myself I could just go and document the affair for this blog, without having to actually throw a ball. And Erin hadn't driven me crazy for two whole days, so what the hell.
Last Wednesday was the day after I got my friend Erin back (see, Corrections), so I was feeling pretty good about the bowling trip, even thinking I'd try a few games. Erin and I each fortified ourselves with vegetable noodle soup before leaving the Las Americas at 11:15AM.
Ten of us showed, Rodney, Ray Hardy, Diane, two other guys I did know very well, and myself from the Las, Watson, Raul, and a guy named Joe from the Olympia (of course Janice didn't show). Paul and Erin drove four of us apiece to the new East L.A. Gold Line terminal at the corner of Alameda and Temple, just across from the V.A. Clinic. They both drove back to the hotel to pick up the remaining two, and any stragglers that may have happened by. None had.
While waiting Diane came up, draping herself over me in a suggestive manner, being exceptionally... friendly. She is an attractive black lady, a tad on the plump side, probably a little younger than I am. She would later tell me how gorgeous I was. It was rumored that she often nipped a little booze every now and then. I believe this was the case that day, along with Joe who seemed to be on good terms with her, and her unofficial companion for the day.
When Paul and Erin returned we all waited on the platform for the next train to Pasadena. Paul ate a nice banana, and after he finished with it, some of us informed him that there was a $250 fine associated with eating on said platform, or the train itself for that matter.
"They've probably got video evidence of that banana Paul. Expect a ticket in the mail."
Erin and I discussed the space program briefly. I don't know why. She was wondering if we had really sent people to the moon, and if so why we weren't sending them to Mars already. I tried to explain to her the difficulties, and different problems one encounters when traveling for months and distances that vary from 36 million to 250 million miles to Mars, compared to 238,855 miles,and a trip lasting two and a half days for the Moon. Problems of bone loss due to prolonged periods of zero gravity, and radiation hazards from solar flares and cosmic rays.
"Oh," she said.
The train came and Erin took a seat next to Diane, which disappointed me because I had wanted to point out The Park to her on the way in. There were no other good window seats in that car, so I took one in another by myself, and read from the Larry McMurtry epic, "Lonesome Dove (my lovely friend, Michelle, had given this book to me 17 years ago, it being one of her favorites. I was never quite able to finish it, but upon renewing our acquaintance I've decided to pick it up again).
The Gold Line had just recently extended itself into East Los Angeles, but we were going in the opposite direction, to Pasadena, and the 300 Pasadena bowling alley they have there. We got off at the very last stop, Sierra Madre Villa Station, walked north to Foothill Blvd, then east to the bowling establishment.
It was a very posh, automated affair, with low lighting, automatic score cards digitally displayed (good thing too, as I don't believe any of us knew how to score manually), with pop videos playing on the walls above the pins. Very nice.
I was the first to bowl on my team for some reason, then Diane, Ray, and Erin taking up the last position. I got a few pins on my first try, which was okay with me as I hadn't bowled since 2002, and had done horribly that time, so I was happy just not to get a gutter ball.
I didn't do very well that first game, getting more than my share of those gutter balls throughout. Ray came out the winner on that one, then Erin a close second (I was very impressed at her skill, as she had also admitted to not having played for awhile... a blatant lie most likely), then me, followed by the drunken Diane (they would activate a bumper system for her during the second game, making it impossible for her to roll gutter balls, and so she could have more fun. I don't believe she was ever aware of it).
I straightened up for the second game, getting my delivery in order and getting a strike on the first frame. I was able to maintain that lead throughout the rest of the game, despite Erin getting two strikes and a spare (her concentration was broken after receiving a phone call on her Iphone, after which she got two gutter balls in a row, and a few after that. She had been texting on the thing throughout the games, thoroughly confirming her status as an addict), ending up with a respectable score of 106. Respectable for this motley crew at any rate.
Please excuse me for a moment... Kicked your ass, Erin!! Haaa, haaa, haaaa!! Kicked your ass, kicked your ass, KICKED YOUR ASS!!!
Thank you.
Two games is all we had time for before we were scheduled to leave at 3:00. We returned almost the exact same way as we had gotten there, but this time I was sitting near Erin, and as we passed the Del Mar Station, I pointed it out to her.
"There it is, Erin. The Park were I spent six weeks as a an amature homeless person."
Indeed, there it was. The Park that can be found at the very beginning of Salvation Diary. It hasn't changed much.
"It looks very open," she said. Yes it does, and is.
I had told Paul of the Park while walking from the bowling alley to the Gold Line Station, and that I had spent six weeks there.
"Where did you sleep?" he asked.
"In the back of Ryder Rental trucks. That is how my book, Salvation Diary starts... with my last night there."
"Awesome," he said. Apparently he enjoys tales of adversity.
Ray got off at the Union Station stop to catch the Red Line downtown to get something to eat. That left nine of us needing a ride back to the hotel... one too many for the vehicles involved.
They forced me to walk back all by myself, laughing at me in a taunting fashion as I crossed Alameda, tears streaking down my handsome face. Shocking behavior on their part really.
I walked back via Central, sparing myself the indignity of them honking at me as they passed me by on Alameda. I will never speak to them again.
But that's not what I would eventually be embarrassed about. Oh no.
Last night the full moon was at perigee, the closet point in it's orbit around the Earth. It was only 221,577 miles away (I measured) making it appear14 percent wider and 30 percent brighter than other full moons throughout the year. By a remarkable celestial coincidence, the planet Mars was also at it's closest distance to the Earth, which happens only once every two years.
They appeared together last night, exactly as the picture above indicates, with Mars appearing as a bright red star to the left of the huge, bright full moon.
I had told both Erin and Michelle of the event. Perhaps they went out and looked. I certainly did. It was wonderful.
As I gazed upwards while standing on the sidewalk on Sixth Street, I remembered that the first full moon in January is often referred to as the Wolf Moon. Accordingly, the wolf bite I had received while living in the Park so many years ago began to itch and I must have fainted.
I woke the next morning in Griffith Park, naked, next to the remains of a partially eaten antelope.
How embarrassing.

Friday, January 29, 2010


J.D. with his daughter, Margaret

Yesterday morning I was going through my Email which I do fairly consistently throughout the day so it does not pile up on me, when I saw the name of my last living favorite author on one of my news alerts.
"Oh no..." I said to myself, and teared up a bit. I knew what the story must be about without having to read it, but read it I did and my suspicions bore out.
The author, although well known, and considered by many to be "the most important American writer to emerge since World War II," had made the decision to abandon public life more that 50 years ago, living ever since in seclusion near the Blue Mountain Forest Preserve in New Hampshire. He hadn't published anything since 1965, and he was born in the same year as my own father, 1919, so I instantly knew there was only one reason why his name would suddenly appear in a New York Times news alert.
Jerome David Salinger had died the day before, Wednesday, the 27th of January, of "natural causes." He was 91, a good long life.
I read part of the story, then immediately Emailed my friend, Michele, and informed her of his passing. I don't know why. Sharing my grief I suppose (she later in the day informed me that her husband had noticed an earlier Email I had sent her in which I called her a "pretty lady," and was concerned, which mortified me, and seemed to amuse her. Thanks for the heads up that hubby rifles through your Email's Michelle! The next thing you're going to tell me is that he knows of our secret plans to elope to Morocco. Oooppps! Did I just write that out loud?!). I then mosied on over to the Olympia for this week's Cooking Club, with enchiladas on the menu (as usual I cooked the hamburger... to perfection I might add).
Alone with case manager Paul briefly, I told him of Salinger's death.
"Really? I though he was already dead."
Nope. He lived 26 days after his 91st birthday. It's amazing to me (and I'm not exactly sure why) that the author of "The Catcher in the Rye," "Nine Stories," "Raise High the Roof Beam Carpenters, & Seymour, an Introduction," and "Franny & Zooey," was alive to experience the same contemporary events that I have experienced... perhaps he had seen "Avatar," or was a fan of "Desperate Housewives," or what did he think of our first black President, or a host of other issues that could easily make my head explode if I were to think about it too much.
Later I told my lovely case manager, Erin, that my last favorite living author had just died (the second to last being Kurt Vonnegut).
"Who?" she asked.
"J.D. Salinger," I told her.
"I don't know who that is," she said.
Ah, she didn't know the man, but maybe...
"Have you ever heard of "The Catcher in the Rye?" I asked.
"Oh yes! I know that one. Are you going to write a memorial on your blog tomorrow?" she asked.
My lovely case manager knows me only too well.
The work it seems was much more famous than the man.
I got the same result when I spoke of it with Robert who was making a rare Cooking Club appearance (enchiladas being the draw). He knew of the Catcher book, but not the author. Perhaps, and I believe this to be true for no reason whatsoever, Mr. Salinger liked it that way.
I own those four books mentioned above, the only ones he ever published. They''re sitting just before me right now mixed in piles of other books on my work desk leaning against my eastern wall. Only one was a complete novel, "The Catcher in the Rye." Raise High & Franny being a compilation of two novellas, both primarily concerned with his fictional Glass family. The "Nine Stories," book was just that, a collection of nine short stories that had been previously published most often in The New Yorker magazine. Three of these stories concern members of that famous family.
I first became aware of Salinger's work by reading Catcher at about the same age of it's protagonist, Holden Caulfield, in my late teens. I thought it was a wonderful novel, not because of the plot or story particularly, but because of the way it was written. For me it was a liberating piece of work. I never thought a work of fiction could be written in such easy going, common, colloquial language and get away with it, while still being considered a serious work of fiction. Now I had read the short stories of Mark Twain, which some may say go way over the top in their sensationalist presentation ("Journalism in Tennessee," comes to mind), but that was pretty much straight forward satire. Catcher was not satire, but the story of an angry, disgruntled young man, told by the young man in the first person, in his own way, which often employed elements of humor and sarcasm, observation and sentimentality, idealism vs reality, the way many of us real people may view the world and talk about it when no one else is listening, as if in a diary (Humm, a diary, imagine that).
It was published in 1951, and has been in print ever since, selling more than 65 million copies (about 250,000 a year), and is considered one of the best novels of the Twentieth Century. Between 1961 and 1982, The Catcher in the Rye was the most censored book in high schools and libraries in the United States due to its frank language and themes of teenage alienation and rebellion. In 1981, it was both the most censored book and the second most taught book in public schools in the country.
But Salinger grew weary of the attention his success had given to him and he became more and more reclusive, and publishing less and less. In 1953 he moved to New Hampshire, eventually retiring entirely to his home.
He could afford to live anyway he choose of course, the continuing sales of his work permitting that. Many rumors have spread, much by his own family, about his odd, overbearing behavior, but these have been equally discounted by others, so who knows for sure, and why should we care. The man lived they way he choose to, and if we were to condemn every artist whose actions proved difficult for those who dealt with them, on either a professional or personal basis, then we would be condemning the likes and work of Van Gogh and Peter Sellers as well, and I'm just not willing to do that.
His work stands alone. For it we are a better, richer, people, nation and world.
I'll end with the words and thoughts of J.D. Salinger's most popular creation, those of Holden Caulfield and his great aspiration:
"Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around - nobody big, I mean - except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff - I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be."

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Day Democracy Died 2

During the 2008 Presidential election Senator Obama received approximately 452,852,990 contributions, 26% of those in the amount of $200.00 or less, in total, over a period of time.
Okay, let's imagine that you donated $200.00 to the Obama campaign because you bought into his crap about real change coming to America. That's not the way things are currently shaking out, but that's for another discussion at another time. Now I don't know about you dear readers, but that $200.00 would have been hard fought for and a significant amount of money even when donated over a period of months.
Let's say members of your extended family bought into his crap as well and made similar contributions, and this continues to up to 100,000 like minded individuals. That adds up to, let's see, place the aught over the 6, times 4.8= $20,000,000.00 by my count. $20,000,000 donated by 100,000 individuals expressing the political views of a significant percentage of the voting population that can afford to make their preferences known in this manner.
Historically the Republican party allies itself with the interests of big business, special interests, and is anti-union. In turn big business and powerful special interests align themselves with the Republican party, and unions with the Democratic party.
During the last Presidential election Obama ran as a democrat running on a platform of fiscal responsibility, vowing to combat climate change, and more regulatory functions in the federal government as far as runaway banking and investment interests were concerned, lack of which has caused the current economic downturn we are now experiencing. Now banking and investment interests don't want any regulations because that may hamper their raping of the American economy and threaten the billions in bonuses they pay themselves. So what do they do to protect themselves?
Good question, dear readers (I have the smartest readers, I swear). Until the recent Supreme Court decision allowing corporations the same privileges as human beings under the first amendment of the United States Constitution, permitting them to dump as much cash (free speech according to the court) as they wanted to into the political election process, they were reduced to informal bribery via lobbyists and proportionately small cash infusions.
But now, under the courts new ruling (which by the way reverses over 100 years of legal precedent, ignores the concept of stare decisis (recognizing past legal precedent as established law), something both justice elect Roberts and Alito swore to uphold (which highlights the farce of the confirmation process, where a candidate can say as little as possible, or outright lie to get confirmed to a lifetime position, then turn around a do whatever they freaking want to after they get the job. What a sad joke!), and was totally out of the scope of the case that was presented to the court, talk about your activist judges), lets say a company like Goldman Sachs, or JP Morgan Chase, forgetting for the moment the bail out money they received from the American taxpayer, they can simply negate all of those 100,000 contributions mentioned above with a single contribution to the Republican party's candidate, in this case John McCain, of $20,000,000.00. One voice drowning out those of 100,000 with a single check that companies like Sachs and Morgan can write without batting an eye.
Multiply that by the entire amount of contributions received by the Obama campaign, and what you have is corporations running the election process in this country, promoting their own interests above those of the American people. Do you think General Motors and Exxon want significant climate change legislation passed that will no doubt hurt their bottom line? You bet your bippy they don't and will willingly pay to back those candidates that only support their agenda, and with a company like Exxon, with profits of over 45 billion last year, they can easily subvert an election like that held in 2008, which cost only 1 billion.
Imagine you're a sitting US Senator, or Congressman facing re-election (as members of the House do every two years), and a lobbyist for Exxon (Am I picking on Exxon too much? Poor little Exxon) threatens to dump as much money as it takes into the opponents campaign unless they promote Exxon's interests above those of the general public. What happens?
What do you think will happen? Exxon pays to stifle climate change legislation and policy, and the air we breathe, our children's environment, goes straight into the toilet.
As if this situation wasn't bad enough, the decision allows U.S subsidies of foreign corporations, let's say Sony, the Japanese conglomerate, the same privileges as any homegrown American corporation. As one Democratic Senator so succinctly put it recently, "A corporation is a corporation, is a corporation." The Supreme Court of the United States has opened the door for foreign entities to influence to any degree they like our electoral and political processes, which in itself is a significant matter threatening our national security. The court has subverted the nation's security in favor of the interests of corporations. This is tantamount to treason as far as I'm concerned. A simple analogy being opening the back door of the fort to let the Indians in.
Why? In the above example I chose the friendly electronics company Sony. But what if a shell company backed by Iran, or North Korea, or Al Qaeda pools their resources, well they will never have to face the strongest military in the history of the world. They can just kill us from within, because of our own stupidity (if we let this decision stand), with huge amounts of cash infusion into the very core of our political processes.
Last night in President Obama's first State of the Union address to the nation and both houses of Congress, with the justices of the Supreme Court sitting right in front of him, in an unprecedented action he called them out on it. Stating the same argument I've made above, that the court has opened the doors for foreign interests to influence the election process.
Justice Samuel Alito was seen shaking his head and mouthing the words, "That's not true." Well, denial isn't just a river in Egypt. Yes it is true Mr. Alito. And because of your tremendously irresponsible action all of us have to scramble to correct your mistake as fast as possible before irreparable harm is done to this nation and its real people.
What can we do? As individual citizens we can do little, so we need to work together. Not many people like the decision the Court handed down. Even many Republicans and CEO's of major corporations. What we must do is what Howard Beale suggested in the film "Network," which is to let your Congressional representatives know, "We're as mad as hell, and we're not going to take this anymore." Let them know how you feel through telephone calls, visits to their offices, Email's, community activism and demonstrations. Let the media know that this is a major issue facing this country worthy of more than the two minutes devoted to it on the 21st, compared to 30 minutes to John Edwards love child. March in the streets! Urge Congress to act, either by passing a constitutional amendment countering the court's decision, or by passing the Fair Elections Now Act. Support Rep. Grayson's 6 bills that deal specifically with this issue. Our imagination is the only limit to what we can do. As Thom Hartmann told me, "Raise hell, and get active." The ball is in our court.
On January 21st of this year democracy died in this country. It's all of our jobs to breathe (thank you Michelle) life back into it.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Lovely Erin

Yesterday at 8:30 in the morning (Pacific Standard Time, 4:30 in the morning 1-27-10 in Fiji) I knocked on the door to my lovely case manager's office, Erin (pictured above in all of her loveliness), for our appointed monthly case management session, which she is required to document and keep up to date, or else her bosses would wonder why she was not keeping up her on her case notes, fire her, resulting in her becoming destitute, and ultimately homeless, winding up living in a place like this in the Shelter Care Plus program, start drinking and shooting heroin and smoking crack, begin turning tricks, and dying before reaching 29 years of age.
So I was doing her this favor, and I had already requested that she read the story found on this very blog below, "How Hardy Ruined My Life," so we could discuss the implications involved therein. She did that, but unfortunately for me, while on her way to that particular post she passed "The Demise Of The Garden Club," and skimmed through that post as well.
Well I'm very happy to report that through the power of self examination, reflection, a dose of honesty, caring, and dare I say, a touch of love, we both came to an accord, my position as her favorite reinstated, and a firm pact to eat McGriddles together each Tuesday morning from now on (she says she's tired of the beans and salad of the Hippie Kitchen, and I can't say as I blame her, something about not enough trans-isomer fatty acids for her taste). We both left the meeting feeling much better about ourselves, and each other (at least I did), and the rest of my day was peaches and roses.
She did point out what may have been some small inconsistencies in the two stories, or posts listed above, that directly concern my dear friend Erin, which she asked politely for me to clear up if I was so inclined. She wanted for me to make clear that these... corrections... were being made of my own free will, and not hindered by outside influence, and had nothing to do with the 9mm semi automatic handgun she had brought with her into work that morning in preparation for our meeting.
So here goes, corrections to mistakes I may have inadvertently made while composing "The Demise Of The Garden Club," and "How Hardy Ruined My Life."
Erin does not have a squeaky voice. Nor is it in anyway shrill, screechy, squealing, piercing, high-pitched, or in any way be categorized as a caterwaul. She has a lovely voice for a girl, and she is a wonderful and vibrant singer of songs as well.
Oh yes, she in no way, shape, or form... chirps.
Nor has she ever chirped. She is chirpless.
Erin is not evil, nor lazy, and does not employ a sociopathic attitude toward the plants in our garden. As a matter of fact she has volunteered to restart the Garden Club once she learned that the plants were actually thriving due to our recent bouts of rainy weather. I insisted she not worry about it, and that I would take care of the garden until she got caught up on her case notes so she won't be fired, become destitute, etc. etc. etc.
She only drives me crazy one quarter of the time rather than half. An important distinction.
She wanted you to know that Paul did not really chop my head off, as that would have been against the law, state and federal, an definitely a direct violation of the Skid Row Housing Trust's Code of Ethics for Residential Service Coordinators. Definitely.
Erin did bring in that DVD for my niece's birthday, in direct contradiction to what I conveyed in the Hardy story. I'm so bad.
She says she will find the time to read my blog on a regular basis, part of her effort to reinvigorate her attitude toward her work. I think we should all applaud her admirable attitude and honesty, and I hereby invite everyone to read my blog to achieve similar results.
I want you to know that winning the Case Management Appointment Contest is a big thrill. Especially if you are the only one to enter for the month, like I did, and am the actual winner of said contest by default. A very big thrill!
Erin wants you to know that I did not provide photographic evidence of Hardy stealing her away from me, and that the photograph presented was doctored to look that way, being taken at the 2008 Christmas party here at the Las Americas. I vow to tirelessly work to discover who could have perpetrated such a blatant hoax.
Erin also wants you, dear readers, to know that the picture presented in "The Demise Of The Garden Club," of the garden she and Paul would have killed if I had not intervened, was not in fact that of our garden out back. That was entirely my mistake, and I apologize profusely, and have posted the real picture of our garden above.
And last, but certainly not least, and not part of the demands made upon me by Erin, but of my own initiative, I make the following assertion: Erin is indeed lovely. Very lovely. The loveliest.
Now please Erin, point that thing somewhere else.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Salvation Diary 15

"Salvation" artist, Amanda Milke

In this country the first law, or ordinance prohibiting the smoking of opium in opium dens was adopted by the city of San Francisco in 1875. The basis for this ordinance was racist rather than health orientated. The San Francisco authorities were concerned about keeping their young men and women from patronizing Chinese opium dens.

"This first law, however, like so many subsequent anti-narcotic laws, failed to work despite the promptness and thoroughness of the punishment. When opium dens became illegal, 'the vice was indulged in much less openly, but none the less extensively, for although the larger smoking-houses were closed, the small dens in Chinatown were well patronized, and the vice grew surely and steadily.' Indeed, the new law 'seemed to add zest to their enjoyment.'
When laws such as this one failed, Congress stepped in. In 1883, Congress raised the tariff on opium for smoking from $6 to $10 a pound, and in 1887 it prohibited altogether the importation of the kind of weak opium that contains less than 9% morphine used to preparing smoking opium. The 1887 law also prohibited the importation of opium by Chinese, and a law three years later limited the manufacture of smoking opium to American citizens.
The results of these steps were set forth in a letter dated January 12, 1888, from the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States to the Speaker of the House of Representatives. The effect, he wrote, had been 'to stimulate smuggling extensively practiced by systematic organizations (presumably the Chinese "Tongs" or other mutual benefit societies) on the Pacific coast. Recently completed facilities for transcontinental transportation have enabled the opium smugglers to extend their illicit traffic to our northern border. Although all possible efforts have been made by this Department to suppress the traffic, it is found practically impossible to do so.'
The law was not changed, however, indeed the tariff on smoking opium was further increased from $10 to $12 per pound in 1890. Then, in 1897, it was reduced to $6 a pound- experience having at least taught that it could not bear a higher rate without begetting an extensive surreptitious manufacture of serious smuggling operations. Following the reduction in the tariff 'the amount that passed through the custom houses... progressively increased.'
Throughout this period states and cities continued to pass laws against opium smoking; by 1914 there were 27 such laws in effect. Yet the amount of smoking opium legally imported continued to rise steadily.
The reason for these, and subsequent narcotic laws failure, 'appear obvious. They were aimed at private transactions between sellers and willing, and usually eager, buyers. Thus there were no complaints. Other such laws include the Volstead Act, since repealed, which prohibited the sale of alcoholic beverages; the laws against fornication; homosexual acts, and other sexual acts between consenting adults in private; the laws against gambling; and other drug laws generally. The phrase "crimes without victims" has been applied to such acts; they can more accurately be called "crimes without complaints." It is hard to cite a law aimed at crimes of this class which has much effect in curbing the behavior aimed at."
Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677), no doubt anticipating Columbian drug cartels, wrote, "All laws which can be violated without doing anyone any injury are laughed at. Nay, so far are they from doing anything to control the desire and passions of men that, on the contrary, they direct and excite men's thoughts more toward those very objects; for we always strive for what is forbidden and desire the things we are not allowed to have. And men of leisure are never deficient in the ingenuity need to enable them to outwit laws framed to regulate things which cannot be entirely forbidden... He who tries to determine everything by law will ferment crime rather than lessen it."
Brecher continues, "The mere fact that a law fails to achieve it's goal fully is of course not a sufficient reason for repealing it: witness the laws against murder. The basic argument against laws creating crimes without complaints must rest on evidence that they not only fail but also, in the process of failing, do more harm than good. Such evidence exists with regard to the laws against opium smoking. For one effect of these laws was to convert opium smokers to more hazardous forms of opium use.
Surely the nineteenth-century enemies of opium smoking did not and could not foresee that the new laws were starting this country down the dismal from that relatively innocent 'vice' to the intravenous injection of heroin- the dominant form of illegal opiate use today; yet that was in fact the sequel."
More about opium and law later.
In the Middle East, small pockets of resistance from Iraqi soldiers necessitates more use of force by Allied forces. We've knocked out about 150 more of their tanks since the cease fire began. Talks concerning a formal end to the hostilities should start soon.
And my good friend, Thomas Bommorito, who had left the residence at 7:40A.M. to visit the local welfare office, did not make it back for the midnight curfew.
I had to terminate him from the program.
Wherever you are Tommy, whatever your doing... I wish you well.

March 2 Saturday Day 171

Tommy came and got his stuff this morning. I did not see him. He told the people who did see him that he had had an insulin reaction the night before, and had been helplessly riding on different buses all night trying to find his way back to the center, not really knowing where he was at or what he was doing, because his mind was all haywire, his brain starving for sugar. He said he had found himself in some garage this morning. The people who saw him told me he looked like someone who had spent a night in a garage.
I have spent a night in a garage. Several nights in fact, but that's another story.
If what Tommy said was true I hope he comes back in. We don't generally throw people out for medical reasons. We don't let people in for medical reasons (potential clients are told they must be fit and able to work a 40 hour work week, if not they are referred somewhere else), but we don't throw them out.
I suppose it's up to Clarence Orion (who gave me back my umbrella, by the way) and the Major to decide if he can come back, if Tommy still wants to that is. He had been talking about moving out lately. He had also been talking about suing the Salvation Army for every penny it had (which may influence Clarence and the Major's decision), something about denying his basic rights as a human being. But we shall see.
Work went smoothly. Mr. Vasquez was out driving around for about half of my shift. He finally brought me and Eddie Gillespie the pizza he had promised us for working the night Art Svensk didn't show. Domino's medium pepperoni. He told us he couldn't afford a large.
I found myself writing a lot about opium this evening, and after that I read of the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914, probably the greatest factor determining the "drug problem" as we now know it. After I finished reading I talked to Eddie for awhile.
I asked him where he would go in April when the weather turned warm.
"Back to the weeds, I guess."
After work, up in my lonely room, I watched a little of "Godzilla 1985." Since I was a young lad Godzilla had always been my favorite monster (except for Cal Tiki maybe, the immortal flesh eating blob). I can relate to Godzilla.
There was only one real Godzilla movie though... the first.
When I went to sleep I dreamed (as many do) of stomping on Tokyo.

March 3 Sunday Day 172

Clarence Orion had selected me to read the responsive reading portion at this mornings chapel services. My name was listed on the program, and everything.
What this duty entailed was for me get up to the podium, in front of everybody, and lead the captive congregation in reading a portion of the Salvation Army's song book. Several excerpts taken from the Bible actually. About 8 paragraphs worth. I read the first paragraph, everyone reads the second, back to me again on the third, continuing in an alternating fashion until the end.
To make me feel more at ease while doing this it helped to know that Major and Mrs. Johnson, the visiting Territorial Director of Alaska and his wife (I don't remember their names), Capt. and Mrs. Mike Olsen, Clarence, and Mr. Vasquez were all sitting behind me (I had made sure the backs of my boots were polished nicely).
No big deal. I wanted to do a good job of it, but it's always the simple things that are easily goofed up. I was determined not to muck it up though, and the more determined I was, the more nervous I made myself.
I pictured myself going through each step that would be required of me. I ran the sequence in my head, over and over. First I had to make it from where I was sitting in the third pew to the podium without falling, or tripping over anything. Then I needed to remember what to say before the actual reading began, such as, "Good morning. Today's scripture reading can be found on page such and such, number such and such. I will read the dark print. Please follow along with the light print." Then I needed to read in a loud and clear manner all that was needed to be read. Fortunately, I had learned all about voice projection, and how to do it in high school drama class. I was ready on that score. I reminded myself not to stumble on words like, "Perdition," or, "enmity." I also had to remember the closing phrase for such rituals, "May God bless the reading of his word."
Having just read Frankl's description of Paradoxical Intention, I tried to imagine myself fucking up as badly as I possible could, falling flat on my face on my way to the stage, completely screwing up my lines (I've had some experience in this), and bumbling my way in abject humiliation back to my seat.
After imagining the worst that could happen I felt much calmer, and when my time came I did rather well. No mistakes to speak of, and I will kill Clarence Orion if he ever puts me on the program again!
After service I changed clothes and took off to see the new Oliver Stone movie, "The Doors."
The film was not about the sixties musical group The Doors though. It was more concerned with its charismatic lead singer, Jim Morrison. A sad movie, beautifully conceptualized by Stone, backed up with brilliant cinematography and frantic editing. Probably the first biographical film I've seen concerning a subject I was fairly familiar with.
Silly part for Meg Ryan. I don't know why she took it. I'm in love with her, you know.
I've never really been a fan of The Doors, and I really don't know why I went to see it except to get out of the residence for awhile.
Jim Morrison was a child who never had a chance to grow up. He and I share certain similarities. We both were native Californians, both extremely good looking, both like to write, both addicted to drugs and alcohol, and both bad singers.
The phrase, "locked in a candy store all night," comes to mind when I think about his life. Like a lot of people in the rock and roll music industry, he was given too much; to much money, sex, drugs, and fame at an age far too young to know how to deal with it, although I'm sure Mr. Morrison thought that he could. Youth always think that it is in control. But Jim Morrison never was. Booze and drugs and fame were in control all of the way.
He died when he was only twenty seven. I hope there were some coherent moments in his life when he was able to experience joy and love. Some time when the clouds cleared for awhile. If not, his life was a useless waste, despite the gifts of music he left the rest of us.
The film reminded me all too well of how much of my own life I have thrown away. Hopefully I am doing things to change that.
And for the rest of the night, while lying down on my bed, watching silly programs on my television, the music of Jim Morrison and The Doors ran through my head with hypnotic persistence.

March 4 Monday Day 173

"Come on baby light my fire."
Damned Doors music still going through my head.
I wanted to go to P.C.C. today, so I had asked Clarence Bliss to put me on the early wake up list for 5:30.
I don't trust my radio alarm clock.
I should have remembered not to trust Clarence.
Getting out of bed at 10:15, I showered and dressed, then went and talked to the boys at the desk for little. Before I left I had some nice tuna fish for lunch while discussing the finer points of Olympic javelin catching with Dennis Smith, Tom Rotsch, Kelly Timmons, and Bruce Elliot.
Then I caught the dreaded R.T.D. bus.
Pasadena City College has a fairly small campus, which appeared huge and intimidating to me as I roamed around trying to find the admissions office. The scenery was wonderful though. It was lunch time and there were hundreds of pretty girls to see. Surprisingly, I didn't fall in love with any of them. But I'm sure I will once I get to know them. Looks aren't everything.
Having chanced upon a campus directory I soon located the admissions office. There I found posted on a wall outside the office instructions on how to apply to the school. While reading said instructions, a young studious looking, short, eyeglass wearing, male type person approached me.
"Excuse me," he said. "I was just noticing your coat. Wool, isn't it?"
I didn't know if it was wool, or not, but I nodded yes anyway.
"I've been trying to find one just like it. Would you mind telling me where you got it."
"Salvation Army thrift store."
"Right! Thank you very much." He walked away.
Having forgotten to bring a pen with me, I was unable to fill out an application for admission, so I walked to the book store to see if they had any class schedules available. They did, but only the current ones. I needed one for the next semester, the Fall semester. The Fall semester schedules wouldn't be out until May I was told. I left totally dejected, having failed at everything I had come there to do, but as I walked to the bus stop the sight of so many lovely ladies cheered me right up. I don't know why.
Back at the residence, I had just finished a nice cup of coffee and had sat down in the lobby to do a little writing, when by chance I happened to look out the front door (I do that sometimes). My heart stopped.
The ever lovely Jill of the flaming red hair was out there, talking to of all people, Rico Montgomery. I also noticed another man with her, a slim, young fellow, with shoulder length blonde hair, dressed casually. He was holding a camera and taking pictures of the front of the building. It turns out that Jill had got this guy, who's name was David, to photograph the residence to help promote the Salvation Army's rehabilitative services at some fair being held at P.C.C. They got a shot of Rico and Kevin walking out of the front door, trying to act naturally, and failing miserably. I continued to sit in the lobby, acting cool and detached while being buffeted in all directions by the whips and under currents of Jill's loveliness. She soon came and asked me if I would open the chapel for some interior shots.
I said, "For you Jill, I would gladly give my life."
That was a lie.
I said, "Yes Jill, I'd be happy to." But I said it in such a manner that I'm sure she could feel the passion within me.
Once in the chapel I asked her if she'd seen any good movies lately. Pretty witty, huh?
"Yes I did," she replied with her haunting smile. "Sunday I went to see the new movie, 'The Doors.'"
"You did? So did I."
"Where did you see it at?" she asked.
"Up the street, at the Marketplace."
"I went to the Hastings because it's a bigger theater. What did you think of it?"
"I thought it was one of the better biographical films that I've seen. And a little depressing."
"I didn't realize," she concluded, "that they didn't write very many good songs."
Jill and David got me to pose for a few pictures. We were on the second floor, and I gazed off into the distance (as if I were seriously contemplating something of immense importance), with the atrium in the background. I'm afraid I'm not particularly photogenic. I hope they come out alright.
After taking some shots of the bowling alley, weight room, and hobby shop, they left to go photograph the warehouse, and I resumed my writing activities.
I attended Ed Reitz's 6:30 group counseling session. My old roommate, Denis Castle, had once again returned from a relapse, and was in there beginning the program all over again. That's good news really. It takes whatever it takes to stay sober. Everyone was glad to see him back.
Tommy Bommorito came by to pick up the last of his possessions, which were quite considerable in number. I went up with him to his room and helped him pack. He told me that he had entered a sober living house in North Pasadena, and that welfare would pay his monthly rent. I wished him well, and asked him if I could have the Elvira poster that was taped to the back of his locker.
Elvira, as I'm sure the whole world knows by now, is a character created by the beautiful comedian, Cassandra Peterson. Elvira hosted a Saturday afternoon horror movie program a few years ago on a local Los Angeles television station. Peterson, who is a strawberry blonde, donned a sort of black, beehive wig, a slinky, slit thigh, low cut black dress (that myself, and thousands of other men, marveled at how she stayed into. She must have used glue, or something), to become Elvira. She had a campy-comic quality that I found enchanting. Not to mention a body, adequately displayed, that most men would kill their own mothers for. I watched her show every week, when I could manage it, just to see her. It had to have been to see her, because the movies she played were God awful. C- movies. Elvira became a big success, and went on to star in her own feature film, which wasn't too bad really.
Anyway, that poster I asked Tommy for was of Elvira wearing a skimpy one piece black bathing suit, sitting as if she were at the beach, with her long legs tucked under her, mouth invitingly open. But the scene took place at night, with a full moon in the background, and a bottle of "Lunar Lotion," near by.
The caption read, "Moonbathing."
I love it.
I put it up on the wall in my room after forcefully taking it from Tom. It faces my bed.
Now I don't feel so lonely in my room anymore.
She keeps staring at me though.
It's a little unnerving.
By the way, Tommy admitted to me that he had been using the night he was gone. That's why he hadn't come back here.
He had gone to relapse city.
I tried to spend the rest of the evening watching a murder mystery on T.V. with Barbara Eden and Loretta Swift, but it was so stupid I had to turn it off. Something has to be profoundly stupid for me to do that. I enjoy a high stupidity tolerance.
I went downstairs to ask Robert if there were any special circumstances I needed to know about for when I returned to work the next morning. He wasn't there. He had taken Andre Laws to U.S.C. Medical. Andre, quite in character, has the chicken pox.
I returned to my room and read about drug laws, and soon fell asleep.
"Break on through to the other side, break on through..."

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Demise Of The Garden Club

Michelle Morgan
Garden Club founder

The garden Erin And Paul would have killed

Life is so impermanent as it is, I dislike seeing things die. Especially for no good reason.
Our Garden Club here at the Las Americas was founded by my case manager at the time, Michelle (another Michelle! They're everywhere!) Morgan (pictured above), lovely girl, oh, let's say in the Spring of 2008. Being the founder she was naturally very enthusiastic about its implementation and maintenance. At the time of the founding she was the only case manager for both the Las Americas, and the Olympia hotels, which kept her rather busy I imagine, juggling the trials and tribulations of possibly 100 or more clients or so. I do remember she was promised assistance in the form of a partner to help shoulder the caseload burden she suffered, but that help was a long time coming.
Part of her job description was to facilitate various group activities, such as the Support Group, which was basically a form of group therapy, and at that time that was the form the Support Groups took. A small group of individuals sitting in the lobby, discussing events in their lives. Usually these groups began with everyone taking a turn telling about 3 beneficial events that had transpired within their lives since the last meeting, or within the last week. That finished the groups attention would move on to something else, possibly some exercise the facilitator had thought up, these sessions generally lasting an hour.
These groups were not mandatory for the residents. If you lived here under the Shelter Plus Care Program you were not compelled to attend, although you were required to do a certain amount of activities that Skid Row Housing Trust and The Housing Authority deemed beneficial, gaining a required amount of "points" per month, in order to maintain eligibility in Shelter Plus Care, which paid two thirds of a clients rent.
Being the maverick that I am I didn't care one twiddle about "points," even though I am in the Shelter Plus Care program. I thumbed my nose at them, and continue to do so to this day. Here, I'm going to thumb my nose at them right now. Take that points!
I however was very fond of my case manager and wanted her to do a good job so she wouldn't lose it and become destitute, become homeless, wind up living in a place like this in the Shelter Care Plus program, start drinking and shooting heroin and smoking crack, start turning tricks, and dying before she reached 30 years of age. I helped her the best way that I could considering the position I found myself in, I supported her by attending her Support Groups.
I do it to this day. I support my lovely case manager Erin, because I'm very fond of her and we are friends, even though she drives me crazy about half the time. I do this by attending the various groups she facilitates, like Yoga Class, the Drama Free Support Group, and the Garden Club, all of which are sparsely attended, with me and Hardy (curse him!) being the only two who regularly show up. This is what would happen if Hardy and I didn't show up to these groups. They would cease to exist due to lack of attendance, Erin's bosses would wonder why she was not doing her job by facilitating these groups and she would be fired, become destitute, become homeless, wind up living in a place like this in the Shelter Care Plus program, start drinking and shooting heroin and smoking crack, start turning tricks, and dying before she reached 30 years of age.
Does Erin appreciate our selfless actions on her behalf. Of course not!
As a matter of fact she hampers our efforts not realizing the serious danger she is in during these perilous economic times. She did it today!
How? Funny you should ask, dear readers. She did so by informing me that she and Paul had decided to suspend the Garden Club until the weather gets warmer.
She told me this when I went to her office this morning to put into practical effect the conversation which is the focus of the post that's right below this one.
I asked why she was suspending it.
"Because everything out there is dead."
"That's not true," I told her. "The blue point is alive and doing well. The dwarf orange tree, the gardenias..." on and on.
She rolled her eyes at me.
Let this be known. The real reason she (and by diabolical infection, now Paul. He until Erin infected him, was still willing to go out and tend to the garden despite the weather. Now he has joined "The Dark Side," as Erin calls her sociopathological disregard for the very plant life that we all fostered and nurtured to begin with) does not wish to continue with the garden is because it's a itty bitty cool out there right now during this time of year, and maybe a little damp, and it may be uncomfortable for her to go out and work. Boo Hoo Hoo! Well, I'll tell you this, plants like it when it's damp! And the cool temperature certainly hasn't killed them as Erin would have us believe. She and Paul would kill them with neglect now that they have made this disastrous decision which meant virtually the end, or the demise of Michelle Morgan's dream, the Garden Club.
I'm afraid I reacted badly when she told me this. A knee jerk reaction due to nicotine withdrawal no doubt.
"Well then, I'm going to divorce myself from the Garden Club from now on..."
"Why should I spend all of that time out there when I know you're just going to kill them off at the end of the year because it gets a little cool?"
"That makes me sad, Rick," she said. "But not enough to go out there."
I left in a bit of a huff, determined never to attend another Garden Club for the remainder of eternity. Why not, as the limits of my immaturity are boundless.
And then on my way back from the Depression Group at the VA, I came upon an idea.
I do that occasionally.
When I got back to the hotel I checked out the garden. Those plants I described above were thriving, as was the asparagus fern, and the hanging plant, whatever it is. All of these would have been doomed if Erin and Paul had their evil and lazy way.
I marched into Erin's office.
"I'm going to take care of the garden," I told her.
"You are? Just you?"
"I guess, since you guys aren't going to help."
"It won't be that long before we start again Rick..."
"Yeah, and by that time all of those plants out there would have died."
"Rick, we'll start again soon..."
"Erin, you don't get it. You've given up the Garden Club. You don't get a say in it anymore. Come Spring, Hardy and I will decide if we want you and Paul back! You can't be trusted around these poor defenseless plants, and we don't need you're stinking petty cash, we can finance it ourselves. And I better not find you guys out there picking our peppers, you little plant sociopath you."
"You go, Rick," she said as I left her office. "You're awesome."
Well I certainly told her.
And the legacy of Michelle lives on.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

How Hardy Ruined My Life

Photographic evindence Hardy
has stolen Erin


I used to be happy and fulfilled while living in my box here at the Las Americas. That is until Hardy began to take over.
At one time I enjoyed the love and respect of my fellow neighbors, my case managers, and other staff that may have happened to pass by. Erin, my lovely case manager, at one time called me her "favorite client." We would eat at the Hippie Kitchen every Tuesday morning (I should have suspected Hardy then, as I always saw him there, mixed in with the crowd of degenerate homeless people, staring at us with obvious envy). "I'm soooo excited about going to the Hippie Kitchen tomorrow, Rick," she would chirp at the Monday Garden Club. She used to read this blog on a regular basis (I know she doesn't read it any more because she never expresses outrage at all of the shocking things I write about her), and return my Emails pretty much as I wrote them to her. We'd go to McDonalds on occasion to dine on McGriddles, greasy hash browns, and hot coffee while talking about our personal lives, dreams, and aspirations.
No more. None of that exists today. And why?
I don't know how it happened. Lord knows I've tried to maintain my status and the benefits thereof. But everything has changed now... and I'm afraid, changed forever.
The following is a theoretical conversation I plan to have with Erin and case manager Paul tomorrow morning in their office before the Garden Club convenes at 9:00AM. Of course by then the conversation will not be theoretical... it will be a real conversation... and I'll have to get there early... at about 8:30 or 8:40, or so...
Before Hardy comes.
I will knock on their door.
"Come in..." I'll hear from deep within.
"Hi Erin."
"Hi Rick."
"Hi Paul."
"Did you get my message, Erin?"
"Did you bring the DVD for my niece's birthday?"
"I forgot... maybe tomorrow."
"Nothing." I'll take a seat between their desks.
"I needed to ask you guys something before the Garden Club starts," I'll tell them.
"Yeah," Paul will say. "We were going to put up a sign, Rick."
"A sign? What sign?"
"That Garden Club would be canceled today," Erin would say.
"Canceled? Why?"
Erin continued, "Today I'm taking the winner of the 'Case Management Appointment Contest' out to breakfast."
Both Paul and Erin had held lotteries, so to speak, for those who made case management appointments with them last month, and who had actually shown up for those appointments. Those names would be put in a random drawing and the winner would get to go out to breakfast or lunch with their respective case managers. Big thrill.
"Yeah... so," I said. "You'll still be here Paul... right?"
"I'm going to go along with them and hang out."
"Oh. May I ask who the winner is."
I waited a while.
"Well, who's the winner?"
"Oh," Erin said. "Hardy won."
At this point I'll take my lovely friend Michelle's often offered advice, "Breathe Rick, breathe."
"You see," I'll continue, "that's exactly what I wanted to talk to you about."
"Okay," Paul said, "we've got a few minutes before Hardy gets here. Go ahead, shoot."
"Paul, I want to sign up on that list to get a free bike."
"What list? What are you talking about?"
This whole thing came to the boiling point yesterday, Saturday morning, when I was returning to my box with a nice plate of beans and salad from the Hippie Kitchen, passing Hardy as he stood outside the front door, like he always does, smoking and monitoring traffic.
"Hey," he said.
"Hey Hardy, how's it going?"
"Hey I got a free bike now," he said beaming.
"A free bike? Wow, that's great. How did you get a free bike?"
"Paul got it for me... you know, at that clinic."
"Yeah. It's up in my room right now."
"Wow, that's great Hardy. Ah, I'll see ya later."
I went up to my box, and placed my plate of beans and salad on my desk. Just as Hardy anticipated, I couldn't get what he had just told me out of my head. I went back downstairs.
"Now let me get this straight, Hardy. You went to the bike clinic and Paul gave you a free bike?"
"Yeah. We came back here and there were three bikes in the basement. One just had a flat tire, and Paul asked me if I wanted it. We took it back to the clinic and filled it up and it stayed."
"Really. I went to the clinic too. As a matter of fact I was there before you were. Maybe I can get one of the other two..."
"Used' em for parts, Paul did."
"Oh... well that's great Hardy. I'm glad for you."
I returned to my room and sobbed for the rest of the day.
Back in the office:
"I'm talking about the list to get a free bike, like Hardy got. You must have a sign up list, right?'
"Well, not really, he was just..."
"Yeah, there at the right time. Is that what you were going to say?"
"Well yeah."
"Hardy is always just there at the right time," I continued, beginning to get agitated. "The freaking guy spends his entire life out in that lobby, twenty-four seven, waiting for you two to come out and ask him to do something. Of course he's going to be there at the right time."
"Now Rick..." Erin would say.
Breathe Rick, breathe.
"Oh, don't you start Erin. I know he's taken you away from me."
"What are you talking about?!"
"I used to be your favorite. We'd go to the Hippie Kitchen. We'd go to McDonalds. You'd read my blog for Christ's sake. Not anymore."
"Now Rick."
"When was the last time you've read my blog, Erin? Honestly?"
"Well, I've been very busy Rick."
"Yeah, you've been busy playing dominoes with Hardy! It's Hardy this. It's Hardy that. Hardy can I get you some cream for your coffee? Hardy! Hardy! Hardy!"
"You know... I understand. How can a guy like me compete with a guy like Hardy?... with his cool demeanor, those sparkling teeth, they're false you know! That gritty sense of humor... why sometimes even I fall under his spell!"
"Rick, come on," Paul said, "I think you're making..."
"Oh, and you. When we're in the supermarket you're all gaga over him. 'Hardy. What a classic.' you say. And you take him everywhere! Hardy let's go to Home Depot. Hardy, Let's go get some pizza. Hardy, let's go get frozen yogurt. Hardy let's go to Black Angus. Hardy, let's go to Vegas for the weekend..."
"Rick we never went..."
"Now hear me out you two. I try to help you guys as much as I can. Who brings you movies for movie day all of the time?"
"You do, Rick," Erin answered.
"Who attended all of your groups when no one else would?"
"You did, Rick," Paul answered.
"Who suggested free field trips to the museum?"
"You did Rick," they both said.
"Right! I did. And what do I get for it? I get Erin going, 'Thanks Rick,' in that high squeaky voice of hers. 'Thanks Rick.'"
"Work all day for Thanksgiving dinner. You two were getting paid for that. I wasn't. What did I get after seven hours slaving over a hot stove... 'Thanks Rick.'"
"After Movie Day each week where you get movies that are still in the freaking theaters, what do I get... 'Thanks Rick, thanks Rick, thanks Rick.' I even freaking empty your trash can, for God's sake! You guys are taking me for granted."
"I like to go places too. I'll tell you what. I can move my computer down into the lobby and be as available as Hardy is. I can get used to watching CSI, and Law and Order. Or if you don't like that, all you have to do is call me and I'll come right down. You both have my number. I can go to Home Depot, just call. I can walk you out to your car when you leave from work, Erin. I can come with you Paul when you go get free bikes from the basement. Just call. That's why I come to these meetings, to get out of my box for a while, that's why. Just call."
"Rick," Paul said. "I think you're making too big a..."
"And Erin, how could you? I wrote blogs for your mother and best friend, for Christ's sake! I thought we had something... and now Hardy's your favorite."
"I don't think I can live with the shame, Erin. I think it's seppuku time to be quite honest with you, the Japanese form of ritual suicide by disembowelment. I think It's come to that."
"Now Rick," Erin said, "you always threaten seppuku when you don't get your way...
"Paul, I can't trust anyone else. Would you do me the honor of being my Second. After I make the last cut will you lop off my head so I don't disgrace myself by showing pain?"
"Rick... let's talk this over," Paul said. "We appreciate how you help out around here, and maybe when a bike becomes available we can get you one, but that's not what this is all about, is it? You can't expect us to reward you for those things you do. That's not how it works. Now what do you really want?"
"I've just told you..."
"Rick... come on, tell us."
"Well... how about a cut from each of your pay checks on a continuous basis..."
Out in the garden Paul struck true and strong, the blade whistling as it sliced through the air. He was so eager to do a good job he didn't even wait for me to make the first cut.
Curse you Hardy! Curse you to hell!

Saturday, January 23, 2010


Of all the feminine given names that exist the name Michelle has probably had the most profound effects upon my life.
The first that I can think of was Michelle Meridian, the dark, buxom teenage siren of Armenian descent that consented to be my girlfriend for about two weeks when we were in high school, who dumped me after I got into a fight defending her honor, losing half a front tooth in the process, then hooking up with one of my friends who had the advantage of an automobile.
My first wife's name was Michelle. Michelle W. She left me after less than two years of marriage simply because I was drunk and stoned all of the time. Bitch.
And then of course there's crazy Michelle Bachman, the U.S. Representative from Minnesota (see, Michelle Ma Belle 1 & 2). Enough said.
My favorite though, of all the Michelle's who have entered into my life (and pretty much of all the females period, who have entered into my life) did so for only the briefest of time, and did not dump me because she didn't have the chance, due to the fact that we were never together. When our respective paths separated they did so as part of a natural progression, her path taking her in one direction away from me, and my path taking me directly to the shit house.
Listen: I first met my favorite Michelle while working as the Residence Manager at the Salvation Army's Adult Rehabilitation Center in Pasadena, California. I've written extensively about this period in my life in the book length memoir that is currently being serialized on the blog, entitled Salvation Diary. However I met her much later when I was in the process of editing that work, and I don't remember what the exact date was when we first met, and neither does she, but I'm thinking it must have been somewhere in 1993, the early to middle part... 17 cool years ago.
I do remember sitting behind the front desk in the lobby of the residence in the early evening one weekday, minding my own business, when in walked this young (she must have been Erin's age, mid twenties), stunningly attractive, brunette girl (look at the picture above, dear readers, she hasn't changed at all), coming up to me at the desk, and introducing herself.
"Hi. I'm Michelle _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _," she must of said (or something to that nature). "I'm here to counsel" (or something of that nature).
"Okay," I said. We must have enjoyed some small talk, or some such, as we shared some type of rapport. The Program Director, Dr. Edmund Reitz had previously assigned her certain beneficiaries who she would counsel on a weekly basis as part of their recovery program, and she was what was known as an "intern," a college student, clinical psychology in her case, there to receive credit toward her degree.
I called over the P.A. System for her first client, and she took a seat nearby on one of the lobby chairs. I kept a quite eye on her, I don't know why.
She sat for a moment, taking in all of the various events transpiring around her in the busy building, looking around with wide eyes, seemingly a tad uncomfortable, or at least nervous. Then abruptly she turned back toward me, smiled, then got up and hopped (hopped, I don't know why that particular verb sticks in my head when I think of that moment, but it does) back over to me at the desk, and we began talking again until her first client showed up and I showed them where they could go to talk.
This is what she wrote to me of that moment just a few days ago: "I am remembering that I was just a kid when I met you and I really did follow you around didn't I? Talk about being over my head. I was in undergraduate psych courses which might as well be high school and counseling seriously life-diseased addicts and alcoholics-inconceivable!"
It was at that first "hopping," and talking moment, that I knew we would become friends, and that she was very special.
It's been my experience that most beautiful girls, especially the young ones, either hide behind their beauty, and use it as a barrier to protect themselves, or use it as a weapon bent toward world domination. Michelle did neither. She seemed to be completely without guile or pretense. Exceptionally friendly and bright (I would often open up the downstairs apartment near the front desk so she could watch "Jeopardy" in between counseling her clients). She would later tell me, "I'm very naive. You can tell me anything and I'll believe it." My God, how could you not love her.
Needless to say I was very fond of her, and looked forward to her weekly (sometimes twice a week?) visits, and we would always talk about this and that. As I said, I was editing Salvation Diary at the time, and always looking for a captive audience. I offered my material to Michelle for her critical opinion, which surprisingly she accepted, actually taking my stuff with her to read and later to comment on.
"I have a whole drawer devoted to Rick things," she once told me.
I believe her encouragement at that particular time, her invaluable advice, and technical expertise ("I think maybe you use the word, 'though,' a little too much," she told me once. She was right! I did use the word "though" a little too much. I used it a lot too much. Thanks to Michelle, I no longer do that, though I use it sometimes. Now if only I can rid myself of that nasty "comma" habit), helped me immeasurably, allowed me to carry on, and this blog is a direct result of her support, love, and sincere desire to help all of those 17 years ago.
I owe you a great deal, my friend, Michelle.
We were friends. There was no chance of our becoming romantically involved due to the difference in our age (and that fact that she already had a boyfriend). I was 12 years older than her, around 37, I guess (to this day I remain 12 years older than her), and young, beautiful women in their mid-twenties do not get romantically interested in 37 year old broke, recovering alcoholics and drug addicts unless kidnaping is involved, no matter how "naive" they may be. It just doesn't happen. I knew it. She knew it. We both knew it and accepted that fact without having to discuss the matter. The only one who didn't know it was the Administrator's wife, at that time a Mrs. Strickland, who got a look at Michelle one night after I had invited her to some formal dinner function where I was one of many being honored for something. I don't remember what.
"She's lovely," Mrs. Strickland said. "She should be your girlfriend, Rick."
"She already has a boyfriend, Mrs. Strickland. Michelle is just a very good friend of mine."
Just a good friend. How denigrating. A good friend I think, can be so much more important than anything else.
But of course I was still enamored with my friend. How could any red blooded American male not be. Being an aspiring writer, I wrote her a story entitled "The _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Blues," the blanks being her last name. She says she still has it, along with some Haiku poems I wrote for her. I have a vague memory of what was in it, some kind of fawning description of her many attributes I'm sure, and how sad I would be when we eventually went our separate ways, hence the "Blues," element.
And she did go away.
The last time I saw my friend Michelle was on her birthday (our birthdays are suspiciously close together, 11 days apart as it happens, although she has the distinct disadvantage of being a Libra, rather than enjoying the superior trappings and security of a Scorpio). She had left the counseling program at the ARC by that time, and was working for some private concern in Rancho Cucamonga. I bought a bouquet of roses, drove all the freaking way out there, and presented myself to the front desk of her place of work.
Now I knew for sure that she happened to like flowers. I knew this because I had given her some when she had left the ARC program, at the front desk, and someone asked her if she liked them, and she said, "I'm a girl. I like flowers."
So I knew I was on pretty good footing bugging her unannounced at her new job. I had planned to just drop off the flowers, and make a quick and mysterious retreat, being as inobtrusive as possible.
The receptionist though (there's that dreaded word again!), must have been a romantic, and directed me to wait while she called Michelle from wherever she was working.
She was surprised and happy to see me (I think). Certainly happy to get some flowers on her birthday. And she took the time to pull me into some large utility closet where we sat for awhile a chatted, catching up briefly, before I left, never to see her again.
I believe I spoke to her once more on the phone briefly. And that was it. Until 17 years later. After she had faced some demons in her own life and prevailed, after marrying, and finding a life that is like "heaven," I received the following message via Facebook:
Michelle says, "Wow, I should have found you here first! I just sent a message to you on your myspace. Not even sure you remember me, but I have a few copies of your haiku poems and a short story titled, The _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Blues, that you wrote, so I figured I would try to catch up with you at some point- to no avail until now :) Hope all is well and look forward to hearing from you!!"
My dearest friend, how could I not remember you?
How could I ever forget?

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Day Democracy Died

There are some great things to report today. The film "Creation," (see, the earlier post Creation) debuts in this country this evening. Finally. I had the privilege of watching it the other night and it is a wonderful human drama, a bit sad of course, as could be expected when examining the death of a young daughter.
And I've been reacquainted with my long time friend, Michelle, who I traded Emails back and forth with last night, catching up, and remembering old times in that residence back in Pasadena. If this continues I may have to breakdown and buy an Iphone, and start texting all of the time like my lovely case manager, Erin.
But this post is not about today. It's about the 21st of January. No, I'm not talking about the birthday of Academy Award winners Paul Scofield and Geena Davis. Nor am I celebrating the anniversaries of the launch of the first nuclear powered submarine, the USS Nautilus in 1954, or gloating over the fact that Newt Gingrich became the first Speaker of the House of Representatives to be internally disciplined for ethical misconduct in 1997. No, I'm talking yesterday the 21st of January, 2010, the day this country changed from a democracy into a corporatocracy, or as Michelle would have it, a corpocracy, "because it sounds prettier."
Wikipedia tells us this about a representative democracy, that which the founding fathers provided us in the constitution: "There are two principles that any definition of democracy includes, equality and freedom. These principles are reflected by all citizens being equal before the law, and having equal access to power, and freedom is secured by legitimized rights and liberties, which are generally protected by a constitution. There are several varieties of democracy, some of which provide better representation and more freedoms for their citizens than others. However, if any democracy is not carefully legislated to avoid an uneven distribution of political power with balances, such as the separation of powers then a branch of the system of rule could accumulate power and become harmful to the democracy itself."
Yesterday in 5-4 decision, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Anthony Kennedy gave corporations the same powers of those of human beings, in so far as equating "free speech" to funneling the unlimited millions of dollars in their general funds toward influencing elections within this country.
What does that mean?
Yesterday our usual Thursday Cooking Club was canceled due to Paul and Erin being involved in a Bike Clinic that Paul had arranged from noon until 4 o'clock. Paul had gotten a gentleman from some bike shop to volunteer his time and expertise to fix the various bicycles the residents of the hotels may have that needed repairs. I walked over through the pouring rain to the Defiance Space to take a look at the proceedings, although I do not own a bike. I got there a little after noon, when very few people had arrived as of yet, just Paul, Robert, and one other gentleman I did not know. Snacks were provided. Cokes, bottles of water, donuts, and chips. Erin soon arrived and ate her lunch of Ramen noodle soup (she likes to keep the noodles long, like spaghetti) and a nice donut. Others trickled in. The bike guy showed up with all kinds of bike repair paraphernalia, and soon the place was abuzz with bike repairing activity. Except for Erin. She sat by herself, reading from some book on recognizing personality types, and texting on her Iphone, looking rather despondent (I've noticed that young, pretty girls feel lost whenever they find themselves not the center of attention, especially in a room full of men). I observed the various repair activities for awhile, asked questions about repair techniques, even helped Robert get his bike all oiled up ("Watch where you spill that stuff, Bob. This is where we do yoga"). When I got tired of watching and decided to go home I walked over to Erin to get my umbrella.
"You know Erin today is an historic day in our nation's history," I told her.
"Oh why? What happened?" she asked.
"The Supreme Court ruled that corporations have the same rights as human beings."
She looked puzzled, frowning a little, before asking, "What does that mean?"
"It means we're screwed," I told her.
We both smiled, and I told her I would see her tomorrow and returned to my box during a lull in the downpour.
In the case of Citizens United vs Federal Election Commission, which primarily dealt with corporate funds being used to produce and exhibit a anti-Hillery Clinton propaganda film during her bid for the White House, the 5 activist judges (conservatives love to bitch and moan, decrying "judicial activism" any and every time a decision is made that does not support their interests. Yesterdays decision is a true example of judicial activism) that authored the majority decision in this case, irresponsibly, and overwhelmingly overstepped their bounds to inject more corporate power within our political processes.
Time and time again, whenever the subject presented itself on this blog, I've maintained that the foremost problem this country faces is a dysfunctional political process, fostered by the federal governments dependence, and desire for the infusion of mass sums of money by special interests, and that the only possible solution to this problem, achievable through election reform is by way of publicly funded campaigns. Get corporate and special interest cash, the legal form of blatant bribery that now exists, out of the system. That is the only way our government can work to solve the myriad amount of problems this nation faces. The apparent failure of health care reform being a prime example of the current dysfuncionality our government now enjoys. But no one was talking about campaign finance reform. No one except maybe Thom Hartmann, and myself, and no one listens to me... not even my invisible cat Herkermer.
After yesterday's Supreme Court decision, they sure are talking about it now. And the trickle of cash that corporations could throw into the process yesterday, is nothing to what can happen today.
Today the flood gates have opened and our country may drown.

To be continued.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

How I Got Here

The following is an excerpt from an Email I sent to a very dear friend of mine who found me two days ago through these wonderful social networking systems like Facebook and My Space. Her name is Michelle, currently works as a flight attendant, and I haven't seen her in 17 or 18 years, and will tell that story soon. But since I've never told the below story before, I offer it:

First and foremost... and I've been thinking about how I should break this to you, or if I should even mention it, but I will always strive to be completely honest with you in all matters. Okay, here it goes... I have not been able to get through the copy of "Lonesome Dove," that you gave to me... yet. I'm still working on it though, and I have seen the mini-series with Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones, and I do own a copy, as a matter of fact I'm looking at it right now. It's looking back at me in a taunting fashion. I promise to redouble my efforts.

Okay, I'm glad that's off my chest. It's been bothering me for years. Time to move on.

By the way, I haven't had a cigarette this morning and feel fine. Not grumpy at all. Just the opposite in fact. I feel serene. Perhaps it's your influence and example. See, you've helped me once again. I had a little over two years before November, time to stop again because I always feel better when I don't smoke.

Alright, my sad tale: I was suspended from my job at the ARC for smoking a cigarette in the Sample Room of the residence after the Salvation Army had instituted a strict no smoking policy. My friend Reuben Smith (remember him?), then my assistant, turned against me and ratted me out. I was dismissed as manager, put on leave, where I promptly relapsed with booze. The Administrator was unsympathetic. It didn't help matters the he knew I had a crush on his wife, who had befriended me.

Anyway, I bounced around from ARC to ARC, Canoga Park to Carpentaria, where I got another desk job, and was assigned an intern for counseling named Julie, and we had an affair. She was my age, had an eating disorder, and basically used me to help end her 19 year marriage. She got pregnant, then my new counselor violated my confidentiality, told the administrator, I got the boot of course, and they dismissed her. She got an abortion and I relapsed. We remained close friends however for many years.

I finally entered a recovery home in Woodland Hills owned by a friend of mine. This would be the late 90s, 97, or 98, where I got a good job as a customer service rep (we both were, or are in the customer service industry I guess) at a company similar to AAA. I really liked it because I got to help people from all over the country who needed emergency road service. Very Satisfying, but they made a mistake and promoted me to a management position which I didn't care for as much. I relapsed, and moved to Bullhead City, AZ where my sister Cheryl lives, using settlement money (the city of Camarillo, where I lived threw me out of my apartment because they wanted to tear it down and build businesses, and had to pay me for it. I went back there a few years ago and my old apartment is still there). I drove into Bullhead on New Years Eve of 1999.

I got a job as an ATM tech, drove around all day getting the money out of ATMs and taking them into the banks. Had to wear a gun. My partner was a right wing wacko (it was Arizona for God's sake!), I wasn't getting along with my sister, got into money problems, relapsed, and moved, and eventually wound right back at the Pasadena ARC as a benecifiary. They threw me out after 26 days because they found out about the affair in Carpentaria. I was in the homeless shelter, Union Station, right down the street from the ARC, and was about to enter a recovery home when the first "Lord of the Rings" movie debuted.

You may not know this about me, Michelle, but I was a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings (now of course I'm sick of them) books, and had wanted to see this movie... real bad. So bad that instead of entering the recovery home I got drunk and went to the movie. For some reason they wouldn't let me in the recovery home after the movie was over. So I went and spent a few days at the USC hospital, went and saw the movie again while drinking a bottle of vodka, then checked myself into the Salvation Harbor Light facility here downtown. Now this facility was independent of the ARC system, so they let me in (at midnight). It was a wonderful place. All you did was go to three meetings a day, AA at night, no "Work Therephy." Stayed there for a year, got a job as a customer service rep for a company who contracted to the city to handle parking tickets.

Los Angeles is notorious for its predatory parking enforcement policies. They even had a PBS documentary about it. So my job entailed getting bitched at for 8 hours a day. One of the worse jobs I ever had, and the last one. Two months I lasted before relapsing.

I moved into the Weingart Center, in their Veteran's program, for another year. That was 2002.

My friend Ron (who I had met while still working at the Pasadena ARC. He had been the resident manager of the Los Angeles ARC before he relapsed and came to Pasadena) got me into the Las Americas Hotel, where I live now, under what is called the Shelter Plus Care program, which is just subsidized housing. I took my last drink the month I moved in, got interested in politics by the time the 2004 election came around, and started writing about it, social commentary, and science. I somehow, through no fault of my own, I assure you, got on SSDI for depression (who wouldn't be with George W Bush in office (if you're a conservative, I apologize, he is a wonderful man, doing fine work right now with Bill Clinton in Haiti!), got a computer, got that computer hooked up to this thing called the Internet, and on February 22 of last year began Joyce's Take. The rest you could say is... well documented.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What The F?!

Last night in a special Senatorial election in Massachusetts to see who would fill the seat previously held by Senator Edward Kennedy, and the democrats for the last 46 years, in a state considered in ways the most liberal in the nation, a state that just last year voted to send Barack Obama to the White House by over 21 percentage points, and whose junior Senator ran for President as a democrat just 4 years before; lost to a little known, upstart Republican state senator who has been compared to as a Dick Cheney mini-me, and which now topples the balance of power in the United States Senate from a filibuster proof 60 to 40, to a non-filibuster proof 59 to 41, and seriously threatens passing historic health care reform legislation.
What the F?!
How could this happen? How could the White House, the Democratic Senatorial Election Committee, and the candidate herself allow this to happen? I assume that all three were aware that this most important election was coming up, which is more than I can say for myself. That is that up until a few days ago there was no indication on the national radar that the election would be nothing else than a sure thing, remaining safely in the hands of the democrats, and ensuring that important legislation: health care reform, financial reform, climate change reform like Cap & Trade, would progress if not smoothly through the tortuous path of the Congressional law making process, than at least smoother. Hell, I've been sick and preoccupied recently and wasn't even aware the election was coming up until a few days before it occurred. That's not even okay for me... I should have been aware of a problem but wasn't. I should have been aware of the deteriorating situation in Massachusetts and should have been screaming about it since last December, when Martha Coakley won the democratic primary, made a pathetic victory speech, meekly invoking the memory of the great man who had preceeded her in the position she sought, sounding like Minnie Mouse with the bird flu, then taking off on vacation for several weeks. Sure she must have thought, for some reason still unknown to me, that the seat she sought would be safely hers no matter what she did, which turned out to be very little. After all, that seat had been safely held for the last 46 years, right? Massachusetts was the safest state in the Union for democrats, right? Yeah, I should have been aware of trouble brewing in that election, the opponent, Scott Brown quietly and surely marshaling his forces, building alliances, striking small, than deeper fissures in that stolid democratic wall. I should have seen that and commented on it, and indeed, I do hold myself responsible for the loss of the election, the future failure of health care reform, the loss of democratic control of Congress in the upcoming 2010 elections, and the eventual downfall of the entire nation, and civilization as we know it.
But I tend to place too much importance on my position. Gee, I live in a box off of Skid Row in LA.
And it's raining.
But I do enjoy this one cool slice of solace. It's really not my job to be aware of all that crap above and start screaming about it... well in a sense it is, but even if I were to have done it, it's certainly not my job, or am I in any sense in a position to do anything about it (other than scream). Other people are supposed to do that.
It appears that all three of those entities sited above, the White House, the Democratic Senatorial Election Committee, and the candidate herself were sick and preoccupied as well.
Still let's not let the voters of Massachusetts off the hook. They were the ones who voted Coakley in as the democratic candidate, then threw her under the bus when it came time to vote her into office.
Okay, despite the fact that Brown ran a chameleon campaign, using democratic colors at his rallies, and presenting his positions to sound more moderate than his history demonstrates he is (as did W.Bush in his bid for the presidency), despite the fact that media blow hards like Chris Matthews predicted and reported the election outcome as fact as much as a day before it occured, which must have influenced the very public that was expected to vote, and that even if Coakley ran a perfect campaign she still may have lost do to local concerns ("All politics is
local," declared Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill), and concerns with the national economic situation under control of a democratic President (forgetting the fact the downturn was inherited, and in a large part has been shored up by his policies), why in God's name would any thinking person believe that on a national level voting a Republican into office, thereby further hampering whatever possible progress that can eventually be made, make any kind of responsible sense whatsoever? If you have an answer dear reader please let me know, because I certainly can't figure it out. We vote Obama into office on a platform for "Change," give him a democratic Senate and House of Representatives (although I do admit their performance has certainly been at times shameful, especially the Senate), he begins the long process of cleaning up the mess of the previous Republican administration, then a year later because eveything isn't all milk and honey yet, we begin to take away his power to effect change because we're upset we haven't gotten everything we want fast enough. This type of behavior (and historical voting trend. The incumbent party typically loses seats in Congress in the next midterm election, which translates of course in losing the power to affect the policies the incumbent President was elected to perform in the first place, is an expected event) is that of a pissed off adolescent, not that of an informed public.
And whose job is it to inform the public? The Republicans certainly aren't shy about spinning their world view as fact.
Why was this election lost? Why has Obama's position been undermined. Because they simply weren't paying attention, like me.
I believe they're paying attention now.
I think we should all, myself, the President, and the committees responsible for running the elections for the two chambers of the democratic Congress, reread Sun Tzu's "The Art of War," in which he asserts that planning requires quick and appropriate responses to changing conditions. Then we may be able to appreciate Lord Toranaga's point of view near the end of the epic novel Shogun.
"It is stupid to lose...neh!"