Can I Kiss You?

She could see him sitting there inside the dimly lit café before she opened the door. There was nothing special about him. He was a tall blonde man with blue eyes. She preferred men with green eyes and dark hair. Tall. Right. He was tall. He was taller than her but she stood nearly six feet, at least a head above most of her friends. Anyway, he stood to greet her when she came through the door. That was when she noticed how tall he was. They met online four months before that night and she had never asked about his height or physique. In his photos, he appeared friendly but was scruffy and unkempt. The boy that met her at the door was clean cut and well dressed. Not attractive, but nice-looking.

“Hey Madison,” he said to her at the door, “you’re really tall.”

He’s a nerd. The girl laughed and displayed her teeth, straight on top and crooked on bottom. She was overdressed and her bobbed hair was pinned to her head. Overdressed. Let me think. It was a cool evening. Not cold. She was wearing layers and a scarf. Everything was left to the imagination. “Hi, how are you?” she asked without breaking the smile.

“Good. This place is cool.” She picked the place knowing he like small coffee houses. After nodding her agreement, she moved gracefully but quickly around him to sit on the bench behind the table where he had been seated before she entered.

“Yes,” she had said while she moved. “This is one of my favorite places.” He could tell she wasn’t physically interested in him, so he pulled the chair at the opposite side of the table with every intention of sitting across from her. The wooden legs of the chair scooted along the floor with hollow squeaks.

“No no no,” she said quickly. The smile had not faded. “Come sit with me.” Her dark golden eyes were fixed on the bright blue of his.

“Ok.”

He’s nervous. She watched as he shuffled around the table. He sat with a reasonable distance between them. His body was muscular and his jawline was square. The girl named Madison could see his freckles now, in the low light of the dining room. They were faint on his jagged cheekbones. His hair was lazily combed with a curl falling just off-center on his forehead, above his left eye.

“Thanks for coming to meet me on such short notice,” he started the conversation. “I was supposed to meet someone else tonight but we pushed that back until tomorrow.”

“It’s fine.” Her smile had softened but her dark amber eyes held their gravity. She hadn’t wanted to go out that night. It was Thursday and she had to be up early in the morning. 4:30am.

The boy, who Madison called Patrick, sat deep on the bench with his back against leaning against the rest and his shoulder against the wall. He set his cell down on the small round dining table and was about to speak when the waitress interrupted. “Good evening,” she said. It was just after eight o’clock and the sun had fully set. I forgot to mention that. It was dark outside when she arrived. “Can I get you two something to drink?”

Patrick made eye contact with the waitress and ordered an Americano before his head shifted on his shoulders to face the girl. “Madison?”

At least he didn’t order for me. “I’d like a banana crepe and cappuccino.” She spoke firmly. Authoritative. The waitress nodded and asked if the boy and girl needed anything else. They didn’t, so the waitress went away to the kitchen. “So how did your move go?” Madison asked Patrick. The two had spoken about Patrick’s move into his new apartment two weeks prior. They had spoken about everything over the last few months. Everything that they thought was appropriate to share online, anyway. For the girl, meeting for the first time did not have the feeling of newness. They could have been friends for years and the evening would not have felt any different. She could see that her question and potential for conversation had eased Patrick’s nerves. Good.

“It was good,” Patrick stated. “I never liked my old place. Too far from work, friends, the city, everything. If I hadn’t had the gym down the street I would’ve moved a long time ago.”

“Oh.”

Patrick shrugged and leaned his elbow on the backrest. “How have you been? You went hiking last weekend right?” Patrick’s eyes pinched nearly shut and his mouth broadened.

“Yes. They were supposed to have refreshments at the end of the hike so I didn’t bring anything but water. All they gave me was a beer.”

Patrick laughed. “Nice. They didn’t have anything else?”

“No. And I don’t drink.”

“Right,” said the boy. “You mentioned that.”

“It didn’t feel like a reward. I wanted something sweet.” Her disappointment was written on her face.

“I went to the bank this morning and they gave me a lollipop.”

“I wish they had lollipops,” she laughed.

“Well next time I’ll go with you and bring a lollipop.” He considered a wink but held it back.

Her laugh became a giggle. “Thanks Patrick.”

Patrick looked toward the door and back at the girl. “My name isn’t Patrick. I just use it online.”

“Oh.”

The boy had laughed and was about to speak when the waitress returned. “Americano for you, and the crepe and cappuccino for your girlfriend.” She placed the food and drinks appropriately in front of the girl and boy. “Do you need anything else?”

Madison shook her head and the boy replied, “I think we’re ok, thanks.” He was almost laughing and his voice had deepened. The waitress nodded, offered to help with anything else and instructed the two to wave for her if the need arose.

“My name isn’t Madison either,” the girl formerly known as Madison informed the boy.

“Oh,” he replied in the newly deepened tone. “Are you going to tell me your real name?”

“I don’t know.”

The boy cracked a half smile. “Ok.”

The girl returned a mirrored grin. The air had thickened. Somehow, the lights seemed to be glowing softer but brighter and with halos, and the black sky outside the café seemed darker with more vibrant reds and yellows streaking down the road as the cars passed. The room was quieter but louder, and the loudness of other voices was indistinct and the boy and girl would never have known if the voices were even speaking the same language.

“Where else have you gone hiking recently?” He asked the question after taking a sip of the near scalding coffee that had been placed before him.

“I’ve been all over,” she answered. “Do you want to see?”

“Of course.”

The boy pivoted his left arm at the elbow and the tips of his fingers brushed the girl’s shoulder and upper back, over the thick grey sweater she wore. The touch was barely felt. Ok… She moved in closer to the boy and leaned to share the pictures she had taken. Her cell phone had a clear plastic case, but the screen was cracked. “These are from Yosemite, last fall,” she explained. In most of the images, she was featured alone with the same lopsided but full smile stretched across her face. One side of her upper lip rose higher than the other and her eyes were wide and expressive, shining like fire.

“Beautiful,” said the boy. His fingers were slowly tracing circles on her upper back, and it seemed to the girl that he wasn’t doing it for her, as if he just enjoyed the texture of the sweater. He did, but he was enjoying her company more than it seemed.

“It is,” she agreed and continued to share memories from her travels. Always with the same pleasant and familiar smile, regardless of the pose or angle of the shot. Inside the little coffee shop, the air was pleasant and bright and there was a warm draft. No. That doesn’t sound right. Imagine a small fire burning in an old stove nearby and anytime the wood might pop or crackle, you’d feel a quick warm burst. It was like that, without the fire. This went on for a while, and the girl took a few opportunities to sample her crepe or sip her cappuccino and the boy was always playing with the wrinkles in her sweater. “You have pictures from your last trip?” she asked after a sip of the hot drink.

“Yeah,” he answered smiling and reached for his phone. “They aren’t as pretty as your pictures.” He was laughing when he looked up to see her response. Her lips were tightened and she seemed to be holding back a smile. Her eyes met his and his laugh faded to a deep chuckle and then he paused. “Hey,” he said.

She did not answer but gently raised her chin in curiosity.

“Can I kiss you?” he asked.

“Yes.”

His head came closer and her head turned to accept. The room was white and then it was gone. It must have been happening. The kiss. The white lights were flashing on the newly white sky and each flash sent a pulse down the boy’s neck until all of his body was filled with the light and he forgot what he had asked or why he asked it, and the girl was there and he was running the fingers of his right hand along her cheek and then down her neck and back up. The space where his heart used to be had been filled and could no longer contain what had filled it and his left hand dropped down, bumping the ridges of the thick sweater as it went and then it rested at the small of her back, and then he slowly retreated from her lips. Her eyes were wide and she smiled with all of her face, calm and content. But there was something new in her eyes and he had never seen a look like this before. He wondered what she was thinking.

I heard bells.

Happy Birthday Tijuana! Let’s Celebrate on Revolución and Take a Picture with the Burro Cebra!

On July 11, 1889 the city of Tijuana was founded in the Baja California region of Mexico, just south of San Diego when an agreement was signed between descendants of Santiago Argüello and Augustín Olvera to begin the development of the city. The agreement was signed 41 years after the end of the Mexican-American War. Since this isn’t meant to be a history lesson, I’ll leave it up you to check out Wikipedia for more about the city’s origin.

Tomorrow, Tijuana is turning 131 years old, and it exists as a part of the San Diego–Tijuana transborder urban agglomeration. It is a city full of vibrancy and life. The culture is rich and the people are friendly and welcoming to all people, as it has become a popular migration hub for its employment opportunities (as a major manufacturing center) and other obvious reasons. The beaches are beautiful, and access to Southern California adds to its own inherent charm. If you’ve found my page and aren’t the best English reader, check out the article at Zeta Tijuana by Carlos Sánchez for his beautiful description of the city he loves. To read the same article, translated to English, click here.

To summarize Carlos Sánchez, Tijuana is set apart from other Mexican cities because of its location and diversity of attractions and opportunities. The city is bursting with culture at every corner with live music and mariachi bands, street vendors selling the flavors that they cherish (all in their own way) from tacos to fruit and vegetables to delicious drinks and smoothies, and the occasional fire dancer in the middle of an intersection (always remember to donate a couple pesos). As I mentioned before, the people are warm and welcoming and willing to talk and get to know you. The metropolitan area is huge and always growing, and the masses of people are known to be joyful and polite. In addition, the city is home to many long term opportunities in industry (science, technology and manufacturing) with chances to participate in or watch sporting events. You’ll even find some pleasant oddities mixed in with the rest of the city’s offerings, such as the Burro Cebra or Zonkey (a black and white striped donkey). Even if you don’t love Mexican food, the city has plenty of other options, many of which can not be found anywhere else. Try sushi with banana.

Apart from its own attractions and dynamic night life, Tijuana is central to many other worthwhile diversions. The town of Tecate can be found less than an hour to the east and offers many enjoyable experiences including dining, spas, resorts, and hiking. Along the Pacific Coast, to the south of Tijuana are the coastal towns of Rosarito, Puerto Neuvo, and Ensenada. A two hour road trip from Tijuana to Ensenada offers the chance to see many incredible sights along Mexican Federal Highway 1D. But this article isn’t about the things around Tijuana. Not when the city itself holds so much of its own charm.

A simple trip to Tijuana’s lively El Centro (downtown) is a reward in itself. To walk along Avenida Revolución alone gives you the chance to see the unique culture. Restaurants and hotels sit along both sides of the street. You’ll pass young couples in love and smiling vendors trying to make their honest living. One of the best places to eat and relax over a cup of coffee is Praga Cafe. The environment is warm and friendly, quiet, and can be very romantic. The region around Tijuana also has a rich selection of wineries to visit for the refined adventurer. Pictured below is La Ruta Del Vino, a restaurant that serves wine from the vine the vineyards around Ensenada.

Of course, Tijuana also has its wild and sensual night life. There are a multitude of bars and clubs, many of which offer good clean fun. You can go salsa dancing, drink with a few friends, and then go back out to dance until the sun comes up. Unlike cities in California where bars and clubs close at 1 or 2am, Tijuana’s clubs don’t quit until around six in the morning, keeping the party alive as long as you can stay on your feet. Other adult-only options are available as well, but sometimes singing karaoke, laughing and dancing with your friends is all you need.

To sum it all up, Tijuana is a growing young city with wide eyes and childlike excitement driving its development. Even if you can’t visit, take the time to research the city and the surrounding area. Its culture and life bleeds into and shapes the experience in San Diego and much of Southern California and it is well worth the visit, whether physically or virtually. Happy Birthday Tijuana! May there be many more to come.

The Future is Dead and the Economy is Holding a Smoking Gun

The future isn’t dead. However, there are many aspects of present day society that either seem precarious or altogether unstable if not handled properly as we progress through the upcoming US presidential election and beyond. Nothing in life is ever certain, and there aren’t many aspects of nature that humanity can really control… At least not with our current technologies. That being said, society runs by pushing back against the resistance of nature and time. COVID-19 has introduced a few problems and has exacerbated many others.

The major issues that I see are public health, resource management, economy, foreign affairs, and energy. Economy sits at the center of my list for a reason. The first two points are directly related to the COVID pandemic and will inevitably lead to economic fallout (and we’re already experiencing the beginning of that). The last two are both factors in the COVID crisis and highly integrated into our domestic and the overall global economies. What happens next? How should we be thinking about the future? We can either struggle to maintain the previous status quo, or we can use the crisis as an opportunity to evolve.

Intuitively, you would think that fighting the problem head on and tackling the public health aspect first would be best. Maybe, maybe not. If the other aspects are not heavily considered when acting at the public health level, things may start to unravel. Thinking inversely would likely have a similar result. The hinge is the economy. Think long term, as pandemics tend to last several years. The United States government is currently under scrutiny because our leadership did not take the health issue seriously. Masks were not worn and things re-opened, allowing people to believe the crisis was over. Meanwhile, many of the companies that realized they could not be sustained in a COVID world closed indefinitely, and many other small businesses went bankrupt. By many accounts, including that of Aria Bendix of Business Insider, the situation is still growing worse.

Serious consideration needs to be given to the long-term effects of the quarantine, especially in the United States, especially during an election year. However, the situation is far from bleak. Considering the problem is important. Considering the potential solution is even more important, especially in a democracy. The worst case scenario of a cataclysmic economic crash on a global scale, resulting in a massive war is not OK for anyone on this planet. The honest truth though, is that our world leaders are primitive emotional beings. They are not different, smarter, or more responsible than you. Yet, they have war machines, and you don’t. Technology and science continue to push forward, and with all the advances we have, the future could be great. The near future. Sustainable, lacking an energy crisis, and without hungry masses. If and when the money they crave means nothing… What do you think they’ll want to do? Is there an alternative? Of course. Do they see it? I don’t think so. Do you? You will.

The United States has survived a previous pandemic, the Great Depression, and two World Wars. Back then, the cost of war was low. Today, the potential cost of war is the planet. But I’m saying there exists a future where everyone in power wins and the people all benefit. The trick will be to convince the world to drop the oil conflict (and profits).

Lockheed Martin is the company responsible for much of America’s aerospace, defense, arms, national security, and advanced technologies. One of their major projects is a compact nuclear fusion reactor that could power an entire city from the back of a pickup truck… For a long time. Long enough to find other, even more sustainable alternatives to oil. In the absence of oil, there will always be other economic prospects to keep governing bodies haggling, arguing, and competing. Competition is key.

Let’s also consider the fact that the United States owes more than 22 trillion dollars to the collective world, and only has 1.5 trillion dollars in physical circulation. Also consider that those 1.5 trillion dollars are not directly backed by any particular resource. There used to be a certain amount of gold in the US treasury for every dollar in circulation. That ended 50 years ago. Today, the oil industry, hospitality, and entertainment are primarily responsible for the value of our money. The rest of the world could cut the US off. We pose a health risk. If the dollar is suddenly useless, the country would destroy itself.

Enter the digital age. Consumable, finite resources are great as tools for barter, in a developing economy. However, those things are unstable, as perceived values ebb and flow with the trends of the day. Gold was always a good standard because it was highly valued as a novelty. It’s pretty. Rather than fall back to something like that, we now have currency, resources, that exists outside of the consumable, physical domain. Data. If you haven’t heard about Bitcoin, read up a little at CNN. It’s confusing, but the short story is that mathematics in computing can be used to generate pieces of data that have a limit. The formulas (algorithms) can only produce a set number of pieces. Once they’re all created, no more can be made.

This is a good thing for economics. Rather than use gold (which is consumed in producing parts for computers) or another physical resource, digital currency can be used to govern the market. This is a VERY good thing. A global economy can be created that preserves all of the nations’ individual currencies and CAN NOT succumb to inflation. It also can not produce a bubble effect wherein an economy can crash because the underlying resource is spent. Couple this with an end to the energy crisis, and the need to fight over resources, including territory, becomes unnecessary. Culture is also preserved this way, as nations identify with their land, their wealth of natural resources, and their own history. The truth is, this is happening passively as the currency is being developed, whether you know it’s happening or not. But then, knowledge is power.

The current world dynamic is healthy. All of the nations have something to contribute, but many have black oil blinders on. Others just don’t care. Of course, any country could attempt to take over everything, but why? The only result would be mass devastation. Complete loss. The prize DOES NOT EXIST. The more you know about this, and the more you can talk about it, the less tension there will be at the highest levels. In the United States, we currently have conservatives fighting liberal “resisters” over a problem that really doesn’t exist. It’s not relevant (it is, but only at the domestic level, and the domestic level does not exist in global failure).

Yes, Biden should take office. But this is a democracy. Do NOT let your president or government tell you what needs to happen. It is your duty to tell your government how to behave. Two hundred years ago, this was easier. There weren’t extreme opposing branches of US government. Not like today. The social issues were not present. Controversial technological advancements were not present. Global communication was not present. To cross from the UK to the US was incredibly time consuming. This is not our forefathers’ world. It is what it is. I think we all need to know what it is we’re dealing with.

The solution requires teamwork, and it requires a global market. Not a global governing body, but cooperation where cooperation is necessary. It isn’t socialism. It isn’t communism. It is sustainable democracy in America, and capitalism globally. Real capitalism. Not a resource war.

So what should you do, and what am I really saying? I’m saying talk. Research. Understand the world you live in. Things are going to change, whether you like it or not. Change is constant. Ask your presidential what how he or she expects to deal with the economic crisis. I’m also saying, the dominos are set up, and they’re set up to run completely through. The only thing that can stop the process is human greed, based on lack of understanding. Someone high up could react rather than allow this part of history to play out. If they let it go and watch, they’ll be glad they did.

Why is Society Regressing in the Civil Rights Movement? Racism should be dead in 2020.

Start a fight and someone will rise to fight back

Activism, whether it’s political, social or in support of reform of anything else, is the start of a conflict. In a relationship, does a confrontational attitude calm the situation or increase the tension? Being right or wrong rarely matters when emotions are involved.

In the United States, social reform and civil rights have been a major part of the political dynamic between the republican and democratic parties for the past hundred years, and have become increasingly controversial over the past few decades. Now, with our current commander in chief spouting increasingly ridiculous statements in regard to race and culture, we should be able to laugh and let it go. However, the mentality in our nation seems to have degraded to the belief that fighting back or raising the energy in conflict is beneficial. It isn’t. We all know the quote, “Be the change you wish to see.” Many people live by this mentality and either protest passively or live in a way that shows others how to behave. They lead by example, which is the best possible course of action. Even “passive protest” is aggressive by comparison. It raises a scenario where one party is either pointing a finger or accusing another of behavior that is labeled incorrect. And when another person who holds the opposing ideology dear is confronted with this, they tend to react. Sometimes in hostility. Passive aggressive is still aggressive.

The major problem in the United States is not that we don’t know how to handle problems. It is that we continuously pile the new on top of the old, grouped together as civil rights, before we’ve ever reached an agreement or peaceful conclusion to the previous issues. Race, culture, sexual orientation, lifestyle, gender identity… Race sits at the foundation of the cluster of social issues, and we never allow the concrete to set.

Every year, new issues arise, and for the highly conservative, these new issues seem nothing more than personality flaws. I understand that people on the liberal side just want to live lives without feeling judged. Well… People judge each other. And when being weird (queer) hits the conservative mind as odd, they react out of discomfort. We’ve literally called ourselves weird and expected everyone else to ignore that we’re weird, while at the same time highlighting that weirdness in a public way. Then, when that conservative mind becomes frustrated its falls back to the initial problem. “Everyone different from me is crazy!” No, they aren’t, but I get why you’d feel that way. An interesting connection is the bilingual thinker. I’ve seen fights between lovers that speak different native languages, and when the tension hits the highest level, neither side can understand the other language (at least not nearly as well), even though both consider themselves bilingual. They stop seeing anything from the other point of view, and understanding is lost.

When it all starts to crash, and both sides continuously raise the conflict, both sides lose. And even before that, it isn’t great. With liberals finding new ways to talk about the different types of weirdos in the world with different labels, “gay, lesbian, trans, bi, queer”, they (we) promote segregation rather than togetherness. “How do you identify?” I don’t know. I fall in love with people sometimes. “Guys, girls, what?” Usually girls… “So, what? Are you bi?” I’m alive.

Now, in 2020, we see a system of government that was built by and for the people in order to protect individuality and freedom. It is being torn asunder by the extreme opposition of the two sides. This is NOT what the country was founded for. The extreme opposition requires that candidates for the presidency take sides, creating characters that would otherwise have normally functioning psyches. I doubt Trump feels much like himself right now. He’s not in his right mind. Biden isn’t either, as much as we’d like to think he is. He’s at the mercy of his followers, and at the mercy of the system that was meant to promote the balance of duality, not the separation of duality.

If the system continues to push forward in the way that it is, my best advice for the country would be that presidential candidates must be both democratic and republican in order to avoid cataclysmic swings from right to left or left to right, as we’re seeing now. The election year is going to continue to be fascinating and dangerous, especially with the existence of a pandemic (and economic black hole to follow) that knows no race, culture, gender, or sexual orientation. In any case, if you ask COVID how it identifies, I’d guess pansexual.

Homemade and Washable COVID-19 Masks… Government Approved

Short and sweet. The mask shortage within testing facilities, schools and universities has become a problem and a bit of a hot topic during the COVID-19 outbreak, especially in the United States in the midst of the 2020 presidential campaign. Whether you think Trump should have or could have prevented the shortage and so many of the casualties, or there was some other reason for the problem in the US, the truth is that we all have the resources available to prepare our own washable and thus reusable masks. Cotton cloth from any t-shirt and a pair of scissors are all that are required. Creating your own masks frees up resources so that facilities like COVID testing labs have better access to manufactured masks specifically designed for laboratory use. Below are two of my favorite DIY masks.

The simplest and most easily washed facemasks can be made using a t-shirt and scissors, and only require cutting a single piece out of the fabric. Check out the YouTube video here for simple instructions. Credit to The Telegraph for the instructional video. I really like this mask because it only requires the washing of a single piece of cloth rather than strings and a face cover, as in the next example. Using this method, you could prepare as many as four masks from a single t-shirt. Be careful with your dirty masks when you’re not wearing them.

The best looking DIY masks that I’ve seen can also be made with only a t-shirt and scissors, and the tutorial for making them can be found here. Credit to Jan Howell for the video. This mask is great — comfortable and more professional looking. However, the washing of the separate parts makes it less desirable. Either way, it is a great alternative to using disposable masks.

Please do your part in protecting the health of the people around you (and yourself), and if possible, please find the time to create your own reusable masks so that the shortages in your country and in the world can start to fade into history. Many of us have dropped the ball in the initial response to this pandemic, but we can all catch up and prevent the situation from growing worse. Be considerate, be respectful, and be a patriot. Wear a mask.

Speaking as an American citizen… In the United States, we are all in this together. We may have differing opinions on our government, especially the executive branch, but we all live together, work and play together. This is not a political issue. This is a public health issue. Please treat it as such.

From Fear to Fondness

Based on a true story about kindness in a darkened world

I had only been back in San Diego for a few days. The last time I was in the city, I camped with my son in a quiet business park about a dozen miles east of San Diego proper. No problems, just a few other cars in the area and a man dressed like a 90s church dad talking on his cell phone across the street when we woke up. At night it was well lit. After seeing the guy on his phone, I knew I wouldn’t feel comfortable sleeping there again. Anyway, that weekend I spent a few days in a cheap motel outside the city. I needed a shower after working and sleeping in the car all week. I work for a courier service delivering food and groceries. Like Uber but without the crazy passengers. Most weeks I make about six hundred dollars. Sometimes more, sometimes less. If I’m really motivated, I make enough early in the week to take an extra day off and feel good about it, but I usually try to save money by only renting a room one night a week. My son goes on the deliveries with me. He’s seven years old so being with his mom all day every day doesn’t bother him. He keeps me sane and gives me reason to get up in the morning.

I don’t have an apartment because I haven’t lived in San Diego long. The way I see it, I need at least $2,600 per month just for rent and utilities. After that, maybe $1000 for food, clothes and everything else I never remember I need. $4000 would be comfortable. It wouldn’t be glamorous, but I’ve never cared about that. It’s possible but difficult on the pay I’m getting, especially with gas and inevitable car repairs factored in. I’m looking for a room mate.

Well, the weekend was over and I was back in the business park. I found a new spot so anyone who might recognize me wouldn’t see me. I didn’t really like the old spot anyway. It was too bright and there was another car that parked ahead of me most nights. I could see the guy inside staring back at us. He never did anything or even got out to approach me, so I let it go. A lot of people camp in their cars. It was a blue Honda Civic. I should probably watch for it.

“Can I watch a movie tonight?” My son asked me more politely than usual.

“Sure, why not?” I didn’t care either way. I’d set it up and then get out for a smoke before bed. The stuff was low grade and “economical” but it got the job done. I wouldn’t be able to sleep without it. Not in a car.

“I want to watch the one from last night.” He’d actually seen it four nights in a row, but he was smiling with his eyes squinting behind his shaggy yellow curls. I wasn’t going to say no.

“Yeah, ok.”

All I could hear were the orchestrated jingles behind the opening credits when I stepped out onto the pavement. I shut the door as gently as possible. As I started to dig for my lighter, a squad car rounded the bend in the road behind us. I froze. I wasn’t really doing anything illegal but I was bending some rules. I started to panic and my fingers went numb. The top of my head tingled. The car flashed its lights and pulled up behind us.

It isn’t that I don’t trust cops. I don’t. But it’s because I don’t trust most people. I’m a petite blonde woman. 30 years old. Not to mention the news is filled with stories about dirty cops right now. I had no idea what he thought he could get away with.

He had already seen me. He had seen my car. He might have seen the joint in my hand. My cell phone was in my back pocket. By the time I realized it was all actually happening, he was shining his flashlight through the windows into my car. He saw my kid. They made eye contact. They even waved at each other. I hated that someone knew where we were. I definitely didn’t want the police to know where we were sleeping.

“Is everything alright?” He asked the question as if expecting a “no”. The flashlight was pointed at my face.

“Sure,” I stammered, “I’m fine.” No, I’m trying to enjoy my evening and get some rest before I work all day tomorrow, and I’m talking to a cop in a business park with a joint in my hand, and he’s taking way too long to get his flashlight out of my eyes.

“Ok,” his body started turning before the word was off his tongue. “Have a good night.” He had his back to me now and he was walking away. Back to his car.

“Ok.” OK

I slid my phone out of my back pocket and dropped down to the curb. He was driving away. Sweat was burning at the corners of my eyes while I watched the tail lights shrink into the distance. He turned out of the park.

“Holy excrement, that freaked me out.” I sent the message to a friend in the city.

“What’s up?” he asked. I told him what happened. All he said back was, “that’s crazy.”

Expletive, that really hit me hard, man.” I sent the text with shaky fingers.

“I’m surprised he left you alone. Are you at the business park? Did he know you had bud?” he said, and then asked. Weed is legal in California, but that was one of the rules I was bending.

“I’m still in the business park,” I answered, “but I don’t think he noticed the weed. I don’t want anyone else knowing where we are.”

“Eh… If he was cool and left you alone, it’s probably a good thing.” He was trying to calm my nerves. “The cops in SD are used to it.”

Another cop car sped by while I read the last message, so I didn’t respond directly. “Excrement, another cop just drove by.”

“If they want you to move they’ll tell you.”

“I’m not scared of that.”

He reminded me I had a camera attached to a phone. “SD cops aren’t gonna mess with you.” I wanted to believe he was right, but I wasn’t going to be complacent.

“I guess I have the benefit of having a kid with me.”

“Right,” he agreed. I could tell he was worried for me, but didn’t want to add to my anxiety. I didn’t respond to him for five minutes. I would have, but another cop car pulled up before the text came through. No. It was the first cop. He came back. And by this point, I had finished smoking. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have smoked that night. But I did. I don’t think he noticed. After he left, I send my next message.

“He came back and now I’m having a full scale panic attack,” I said.

“Let me know if anything goes down,” he sent back. “Take a pic and send if you need to.” He thought the cop was still there with me. I corrected him.

“I’d already smoked and had just finished up so I thought, well expletive me, naturally. But he came up and handed me money and told me he has a little girl and just wanted to help out and if it’s OK, to give my son a police badge sticker. Then he reiterated he has a little girl and just wanted to help out. Then he told me to have a good night, turned around, walked away and left.”

“No.”

“I swear.” I sent a pic.

“Sweet.”

“I can’t move.” I couldn’t.

“Was he sexy?”

“I don’t know.” I didn’t. Or at least I hadn’t noticed.

“That’s cool.” This was his last text before a long string of messages about his experiences with crooked cops.

That was more or less the end of it. My son finished his movie and I didn’t see another officer that night. I fell asleep after the movie with an arm around the boy. He was breathing softly and had no idea the amount of panic I’d been through. The whole night was fun for him. I woke up the next morning thinking the whole thing had been a dream. Then I saw the police badge stuck to my son’s shirt. His eyes were still closed.

Borderless

One of the biggest and most controversial topics of discussion during the last US presidential election was on Donald Trump’s promise to build a wall between Mexico and the United States in order to keep illegal immigration and smuggling to a minimum. As a resident of California, this was very strange to me. When making the trip across the border and into Tijuana, it is difficult to miss the giant fence that divides the US from its southern neighbor and stretches out grotesquely into the Pacific Ocean. See the photo below.

According to 2019 Washington Post article by Nick Miroff and Josh Dawsey (found here), Trump wants the wall posts “painted black and topped with sharpened tips”. The general idea is that the wall should be as treacherous to pass as possible, with the dark paint absorbing heat from the sun. The thing that I think most Americans are unaware of is that there is already a significant structure set up between the two nations, and according to Miroff and Dawsey, any additional building that has taken place over the last few years of Trump’s presidency has been to rebuild sections of the existing barrier, not to complete the gaps in the separating superstructure. Yes, Mr. Fake News has some exaggerations and twisted

On the other side of the fence people are excited about the potential blending of culture and economy, and I don’t mean the physical fence (though the statement is true either way). Digital Artist and Tijuana resident Esteban Quiroz has a completely different idea about how the two countries should interact at their borders. His project, Reinventar Los Bordes, blends the cityscapes. His vision for the project, translated into English, is as follows:

In this project I propose a new landscape by digitally mixing urban and architectural elements of various public spaces in Tijuana and San Diego. These imaginary scenarios have allowed me to wonder about the dynamics of economic and cultural exchange between both cities. What would a transportation network that would connect both areas be like? Why does a construction of the same type cause such a different experience in Tijuana than in San Diego? What would San Diego be without Tijuana? How would Tijuana be without San Diego? What is really regulated through the existence of a border?

Quiroz, Esteban. Reinventar Los Bordes

The obvious answer to the question of regulation is illicit substances and human traffic. Travel by the honest citizen is currently heavily impacted by those regulations. However, there already exist differing sets of travel regulations in San Diego and Tijuana when compared to locales further removed from the border. That is, different visas and passports are required for travel beyond the border cities. If regulation of traffic and substances could be maintained outside the interface between San Diego and Tijuana, then the two neighboring cities could enjoy a healthy blend of culture and economics. Residents from either city could expand business into the other country, stimulating the economy and ideally strengthening the relationship between the countries. Uber, taxis, and other public transit would benefit from the blended border. It would also ease the traffic at the border for citizens who already cross on a daily basis for work.

The blending of the two nations’ economies would benefit both and increase exposure for small businesses and nation specific corporations. It would also discourage a fair amount of illegal traffic by allowing residents of one city (and country) access to the goods and services of the other. It would also set a precedent.

Whether you feel the wall is necessary, or a blended border would be a positive, progressive project, the reality is that both the wall and blended border already exist. Many US citizens live in Tijuana and work in San Diego, and many Mexican citizens living in Tijuana are able to cross the border with limited paperwork, as long as they stay within a 25 mile radius of the border. US citizens are not even required to obtain a visa for trips into Tijuana lasting less than 72 hours. Of course, this is all under “normal circumstances”, and before the COVID pandemic.

The development of the border issue will continue to be a hot topic, especially in the 2020 election year, and the border zone is prepped to go either way. Full exclusivity and strengthened border patrol, or a more relaxed approach? Vamos a ver.

TMI – The Information Age and its Limits

She walked into the dry and dusty classroom with a glistening forehead. It was a hot August day in Arizona, and the heat had not helped to soothe her stress and anxiety. She came toward the desk where I sat and let out a deep, tired breath while she dropped her backpack from her shoulder to the floor. I nodded and offered a friendly (perhaps slightly obligatory) salutation and she sank into the chair beside me. “Everything okay?” I asked her with as much sincerity as I could feel at one-hundred-fifteen degrees Fahrenheit. Her eyes shifted toward mine after a lengthy blink and then her head slowly turned on her shoulders. She was facing me when she giggled with some definite incredulity.

“Yes,” she answered. “Everything is great.”

“That’s good.”

She laughed. “Everything is perfect. If the heat doesn’t melt my brain, lecture will.”

“Yeah.” I was actually agreeing with her. We sat there together in a full semester, graduate course on Microscopy and there were two minutes to go before the instructors closed the doors and started …instructing. Her proposed project was in environmental chemistry. Something about gas phase chemical reactions in atmospheric water (clouds) producing novel toxins from things like pharmaceuticals and other synthetic chemicals. Sometimes she used a microscope. Sometimes. Rarely. Her professor suggested she take Microscopy. Did she need to know that chromatic aberration slightly alters focus because the lens refracts separated colors of white light differently based on their wavelength? Probably not for what she was doing, but a PhD candidate is expected to have PhD level knowledge of everything relating to their project. This is tested. A PhD chemist is usually also a physicist, biologist, information scientist, and engineer. Not that they have the credentials, but the knowledge is required. We also live in a democratic republic, so any voting citizen should also be well-informed enough to make rational political decisions every voting season. They should be… (more on education reform and the voting citizen in a later post).

The problem with the information age is not that there is too much information. The wealth of knowledge and ease of access to knowledge is a positive thing, if the individual absorbing the information is able to process it effectively. This is one of the reasons I keep my writing brief and concise. I just read an article by Eric Ravenscraft on OneZero (check it out here) that addresses the important issue of processing information, fake news, etc. Ravenscraft writes about the tendency to blindly accept incorrect information when less time is spent comprehending it. The world is moving quickly, and some people lack the time to ride the current comfortably. In many cases, people will gravitate toward information sources that they already know they agree with, leading to the reinforcement of current ideas. In a democratic republic, the push and pull between conservatism and liberalism is what produces healthy progress. When the two sides become completely separate and indoctrinated (which is what I think we’re seeing more and more as the information age takes off), they lose sight of the healthy balance and heightened tensions lead to conflict.

It isn’t just that the sides are drifting apart either. The social and political issues on the table (including technology and science) are becoming more extreme, thrusting a wedge deeper into the system and producing extreme opposing candidates. Everything I’ve read on this issue highlights the problem without offering any real solution. Because we are required to teach our youth what they need in order to grow into productive adults, we can not ignore the information explosion. It just needs to be handled carefully. Additionally, and as mentioned before, the average citizen does not have the time required to build a well rounded view. My previous post, Love and War discusses the issue of emotional decision making. I believe that education and education reform will solve these problems.

Teaching someone to comprehend a subject entirely is becoming too large and daunting a task. Instead, critical thinking should be nurtured. This is the ability to hold an idea or belief while entertaining opposing ideas. It also allows the thinker to expand on or reform their understanding as new information becomes available. Smoking used to be cool. People used to bathe in toxic Mercury to treat Syphilis.

The stress and anxiety associated with the massive amount of information we have available to us is also an issue. Letting go of some of that, and being ok with knowing that we can’t and won’t know everything is beneficial. With so much information available, it is easy to feel like we’ve found all the answers, but the questions will continue to change and what is true in one social context may not hold true twenty years later. When we accept that there is always more to learn, we release the responsibility to be correct, minimizing emotional reaction, and improving our ability to communicate with one another.

Cabin Fever – The Real Pandemic

Quarantine. The concept never really seemed to be such a big deal to me before 2020. Of course, we’ve all heard of massive outbreaks and pandemics in the past, and we’ve all been sick with the flu or a bad cold and stayed home for three or four days to rest. Quarantine usually means the sequestering of ill parties in order to protect the healthy population. Quarantining the entire world, including the healthy? Is that really a thing that can happen? Yep. It’s something incredible.

As you’re reading this, consider your friends and their friends. Consider the friends of their friends’ friends and so on. I’m in there somewhere, and so are the rest of you readers. We are all stuck at home, or have been, even if a few of us are experiencing a premature re-opening of the real world. I’ve been out to the beach a few times in the past couple weeks, and its packed. Meanwhile, confirmed cases of the virus skyrocket. A few short weeks ago, you could find me holed up with a book or on a writing project for a client while I received the same few messages from all of my friends. “I’m watching Netflix… not much else,” or “I’m bored with everything including myself…” A few lucky people were being paid a full salary. Most were telling me they were going broke. As far as I know, my closest friends all maintained a relatively firm grip on sanity during tragedy. But I wondered.

The real tragedy is the effect of the quarantine on the modern mind. Many of us are patient, but the developed world has grown accustomed to instant gratification. People are anxious and ready to get back out into society as it was before the pandemic broke out, but some… Some have taken a little too well to the forced isolation. I’m curious if this side effect is as contagious as the virus that bred it. Cabin fever is normally defined as irritability and listlessness resulting from long confinement or isolation indoors, and I’ve certainly seen firsthand some comical examples. Grown men fist-fighting over toilet paper in Costco… Vigilantes shooing pedestrians off of derelict beaches with their ATVs… But cabin fever only really becomes a problem for the rest of us when the afflicted make the conscious decision to bring the cabin to the public. See the above photos.

No matter how you reacted to this, or what you think about the individuals (I’m staying away from the obvious controversial political jabs), there is definitely something to be said about the complete lack of shame. Unabashed doesn’t cut it. When you’ve flushed your dignity down the can with your bulk toilet paper, 401k and casual day wear, it only makes sense to let your newfound liberation from typical societal conventions wash over your equally (if not more) unfortunate neighbors. Freedom is winning. By 2024, hopelessness will be considered an innate trait and the few determined (or over-bored) will be sitting naked at their laptops in their local park, stealing WiFi from the hotel across the street, and blogging or tweeting (or both) about the struggles they face in the new civil rights movement. A few of them will be filthy rich.

Until then, let us all learn a lesson (the easy way) from these brave souls. And please remember, we all feel a little like this from time to time. Let’s not judge too harshly.

It’s ok little buddy… we understand.

Love and War

Love and War. Violence and Sex. Ideology and Freedom. Fact and Illusion. All might be fair, but fairness is subjective and perspective can change what is right and what is wrong. As is the case with any polar dynamic, one extreme exists in order to justify the other. We all find ourselves standing somewhere along the spectrum between terminal ends, or maybe at one extreme or the other, and we judge the rest by our own shifting location. Sometimes the grass looks greener, and sometimes the heat and mirage make it appear to be burning.

I chose four dichotomies to discuss and yes, I believe there is a definite contrast between the first two. Love and War are not Violence and Sex. Regardless, I’d like to discuss these relationships in reverse order. Fact and Illusion. Fact can only be determined empirically and can only be conveyed by removing any emotional component from communication. One gives and another receives information. Illusion is created by distorting fact with an emotional lens, and allowing oneself to believe that component is somehow necessary. Or, it’s the belief by either party in pure falsehood. Sometimes we just don’t have the correct information. For the purposes of this writing, illusion is belief in twisted fact.

Ideology and Freedom. A worldview can be based on Fact or Illusion. An ideology is developed around either, but is still limited by perspective. Even fact can be twisted to be negative or positive depending on how the individual responds to that fact. Roses are red. Usually. Well, I hate (this is an emotion) red (I don’t). A world full of red roses would be terrible (it wouldn’t). Adding red roses to every city would improve moral… For me, it is a detestable notion (it isn’t). True Freedom comes from the ability to understand or appreciate the dilemma from any and every angle. Anything else leads to fascism, in the most extreme cases. When neither giver or receiver can agree to disagree, conflict is born. Warfare over expansion or territorial dominance is simpler. I’ll leave that out of this piece entirely.

Now back to Love and War, then Violence and Sex respectively (yes, I’m making a statement). War is the refusal to come to an agreement when illusions don’t mix. Love is the ability to understand differences and find a mutually beneficial solution. At times, this just is not possible. Or perhaps it is, but is disturbing to one side or the other. For example, Love and War should both exist… they do. Killing is desirable to some. How does Love justify this and allow it to persist? In the past, gladiators and the Colosseum.

Violence and Sex. Often, when tension exists between differing ideologies, Sex is used as a replacement for War. And when love is unrequited or betrayed, it often turns to Violence. So what is the point, and how do we arrive at Peace, which is an incredibly unstable or uninteresting state of being. Allow tension, find understanding, and then commence with what it breeds… in that order. Female and Male.