Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Road to El Dorado, A Different Kind of Homeless Fifth Entry

Quartzsite and Tonopah behind us, we went to Mesa to visit friends. Our two vehicle caravan worked its way through the heavy Phoenix traffic and we were offered the chance to go work set up at the Renaissance Festival. We debated. We didn't really want to go there, neither of us had reason to motivate us to entertain there other than love of patrons and love of entertaining. We did want to see our friends and do a little work, to add to the coffers. When we warmed to the idea, it ended up vanishing due to plan changes. Ironic. Now we REALLY wanted to do faire.

Everyone says "Do what you love for a living." I love telling stories. I love experiencing life. I love entertaining. I love hearing laughter and creating magic. I love being able to pay bills and buy groceries too.

Last year was a year of learning lessons for me. It seemed like every hard lesson lined up to wallop me with a dose of "now don't forget it!"

 Never sign a contract you don't agree to, thinking you can get it made right later.

If someone doesn't offer you what you are worth, it isn't something wrong with you- don't stick around hoping that that will change, go find the folks who value you and give them your all.

Nobody is perfect, and never give someone loyalty just because they let you feed your ego a little; never do an agreement with a friend in trust or you may find that the friend isn't such a friend.

If it can rain on a weekend when you have permission to busk, it will.

Regardless of what you're told bubble magic in the street does not result in high tips, even when they love it.

El Dorado, we worked our way down the coast and down craigslist. Housesitting, Nursery work (tree farm), to seeking sales work or busking permissions at Quartzsite. El Dorado keeps dancing out of reach. The next El Dorados: busking outside of the Superbowl and Tuscon's many Gem and Mineral shows.

As we continue our Wal-Mart tour and I do contract work as we go, we've noticed the many signs in the Mesa and Apache Junction area discouraging the presence of transients. In fact, we've spent about five nights now in the area without sighting a single wandering soul. This morning I drove into Phoenix and met a pleasant man sitting outside a Jack in the Box smiling as he watched all the traffic flow past like water. He nodded at me, no signs or begging. Just a smile and a nod. A worker ran out and gave him a pack of cigarettes unasked for. He graciously thanked her. How did I know he was homeless? There is a look in the eyes, of seeing the world with detachment; wondering where the next miracle will come from. I gave him several tangelos; I've been carrying a bag of them in my car that were gifts picked from a friend's tree. Did you know if you have edible plants or fruit in your lawn, one of the most profound things you can do is pick it or allow others to come and "glean" it (pick it) to give to homeless or low income people in your area? You can even put it in a basket by the road that says "free" or share with your neighbors. Home grown produce is healthy and is a wonderful gift.

Gradually, my books sell; people ask about my jewelry and gigs come along just often enough to keep me floating forward in a beautiful free fall. Last night I talked with a good friend, Taylor Grant. Taylor is one of the best storytellers and puppeteers in the country. Taylor has lived most of his life in free fall and told me he envied me; life gets boring and predictable when you structure it. He has booths at several festivals making and selling wonderful products using his storytelling to engage patrons. He has given more smiles and joy in his life than a hundred people put together. I told him he is right, I have never lived in free fall until last year, and I am finding I enjoy it. I do not like the difficulty of getting approval or budgeted because our plans are so sporadic and unpredictable. Somehow that only makes the high points more rewarding.

Danny and I look at each other, time to search for El Dorado again. Agreed, time to busk; balloon animals on leashes even ghost and zombie ones! I can't help but add an artistic touch, with my sharpie markers the innocent balloons become goofy or gory in a few decisive squeaky strokes. Perhaps we will paint a backdrop and show up at street fairs doing the old guess your age and weight; perhaps he will do magic, cups and balls. Perhaps I will get out the paints, the dress and the hat and you will find me coated with paint, surrounded my incredulous and amazed painters as I weave their dreams. Or we could end up serving you food or selling you someone's creations; I might be the silent, dancing mascot you hug. I was Tony the Tiger last summer and hugged thousands of people at FanFest in Minneapolis.

In the stories, they never found El Dorado. Maybe we will, maybe we won't. Maybe we will find experiences worth more than gold and friends more priceless and unforgettable than any material good. Look around you today, are you on a different road to El Dorado? Are you chasing a chance? Are you spending the time you can living with the people you love, laughing, striving, and making memories that can never be lost? Too many people get so caught up in the chase, they miss the journey. We are on the journey and I am going to cherish every good and bad moment of it. Perhaps the road is the gold? I know that the cost I pay to spend the time I have with the person I care about the most is worth it, I will never regret it. We never know how long we have in this life, are you spending as much as you would like with the people you love or are you always putting it off for one reason or another?

I hope I see you on my journey. I hope to enjoy your smile and your laugh. Today I met two other Angelas at Starbucks in Phoenix. Angella had the most beautiful smile I have seen in a long time, like the sun coming out after a long rain. I consider it a good omen. She and her mother Sylvia were sweet; we talked for several minutes before continuing in our different directions. Three Angelas in a row ordering at Starbucks, the cashier just laughed. Things that never happen, that really do.

Angella is from Jamaica; she moved to the United States having wanted to experience life here when she was a child. She is a teacher and wants to travel the world when the time is right, to teach and experience other countries fully- not as a tourist. She values dreams and human connection, everything happens for a reason and to be happy you have to listen to your heart and live. Her words were as bright and sincere as her smile. Sylvia, her mother; was sweet and kind. The warmth of their two hearts was such that I was grateful for chance bringing our paths together in a coffee line. I told her to keep in touch and that I was writing about our meeting, which brought a bigger smile. Her words of wisdom to share: dream, live and travel. See the world, not as a tourist but really go places and learn the culture. Live and remember there are no coincidences.

Safe travels to all of you, wherever you choose to make your path. Hard paths are worth it. There are many paths.

Monday, January 26, 2015

First Entry: A Different Kind of Homeless

I noticed the first entry did not post! Here it is, from Palm Springs:

We left the comfort of staying indoors with friends, we drove south into the warm air of Desert Hot Springs. The first night of 2015 sleeping in the van again was tight and cramped. Sadhu, the cat was the most comfortable as he had the whole car to get comfortable in.

That night we heard a quiet click, then the beep of the van as if a key were in the ignition. We sat up! Someone was trying to steal the van- and we were in it! They heard us and the door burst open. They were gone like a doubt passing from thought. Danny looked around and saw no one. I fumed that I'm blind without my lenses in. We locked the van. We didn't sleep well. Should I mention it was in a hotel parking lot?! When I looked up Desert Hot Springs I found it was on the top 100 worst crime locations in the country, worse than big cities.

Day two, eye problems arose. I couldn't put my left lens in and it was painful to even open the eye. Problem: $120 to my name until after I do my contract work this week and get my book royalties later this month. Thankfully, a dear friend paypaled money and Wal-Mart vision center was great. After my job is done I have to go back Friday for a second eye exam. Parking lot camping continues. Wal-Mart was excellent to stay at. About a dozen other overnighters peppered the lot and it was quiet.

Last evening we spent the $7 each to go use hot springs pools and showers at Desert Hot Springs Spa and Hotel.
We met Allen, who is down from Oregon to take care of his dad in LA. He's working on a hydroponics idea. We traded cool places to go and discussed positive changes coming with hemp production in the US. He is vehicle camping too. Also a free spirit. If only people realized they could be free and happy was his thought.

Later we met a young couple in from Tahoe. They were disappointed by the chlorine in the mineral hot springs. Lee Caleb Pollock, metal sculpture artist who was here to sell his work at an Art show. We talked about traveling and different hot spring locations worth visiting. He mentioned trying to distance himself from his last name as he works hard to create beautiful artworks rather than gimmicks. Maybe one day, he will be the remembered Pollock.

We picked up trash in a public park, entertained local kids with our pets, and when a homeless woman threw garbage out her window and drove off- we threw it in the garbage cans. We see our vehicles as our home, we may be homeless but we don't have to fit the stereotype. 

This morning while writing this I watched a woman scout out clothing. We gave her food. I chased off a guy who started going through her things while she was in the clothing donation bin. When Danny talked to her, she was searching for blankets. She wasn't drugged, drunk, crazy or smelly. She was friendly and down on her luck.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Fourth Entry: A Different Kind of Homeless

Arizona welcomed us with a sunset that wrapped around the sky like a brilliant painting across the blue canvas sky. The streets we passed were full of row after row of thousands of RVs. Snowbirds gather every January through March in Quartzsite for various sales shows from rocks and minerals to RVs, antiques to socks. Quartzsite likely has a vendor for it somewhere in those months.

We thought to search for work doing sales or entertaining on the street or at a restaurant, but when we arrived we realized the slim likelihood. You see, there are several myths that travel through transient free spirit groups. Anyone can find high paying work trimming herb in Arcata, hippy myth.

We went to Arcata and watched dreadheads andvrainbows father in the park waiting for a mythological grower to come hire them and give them food, housing and riches. It might have been that way once for someone but it hasn't been like that in years. Locals are polite and eventually the hippies, jobless hitchhiker away after another El Dorado tale. Locals joke about the impossible seams of those world traveling job seekers. For fun they go by the park and loudly mention they might be hiring just to see everyone spring to attention. We did it, it was like shaking a treat bag for your beloved pet. The kids there were in their early twenties and were kind and clean, generally reminding each other lack of hygiene does not leads to work. We stopped by and house-sat for friends, not what you thought we'd be doing in Humboldt county, but shame on whoever is out there stereotyping a beautiful area off the ocean, with redwoods dotting the landscape. We enjoyed our visit, and the tour of the park with the homeless seekers of quick fortunes. Fortunes that are no more with legalization and regulations dropping prices. There are probably hopefuls sitting and waiting for that pipe dream employer that will never come even now.

You wonder why I mention this myth now? The other myth is "go to Quartzsite, you'll quickly find work and make crazy money." We arrived the day before the big Pow Wow gem show, which is not a pow wow if you're thinking ceremony and rocks like we were.

We joked that everyone was Danny's age, silver haired in new, fancy RVs and smiling when we met. The typical greeting was "So, where are you from?" Over 500,000 people, only about one thousand live in Quartzsite. We met three residents volunteering at the rock show. Every vendor we met took the time to talk and teach us more about stones, techniques and to encourage us to seek work selling in Tuscon as more vendors need extra help at that larger venue.

We ran into my age group and the generation after mine. I was embarrassed. They all looked like they rolled in the dirt, matted rather than dreadlocked their hair- there is a difference. One looks clean, organized while the other looks like a solid mass of hair that gives a hairbrush nightmares. They stunk like lack of hygiene demonstrated independence in some warped way. One guy crawled out from under a tree by a closed business, it was hard to decide which looked more abandoned and neglected. The business did not neglect or mistreat itself, whereas the guy walked with a fifth of hard liquor as he stumbled toward the gas station. It was midday.

About an hour later he was shouting and posturing to fight another guy with a similar Mad Max appearance in the McDonald's parking lot. The Police handled them, quickly and without drama. I noticed that vendors, patrons avoided them. One girl sat with a cardboard sign at McDonald's exit, it claimed that it was her birthday. A local complained that the group rotated through who held that sign. I guess every four days they had their birthday again. When that sign gets old they rotate to another heart rending sign. None of them went to any show or looked for work.

Ironic, they could legally panhandle but busking laws would have required us to get sales tax Id and buy a booth space at one of the sales shows- which only allow vendors with specific percentages of merchandise: fancy way of saying we don't want entertainment. I think if they had a taste of a few good buskers at each show it would enhance the shows rather than down class them like the cardboard panhandlers club did.

I met Spirit the second day in the truck stop parking lot. He had a cowboy hat and a smile. He spent his life driving a wagon with mules across the country until they started spraying pesticides on the side of the roads. He was in a unique position to witness the impact on wildlife, terrapins and pheasants died from it in large numbers. He started working for a cowboy and works in trade for food, housing and enough cash for a basic phone and needs. He's working making wagons in Blythe for a cowboy who's putting together a Wild West show and team rental of Myles and wagons for events.

Spirit is his given name and he tightened my bike chain and we talked of living life in nontraditional ways. He encouraged us to contact his boss and come out and work or visit anytime. He was content to live life appreciating the people and experiences, helping out as he can for free because he can. He said he could see that in me when he saw me, which was why he introduced himself. Spirit is 64 years young.

We went on to stay at Hot Springs that night after wandering a second day and buying more supplies from vendors at the Pow Wow show.

We met Dan, organic farmer and college drop out. Hyper active naturally and aware that it is a barrier in communication for him. He gets accused of being on drugs often as his attention rolls like mercury and his words race like a waterfall crashing over each other to be voiced. He loves to work the land. He loves organic and permaculture gardening.  He has friends who mine, who cut and sell stones. He wanders working for trade, currently working for a place to stay at the Hot Springs. He was frustrated, having beautiful stones and being giving he's been giving his mining pay away rather than selling it.

As we talked he said I need my stones sold, you are honest so I'm sending them with you. Sell them for me and I will get more to send with you. I want to be able to buy a truck eventually. I love being given random sales work for people who are giving. Giving back to them is rewarding. I'm carrying emeralds, kyanite, tourmaline, amazonite, apatite, and other stones in a box to show and sell as we go. I look forward to sending him money. It's refreshing to run into someone in my age group who walked away and is living as they choose. He works for food, he works for his place to live in his tent and he enjoys his experiences. He says more people should take a break to go out and live and work the world. He's always been frustrated taking to people and dealing with the suspicion of methods, when his teeth and behavior don't fit that pattern but they do fit attention deficit with social anxiety. If he could change one thing it would be how people respond to him, the faster he talks the more self conscious he gets. He prefers not to talk very often for that reason and often avoids social situations.

I understood, I spent a year in speech therapy as a child because my words rushed out in incomprehensible torrents. My Speech therapist taught me how to deal with my social anxiety so that I could speak more clearly and slowly. I knew when he first spoke, when I heard the hammered presuure in the words and saw the look in his eyes that his speech patterns shamed him. If you've ever had to deal with your own issues, you can recognize them easily when you encounter them. It makes you instant kin.

As we drove to Mesa we thought of a sad sight north of Niland. A cattle farm in the California desert with the cows stuck in stanchions in a desolate hell under the sun with nothing but a narrow band of aluminum or tin to give them partial shade. No room to move. Hundreds of them. I grew up next to a dairy farm. This was not how cows should be kept. No roaming, no fields. No shade or barn other than that narrow band of metal. I didn't recognize the farm name, I'm going to try to track it down to see if we happened past at a milking time and misconstrued it as how the animals are always kept. Those cows were not happy California cows like the ones in the Atwater area. It's amazing what you see when you wander the country in a car.

In the words of a trucker we met last night, "everyone spends their time doing things they don't like. People should spend more time with the people they love, doing what they love. No matter how much money you make there will always be enough bills to leave you with nothing but a pot to piss in. More people should see the world, travel, talk to strangers and do what you love while you live." He was headed to California on his route. I love my anonymous friends, we can always find friends and will still be friends if we meet again. I hope you have some too. If not, start making them- you'll be amazed where they've been.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Third Entry: A Different Kind of Homeless

Leaving Palm Springs behind, we headed through Joshua National Forest. We camped for the night in the park then headed down to Slab City.

Slab City is a land where it is free to live, a community of travelers without cohesive rules other than take care of your own trash.

We drove south in California until we saw signs for hot springs, wanting a shower and a relaxing soak we diverted. $10 later we sat in mineral hot springs outside Niland California visiting with people living in the RV park. Snowbirds, people who live in RVs and travel with the weather- retirees who enjoy the desert winter and northern summer. They talked of favorite travel places and shared stories. They love their mobility.

We made it to Slab City about two hours before sunset. Graffiti art led us to Salvation Mountain and beyond welcoming us to Slab City. Salvation mountain was a painted mountain with man made life size art structures built in and around it. Tourists crawled over and through it like ants on a pastel birthday cake or a Dr. Seuss bible school paper mache display. God is love towered over the shadows.

We looked at camps spread across the desert. Rusted bits of garbage peppered the landscape. I wanted a giant dumpster and gloves. We found a place to park and I explored while Danny set up camp. I walked beyond the RVs, trees, tents and makeshift structures to rolling hills covered with atv tracks.

A man was coming out of the desert. It felt practically Biblical, he politely introduced himself as a priest, named David. We talked about the slabs, he said being there reminds you that your first responsibility is to take care of yourself. His faith believes we are all responsible for every choice we make, that every choice should be a good one. He encouraged me to visit Salvation  Mountain.

We made sure before we arrived that we had enough water. There is no water there. I was glad as the sun beat down on my walk to and from the mountain.

I went to the mountain, the artwork was impressive, painting on haybales coated with hardened mud. Mud flowers, kind words, compassion, decorations made of a myriad of discarded objects. Tourists exploring, occasionally looking at the primitive and off the grid camps around the mountain.

The night was quiet, the stars were bright, lights flashed from a silent fire truck and ambulance that went to another camp and left dark. The morning brought a visit from Dave. Dave moved to the Slabs two months ago after leaving St. Paul, he was excited to get his trailer today. One of his friends helped him move, he was actually leaving to rent an apartment as his medical health needed him to have more access to water. They both said five people died by staying the summer without preparing with enough water or means of cooling  themselves. They stressed the importance of hydration and taking care of oneself. They asked how long we were staying and we were invited to social events.

I took a bike ride to scout out the hot springs near Salvation Mountain. There was a cardboard sign asking volunteers to help clean the hot spring. I rode up and looked at a refreshing natural bubbling hot spring, muddy water with a clear cold spring around the corner to shower off at.

I met an older man in a kilt with short hair and two long grey dreadlocks. Cuervo with his dog Blackie. Cuervo lives in a hay and mud structure he built in Slab City. Hay is free, mud is free. We looked at Salvation Mountain, he asked what I thought so I told him. It was an amazing artwork, I'm not religious but it was impressive. Cuervo smiled and kept working out with his dumbbells. "God is Love. Love is God. Now look at it that way. Really that's how all religions should look at it. That's what it's saying." It looked different with that in mind. Love is God.

Chocolate Jesus stood with a smile, his pants a patchwork of protest against ignorance, hate, and violence. He was a college student on break, living with his guitar and backpack. Playing his way up and down the beautiful, free places in California. He was shocked at the news of world events. Cuervo asked what I thought was wrong with the world, why it had gotten so far from love. Another man told me later that every night at the Hot Springs there are metaphysical debates on the self as well as the world.

I had the feeling talking to Dave that no one is overeager to pick up trash as it might encourage more people to come.
As we prepared to leave we met John, who travels and lives in free camping areas year round. John gave us pointers for Yuma and Quartzite. We delighted in waving at a man flying his motorized glider over the Slabs.

David, the priest told me that most who live at Slab City have some sort of income they use to get water, food and supplies. Everyone travels somewhere else for the hottest part of summer unless they have a set up with air conditioning.

As we left, a group of people set up an EZ up to give away cell phones. There was a sign from a church on a wellness outreach Saturday. Saturdays hold music night on the stage, Sunday offers church.

It was the largest primitive campground I've been to, reminding me of the many primitive campgrounds I've stayed in for two months or more at a time working renaissance festivals. Except rennies would build more and use free pallets to build with. I was surprised that few did, most burnt them as free firewood, leaving patches of rusted nails on the ground where you hope your tires manage to avoid them.

As we drove out, the graffiti warned us that we were now entering reality.

We didn't make it to Yuma early enough to go to Fortuna pond to enjoy free camping on the BLM land as suggested by John, but we have settled for the night among the RVs at Super Wal-Mart. Tomorrow, Quartzite and the largest RV outdoor market event of the winter in the southwest.

Living on campgrounds, living in a vehicle is yet another lifestyle of those who wander, another way of demonstrating that "not all who wander are lost" and not all who are transient are homeless. There are many definitions of Home.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Second Entry on A Different Kind Of Homeless: A Week Living In A Car

A week of parking lot hopping, meeting friendly folks who have faded from society and survive despite it. Curling up between duffels of clothing and nestling under my coat has been comfortable in the southern California nights. Days have been filled with finding places to charge my phone, use the internet and eat. It's hard to prepare food in your car, in a parking lot.

Valerie moves her location during the week, her message to everyone is "Please do not be blind and silent. Please, if you see someone committing acts of violence against women, children or homeless people call for help, make your presence known. Do not be a silent accomplice." She says it's the worst feeling when someone threatens or hurts her while people just look away and ignore it.

Greg was hopeful, he's working on improving his situation. He tends his three dogs and always has a smile. It can't be easy.

We met Michael, from Canada who came down to tend his parents when they were ill. After they died, his sister took everything. His parents should have done a will. She lives in a mansion in Santa Barbara while he survives in his old car. He is frustrated at how the country has changed. When he came in the sixties everything was different. People were friendly, now he says people act standoffish. He has a sprained ankle, but isn't from California so he hasn't pursued medical assistance. I gave him information from a local shelter and food. I looked at his ankle. He said it has been a long time since he met people like "they used to be" - His message: be human first. Stop accepting things, start living and caring, quit choosing to live unhappily.

We also met Enrico, with a friendly smile. He's living out of his car here too. Quite a little community.

RVs come and go, with travelers and wanderers bearing a myriad of stories within them. Even the night I spent at Oxnard in the Wal-Mart lot I wondered if their donation bins had someone dreaming quietly inside. I hadn't realized those bins are the metaphorical watering holes for the truly homeless.

Here in the valley of wealthy and prestige, there are shadows and desperate, defiant survival of forgotten folks. Valerie telling me through tears and the walls of the donation box that she ate from a garbage can again and contemplated the offer of a millionaire for sex for $20- as it was more than enough to feed her for the day. She chose hunger instead, so I chose to share my food. Her dignity should be worth more than $20.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Wal-Mart Camping View

Goes with A Different kind of Homeless

The First Entry: Life from my car, a different kind of homeless

We left the comfort of staying indoors with friends, we drove south into the warm air of Desert Hot Springs. The first night of 2015 sleeping in the van again was tight and cramped. Sadhu, the cat was the most comfortable as he had the whole car to get comfortable in.

That night we heard a quiet click, then the beep of the van as if a key were in the ignition. We sat up! Someone was trying to steal the van- and we were in it! They heard us and the door burst open. They were gone like a doubt passing from thought. Danny looked around and saw no one. I fumed that I'm blind without my lenses in. We locked the van. We didn't sleep well. Should I mention it was in a hotel parking lot?! When I looked up Desert Hot Springs I found it was on the top 100 worst crime locations in the country, worse than big cities.

Day two, eye problems arose. I couldn't put my left lens in and it was painful to even open the eye. Problem: $120 to my name until after I do my contract work this week and get my book royalties later this month. Thankfully, a dear friend paypaled money and Wal-Mart vision center was great. After my job is done I have to go back Friday for a second eye exam. Parking lot camping continues. Wal-Mart was excellent to stay at. About a dozen other overnighters peppered the lot and it was quiet.

Last evening we spent the $7 each to go use hot springs pools and showers at Desert Hot Springs Spa and Hotel.
We met Allen, who is down from Oregon to take care of his dad in LA. He's working on a hydroponics idea. We traded cool places to go and discussed positive changes coming with hemp production in the US. He is vehicle camping too. Also a free spirit. If only people realized they could be free and happy was his thought.

Later we met a young couple in from Tahoe. They were disappointed by the chlorine in the mineral hot springs. Lee Caleb Pollock, metal sculpture artist who was here to sell his work at an Art show. We talked about traveling and different hot spring locations worth visiting. He mentioned trying to distance himself from his last name as he works hard to create beautiful artworks rather than gimmicks. Maybe one day, he will be the remembered Pollock.

We picked up trash in a public park, entertained local kids with our pets, and when a homeless woman threw garbage out her window and drove off- we threw it in the garbage cans. We see our vehicles as our home, we may be homeless but we don't have to fit the stereotype. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

I Wish I Could Say Corporate Greed Is Absurd

It is not. It is terrible. The headlines have a repeating theme. Jobs cut. Positions moving to overseas locations because companies can reduce costs by paying lower wages in other countries. The t-shirt you are wearing, that you cheaply bought? Was it made in Haiti by someone who only earned $6 whole dollars in a day to make it? You find that an acceptable business practice? Capitalism all the way? Someday, you'll be the rich person that can laugh as you sit on the backs of faceless people who think they are getting good wages in a poor country? Six dollars is good wages in a day in Haiti? T-shirts not a good enough example, why not call centers that keep sliding out of the country claiming U.S. workers cost too much to pay. Companies do not do it to nurture employees or foster a work environment of growth. Money is the bottom line. What should be a business cost has become a CEO bonus. Why not create laws that force corporations to invest money that would have gone toward paying American workers in the United States or in the countries they are using, by going to the services of the lowest bidder. Say Great Generic T-Shirts makes their sweatshop in Haiti. They pay out $6/day for the year. The difference that they would have paid with US workers is identified on their taxes and they pay it. They designate it to social and environmental programs.
It is absurd that we think it is okay for someone to get paid less than what their work is worth. Two skilled workers doing the same job should not be paid differently just because they come from different cultural backgrounds and live in different geographical areas.
It is absurd to be angry at people making minimum wage in a society where the cost of living continues to climb; do we expect minimum wage earners to just be happy without enough to meet their basic needs? Perhaps we can build them a couple of churches to pray at, that would be nice. That way they have a place to just deal in wholesale hopes and dreams and the consolation of the intangible love of some greater force. Something to take the edge off their rumbling stomaches and thundering bill collectors or maybe I am just being absurd.
Before you get angry at me for defending the lower class, I think that most professionals are underpaid. Working in Psychology with a degree I could get less than $20 an hour. Good pay was around $10. I know lawyers making $10/hour. The military is highly underpaid. Highly, and I am amazed they haven't figured out that they could use their training to force a reorganization of the government away from Corporate control. My Political Science Professor always said that intelligent legislators always pay their military and veterans well because "they are the people with the weapons and the training." Perhaps Washington has forgotten that in the constant need to dance to the tunes of corporate wishes and dollars.

One other idea, perhaps equally absurd but possibly effective. Why not set a certain amount of money to spend on political campaigns based on what type they are (Congress, Senate, Presidential). Each candidate competes to raise money that is donated to address the deficit. Deficit gone, then it goes to social programs. Their campaign funding gets spent on paying debt and gets put into social programs. So if all three presidential candidates are only allowed to spend $3 million on a campaign and they appeal to the public through speeches and fundraising (which they already do) to fundraise. Let the public see what good they can do. Let us vote based on what we think of how they spent the money they were given. All donations registered and made transparent. Let us decide based on the amount of good they do. Why are elected positions the only ones that let us (the actual employers) review resumes, references and work histories? Why do elections seem to run on rumor mongering and hearsay? Why do we allow ourselves to forget that they are ALL reading speeches written by PROFESSIONAL SPEECHWRITERS who ARE PAID to MANIPULATE us. If we are going to make politics entertainment, there should be constant disclaimers going across the screen.

Learn about the Barnum Effect, while you laugh and affiliate based on generic similarities to different groups- the very characteristics you pride yourself in are the ones that cold analysts are watching, adjusting their puppets behaviors and words to mollify and stroke the egos of those who feel they are included in a group. That a group specifically represents them, when it really doesn't- it's just the average, generic description. It is used successfully in advertising. Doubt me? Ever seen any pharmaceutical commercial? Ever? They listed the symptoms. How many did you have? You listened, you checked and you wondered if it applied to you. I remember one really ambiguous one that showed a woman walking down the beach. I wondered if it applied to me. Then I heard erectile dysfunction. Well, being female I was amazed at how only the last words of the narrator talked to the men watching.  In psychology, they joke about the Barnum Effect. They apparently never talk to advertisers.

We perpetually defend the rights of the Corporation. Why? Why do they have more rights and freedoms than the individual? Did you know that a Corporation can kill someone, two someones, hell- let's be absurd… a thousand someones and not be criminally charged? It has to do with the status of a Corporation. If you or I have a drink too many and make the terrible mistake of getting behind the wheel, we pay the price and potentially get sued for millions more than we will ever be worth for a mistake; yes a REALLY STUPID and WE SHOULD NEVER BE SO STUPID mistake but a mistake. No driver I have ever met at any bar has ever said "Hold on, I just have to drive home so I can kill some total stranger." No one has ever said it. Maybe we need posters that say this at the exits of bars, to remind people whose judgement is reduced with a bit of sarcasm the folly of their plan. In fact, it is absurd that all locations selling alcoholic beverages don't have graphic warnings at the door or free drinks for designated drivers. I have been a volunteer designated driver before, It felt good to know the roads were safe those nights. You are wondering why I bring this up, misjudgment and accident. Corporations knowingly make decisions that put profits before harm to the public. Remember the car companies getting into trouble over fudging injuries and fatalities to stall out expensive recalls? I remember. Google it. Fascinating and grim reading. People died because of faulty vehicles. Corporations did not face criminal charges. They paid settlements. A lot of settlements. They didn't get a record, spend a night with the mythological Bubba and a bar of soap. They didn't even get a slap on the wrist. They got stern looks and continued using formulas to determine the largest profit ratio, how many settlements could be knowingly arranged and paid out while still allowing the company to sit tight on profits. And as an aside, never, NEVER, drive after you have been drinking! No more bad stories from tragic misjudgments needed!

Industries cut corners. Corporations change ingredients and use fillers. They read the laws, then take a fine toothed comb to them, they figure out how to manipulate appearances. Packaging and labeling, even descriptions and ingredient lists change based on public response. Recoil from High Fructose Corn Syrup, then watch for "Corn Sugar" as it is the same thing with a new nickname, one without the stigma of the commonly known name. That is as absurd as trying to look smart by calling a Pigeon a "Rock Dove" - which incidentally, is it's less common name.

T-shirts. So have you checked your labels? Do you know where your t-shirts come from? A friend recently gave me a t-shirt. I recognized the brand. I have had other shirts from them. This will be the last. I will keep it to remind myself of their practices. Gildan. They have a factory in Haiti. They pay workers $6 a day to turn wages into profits. They are using people. People are a resource.

We all have value. The world has value. What can we do to change things? To treat the world and each other like we all have intrinsic value would not be absurd, it would be human. It would be progress.

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Absurdity of Dishonesty in Media in the Digital Age

Last night I played with photo editing apps on my phone and with a few deft taps I became an alien. Green smooth skin, hint of a mouth, giant black eyes.

Just because something starts as truth or observation does not mean that with a few taps, strong words and poignant images that it remains truth. Perhaps we should be teaching children about what truth is, about how to research and weigh information. When I was in graduate school they told us that primary school through undergraduate school classes were to teach people how to do what they are instructed and to do basic research, accepting the sources found as accurate.

Graduate school teaches you to lead, to weigh the veracity of information and information sources to stop assuming. Shouldn't we teach children not to assume? Why should we perpetuate an education system that doesn't empower development of independent thinking skills and problem solving? Are we afraid that children will turn on us? Sadly, I think it is more likely to happen when we continuously dismiss them, enable them, excuse them, and teach them what respect and honesty aren't. The plots of many children and teen programs are about how stupid adults are and how to successfully lie and manipulate them. Why? Why isn't it absurd?

I remember the newspapers before 9-11. I remember the headlines. The country was considering impeachment of George W. Bush. Then 9-11 happened. All the sudden, he was the symbol of something and the country forgot how just days before we were beyond frustrated with his lies and ineptitude. It is hard to dig up the articles on good ole George and impeachment now in the shadow of the horrific impact of 9-11. I am not going to go on about 9-11. In fact, I want to remind you that there was an earlier 9-11 in Chile in 1974.

I want to remind you that it is public knowledge that our CIA and  government supported terrorist actions against the government there, and it wasn't an evil overlord that got cast down. It was a democratic government. The atrocities committed by the terrorists we funded and supplied were terrible, and somehow that word just doesn't lend itself to the true impact of how bloodthirsty and malignant the new, violent regime was. It was about profits. It wasn't about supporting a democracy, or we never would have supported taking down a democracy. So when you say 9-11 I am reminded of the truth. Our horrific event was set on the anniversary of another horrific event; a clue from terrorists that we are hypocrites. I'm talking about "we" as a country.

Do you know that we have never formally apologized as a country to Chile for our involvement? The CIA was found guilty of atrocities and torture, yet a verbal slap on the wrist is all they get when the feeble excuse for committing heinous acts of torture on human beings was "we got some information, kind of…" Although, when told to spit it out and say what they got, they couldn't do anything other than generalize. Stop. There is no justification for torture. If you would not torture someone personally, then you should be vocal about pressuring your government to stop representing you this way. Become aware of how our country is perceived by the rest of the world. They don't see our communities, people volunteering or working together. They don't see us trying to implement recycling programs. They see us bombing, they see us sending in soldiers and randomly picking sides, they see us empowering cartels to murder and dominate through our fabricated war on drugs to once again, increase a profit for someone. The wars that happen continuously in the Middle East are about profit not really prophet. We could take the powder out of that keg by developing and producing transportation that doesn't operate off fossil fuels. Remember supply and demand? Demand goes away, doesn't matter what supply is.

Isn't it past time for the CIA to hang up it's hat? How about creating a World Relations Department that has a focus of fostering good, healthy relations with other countries? Perhaps if we focused on that instead of on the need to foster fear and profit off fear, we could start becoming a respected member of the global community instead of an oversized moronic bully. It is up to us.

It is the digital age. My fingers can dance on keys and call up news from other countries to see what the six news sources in the US aren't saying while they hyper focus on soap opera fluff. I can watch lies unfold and impact. Currently I am dumbfounded. We apparently, really don't like North Korea. After the Sony hack, experts in cyber-crimes investigated. Their findings do NOT point at North Korea, they point HERE in the U.S. however our government doesn't like the North Korean one. Instead of standing up straight, tall, and honestly our President lied to excuse sanctions. Why? Can't we put on our big man pants and say "We are sanctioning you because of your human rights violations" which would be completely honest. For some reason that isn't a good enough reason, so we exaggerate and toss in the hack they probably didn't do. We lose credibility, Korean dictator gains. His reply was honest, frank, and sadly called us out on our dishonesty. Why aren't we calling for accuracy in international relations? There should be a leash that we as citizens can tug on to say "hey, be honest with the world." I try to be as honest as memory allows me to be, we all forget things now and then. I do not like being represented with lies.

It is flu shot season. They do some good for some people, so if you get them great and if you don't great. Your choice, and I respect that. Did you notice there has never been a long term research study on the overall health impact of getting yearly flu shots? Did you know that one of the issues with flu shots that is overlooked is the uncertainty of whether or not it is actually good for the immune system? Last week, the news talked about how the latest flu has mutated so much that the flu shot doesn't have an effect on it. Now, wait a week. This week, the newspaper encouraged everyone to go get flu shots as it could potentially help, although it won't. It was the most unusual article and the writer had to try hard to sound positive. Someone wanted an article nudging people to get the shot, someone wants a profit. Thankfully, my memory lasts more than a week. I went back and read both articles side by side. Funny. As if we should have a reset button in our heads, that the media pretend gets pushed when they want to manipulate our lives.

We all have the power to reach beyond what is presented to us, we can ask for more or seek out different sources. We can start establishing what we will and will not accept from our 'leadership,' we can say no more lies. We can vote, we can protest, we can pressure to chance legislation. We can peacefully stand and say "We want accountability. transparency. honesty." Why not? Why not start working to heal some of the issues that are unhealthy about our country? It is absurd not to.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Enable versus Empower Healthy Change for 2015

Our society boasts of what we do for our children. We take the fangs and claws from the world and present a fuzzy pink version with anime eyes. We structure their time. We teach them to take tests. We teach them to follow the rules. We do for them. We wonder why they tune us out, why we can't seem to connect. We wonder why they don't respect anything or anyone. Popular mainstream songs suggest sex as a new religion since religion says everyone starts out flawed. Why not start the year by starting to empower our children rather than enable them. Let's teach them to be responsible, let's teach them to strive toward bettering the world. Why gloss over the struggles other children face and focus our children on being self centered and  absorbed on how they look and what they absolutely have to buy. Why not teach them to have substance, to problem solve, to have empathy? Empowering is offering someone the chance to do for themselves, they may succeed or not. Support them, offer them open ended questions and let them work it out. Stop cutting the crusts off the bread. Stop scheduling their days down to the minute. How will they ever learn to appreciate time, goal set and create their own schedules? When you schedule someone to the hilt, what they learn is to live in a routine. They learn to squander free time as if it was just time to wait. It is absurd that people could choose to live life as if it is a waiting room. A beautiful world with more than a million potential REAL experiences, instead we sit and kill time matching shapes or pushing buttons mindlessly on video games. Nothing gained, but time lost that could have been spent appreciating a gorgeous day, a loved one's laugh, learning a new skill or having a meaningful conversation. How do you teach your child to be conscious of the world? What responsibilities do you give your child to foster growth rather than a perpetual child that becomes an adult in age but not maturity? Why is college the new high school? Why doesn't that sound absurd?

Parenting Tips to Stop Enabling Kids - More4kids
Too Much Structure Can Harm Your Child - Dr. Jenn Berman

Did you know that Monarch Butterflies may join the endangered species list? We just have to kill off milkweed with pesticides, as we are more important than the environment. Can't have a few milkweed plants on the farm, fuck some stupid bug? It's not a big deal? There are millions of insects. I happen to think of them as a symbol of life. They are a living work of art. The species has it in their genes to migrate, it takes generations of them to make the migration. Did you think that a monarch butterfly in New York really wings it all the way to Mexico? It may take three or more generations as they make the transition. When I was a child I was taught that monarchs stay in their cocoons all winter. The same teacher told us the next day that it was going to be a harsh, cold winter. I went home and gathered up my mother's empty cardboard jewelry boxes with cotton in them. I went out with my wagon to the milkweed patches. I carefully gathered the cocoons and put one in each box. I put the boxes under my bed where they would be undisturbed and unnoticed. Two weeks later, my mother got home from work and opened the door to over thirty monarch butterflies that burst out into the autumn breeze like orange and black confetti. She never knew why. I was furious because I found that one wasn't strong enough to knock the lid off the box. I would not have left the lids on had I known it would only take two weeks rather than four months for the butterflies to emerge from the cocoon. I went back and confronted the teacher about being wrong. She had the gall to tell me that I was just a kid and didn't know what I was talking about. Come on teachers, research what you teach and don't condescend. Accept that when you say it, kids are going to test it, and they might just prove you wrong or misinformed. Teach them! Empower them. The answer should not be C or all of the above, or pick the longest one as it is usually right. Sadly, I joke about this but my classmates in public and private school found these tactics to work for an average to better than average test score. Did they learn anything or just learn to take tests? I learned from monarch butterflies that part of learning is experience, that you can't always find the answers you are searching for and the best intentions can be the worst choices. Putting the cocoons away for safe keeping against the cold winter was enabling and in the end cost one fragile life. Empowering would have been leaving them on the plants where they belonged. I cared so much I wanted them all to live and by smothering them I failed at the very goal I strove to succeed at. Good lesson for every child to learn, good lesson for every adult to learn. What are monarch butterflies to you? What can you do to help rebuild the populations- empowering a species survival? In Mexico, stop deforestation of habitat there, in the United States stop treating milkweed as a weed. Plant it in your gardens, protect it as a species as it goes hand in hand with the survival of the monarch butterflies. I want to be remembered as someone who chose to improve the world, not as someone who defiled it and turned a blind eye to the abuses others in my species perpetuate on it. 2015, a new year and a new chance to stand up.

Learn about Monarch Butterflies

  Scanning through pins and tweets this morning I noticed that any pictures showing women had once sentence bites about how women have to look their best, and men better like beer and tits. I was saddened that only one article and picture had substance. I was depressed by the substance there.

Oriental cultures do not seem to grasp the importance of valuing species and not trying to exploit endangered species. Japan stop hunting dolphins and whales. Seriously. There is research that demonstrates dolphins have their own language. How do we rate as a species, when we choose to tolerate the callous murder and abuse of another intelligent species? Today, I read about Chinese farms where tigers are raised to turn into pelts and a bone wine that allegedly gives people the feeling that they've temporarily relieved arthritis symptoms. No research to support it, and it is illegal to kill tigers or sell the bone wine; interest was flagging as it was considered terrible. Social pressure decreased sales. Then the farms cropped up and pushed to make sales, they fostered interest. Poachers got back to work in India and other countries to supply bone wine so a few people could claim a little relief, I wonder what miracles would befall them if they tried a dose of ibuprofen or cider vinegar? There are options that do not involve destroying a beautiful species out of self centered, egocentric thinking. We really need to break out of the mold of considering ourselves the only and most important creatures in the world. In a world without diversity, there is no survival or sustaining population. Don't believe me, get a petri dish. Colonize it with one type of singular celled organism. They consume all of the resources there and eventually die out. Life needs life.

Japan Is Back in the Hunt for Whales -

Learn more about tiger farming

I picked on the orient, but how about a little home introspection? Many of you have heard me gripe loudly against fox and coyote penning. You think America is above abhorrent hobbies? Think again. Fox and coyote penning involves having fenced in areas that usually have electric wire on the top and bottom to keep the prey in, then hunters set packs of dogs loose in the cage. They bet on which dog will rip the fox or coyote up. They watch. They pay people to do this on private land in a lot of eastern states. You thought your local hunting club only went out on British style free release fox hunts? Think again. They justify it claiming it is humane and that they are hunting pest animals, but it's okay because they were raised on farms. These sound logical to you? Stop supporting them. Stop supporting farming animals for their pelts, that doesn't make it any better. You don't look sexy wearing a fox or coyote tail, or putting a fox face skin mask on your head. Support a face painter, get a painting of a fox instead or a mask. Many artists do lifelike masks that don't leave me thinking of Leatherface when I see them. It just advertises your willingness to endorse apathy to another species. The older I get, the less tolerant I become. I choose to purchase meat and eggs from local farms that use responsible practices. I don't support mistreatment of animals. Dog fights and the culture that fosters them still perpetuates abuse of animals. We can choose to pressure people to stop. We can choose to support legislation to punish abusive animal owners instead of just slapping them on the wrist with a little fine. We can change this, it is absurd that we have not. Let's start 2015 right. Let's start by changing how we respect other species.

Fox Penning : The Humane Society of the United States
Coyote & Fox Penning - Project Coyote

I don't support abuse toward humans either. I picked up the paper to read an article on South Korea. While you are all hating on the ruler in North Korea, did you know that South Korea has a BIG problem with slavery? No? I didn't until this morning. There was a story about a homeless man offered a job and a place to stay. He jumped at it, only to find it was slave labor at a salt mine. He was not paid. The man who turned him in was paid $700 for him. Living accommodations were appalling. He and others tried to escape and were returned by community members who were corrupt and supported the slave owner. They were beaten. They did not consent to being slave labor in salt mines. The local police were paid off to look the other way and help return escaping slaves. The story ended on the happy note of the man getting a letter out to his mother one of the times he tried to escape. His mother went to the authorities in Seoul, who went undercover and caught the slave owner. The problem is, he wasn't the only one. There are more who do it, and they offer money to turn a blind eye. Before we scowl at Korea, don't we let lobbyists pay our legislators to shape legislation with regard to who has the money versus the wellbeing of constituents? How absurd it is that we haven't pressured changes to legislation to stop lobbyists? Did you know that most Congressmen retire to become lobbyists and get three times the pay they got in Congress? Did you know that, when these one time legislators were interviewed they all said they get more accomplished now as lobbyists than they did as Congress? Maybe we should be picking our lobbyists instead of wondering at the ineptitude of elected officials who are being paid by private interests to be inept! New year, new start. We have to be honest with ourselves if we want to make real, positive change. If we want a better year to be more than just a yearly lip service we do as a ritual without really attending to it.

The Facts – The CNN Freedom Project: Ending Modern-Day …

Let's set some goals for the year, choose to treat our own bodies with respect. Choose to respect the world as something other than a resource to use. We are not ticks and leeches, let's demonstrate that. Let's teach our children to be capable, mature adults. Let's empower them and each other, let's stop enabling.