Friday, November 5, 2010

There is a lot going on, and it's all good.

I've been too quiet for too long, and I thought it was time for me to address some things I would like to say.

While I have kept my political views to myself, I want to share my feelings about the election that just passed. My experience in the voting booth was not one envisioned by our founding fathers. My 2008 experience was, for me, a painstakingly carried out process. I carefully reviewed the sample ballot sent to me; I gathered as much information as I could about the individual candidates, and I voted accordingly. This year, however, I ran the axe through the ballot. The promises made became promises broken. I became incensed at how the campaign ads insulted my intelligence, twisting pieces of information, where only the person, who either had blinders on, or was of reduced mental capacity, would believe the rubbish being forced on us during dinner time. I have proudly declared myself an Independent, with a Moderate view. To vote along party lines, as so many of my friends and their families do, is pointless. A very smart and respected man once said to me, "Son, don't take our word for anything. Question what you read and what you're forced to believe. If someone makes a statement that is assumed to be fact, ask where he got the data and how he got it. Our government is made up of smoke and mirrors, and there's a liar and a thief behind every mirror."

My voting trend this year was mostly made with a "red" pen. This country voted for change in 2008, and now I'm a part of the change that never happened. I'm angry and I'm embarrassed. While I was in Bali, it was interesting to hear their take on the "American President, Mr. Obama". One of the most common comments was of his being weak. That idea scares me. For our President to be viewed as weak by other nations scares me. Many of my friends voted for him. If his election were up to them, he'll be a one-term President. But this isn't all about the President.

We all heard about candidate Christine O'Donnell, and her highly publicized stance against masturbation. The people spoke. There's the rub! There truly is a happy ending. Now she's on the Today Show, and she's spewing all over the airwaves. How do we allow this to happen to us in this country of ours? In the meantime, I'm happy to enjoy what is still legal every night, and I know for a fact that every one of my friends is safe...for now. Call it a stroke of luck. I'll sleep soundly beneath my rustling sheets tonight! Sorry to pull this on you. Fini.

Proposition 19 went up in smoke. As you know, in the past I did smoke marijuana. And yes, I did inhale. If I can quote a friend of mine: "How the fuck to you smoke pot without inhaling?" I don't know where the stuff was grown, and I didn't care. I didn't care whether or not there were any dangerous additives sprinkled on it. There are a lot of arguments for and against Prop 19. I, for one, am in favor of the legalization of marijuana. It's not a question of IF; it's a question of WHEN. It will happen in time, and when it does, it will be another bonanza of tax dollars, just like alcohol, cigarettes and gasoline. Go for home grown, and keep your pot dollars in the USA! Makes me glad I don't do it anymore.

Now it's time to blow away the smoke and break the mirrors, so we can deal with the thieves and liars that lurk within our government. Did we? Did we send a message? Or did we simply replace the wolf with a fox? Only time will tell.

Speaking of smoke...I saw a follow-up article about a two-year-old Indonesian boy who smoked up to four packs of cigarettes a day. I saw video on the news, and it didn't look to me as though he was fully inhaling the smoke, but it doesn't matter. I can attest to the youthful smoking in Indonesia. I saw uniformed pre-adolescent boys smoking on nearly a daily basis. I could never smoke that much, nor would I ever want to. Yes, I was introduced to nicotine at a very young age, and it's something I now regret, but I can't go back in time. These children do it because their friends do it, their families do it, and it is so widely romanticized by advertisements geared toward children. I sat on the beach in Bali, and a young boy came down and sat next to me. In the ten minutes he spent next to me, he smoked two cigarettes, drag after drag, as if he were trying to get as much smoke in his lungs as he possibly can. He was a cute boy, around twelve years old, although it's not always easy to tell. He smiled at me, and the conversation was severely limited, due to our lack of control over the other's language. I wondered, or perhaps I hoped that cigarettes were his only vice, as it would only be foolish to believe that marijuana isn't rampant among all Indonesians.

And speaking of Bali, my return to Bali will have to wait for now. But don't dismay. This is because I am going back to school in January. I am returning to UCLA, taking Adolescent Psychology courses. I have set my sights on education of rehabilitating teens, on both a one-to-one and class platform. I have been offered an internship at the very rehab center that turned my life around. I happened to meet one of the advisors, and I agreed to return for a visit. They asked if I would talk to some of the youth in treatment. I spoke in the same room where I attended group therapy sessions, and where I got involved in so many fights, I was threatened with expulsion. As I spoke, I could swear I heard a very familiar shuffling of feet coming down the hall. For all I know it could have been someone sliding a box across the floor, or possibly a broom, but that sound meant so much to me. Call it an epiphany. After several conversations via phone, email and in person, I was offered another opportunity of a lifetime. There was no thinking about it. I am excited about this, and it is the answer to thousands of prayers. I have spent several days observing. I should drop the flag of caution, as this is not cast in stone. I'm there, and they are watching me. I'm not being pessimistic, just cautiously optimistic.

My life lately has been non-stop, but everything that has me going at top speed is better than the last. I am working, but I'm not dragging. I find myself singing, and David has said that he has never seen me this upbeat, except for one certain evening when I first met him. My mother is certain I have lost my mind. "Oh my gosh, Michael, you made your bed! What's wrong, Sweetie?"


Rob will be returning from Indonesia soon, if he hasn't returned already. He will have a lot to say about the effects of Merapi, the earthquake and the tsunami. His brief email to me said little more than "We sure could use you now!"

Besides doing a lot of work for my church, observing at the rehab center, working and making plans for the future, I'm still able to enjoy helping my brother in his restoration project of his 1953 Buick. Ethan is all over the place, talking and being the perfect little boy. We'll see how things change when his little sister is born.

I'm off today. I'm not going anywhere. David is off tonight, so we'll be able to spend some time together. I wonder what tomorrow's specials will be. Maybe I'll sing them to the customers.

This brings up my final topic, which has had me intrigued for nearly two weeks. Have you seen the video of "A Trip Down Market Street, 1906"? Here is a link to the best site (CBS) if you haven't seen it. Watch it now, and come back to what I have to say about it. I would enjoy reading your comments.

This is by far the best quality and most intact of the videos I've seen. Morley Safer gives a good introduction. The music is hauntingly beautiful and fitting. The scene, with the people darting every which way, and the automobiles circling around the cable car, was staged. This video was intended to be a travel movie, showing the bustling city of San Francisco in the new century. Little did these people know, many of them would fall victim of the great earthquake and subsequent fire. I have been on that very street, and to see it at a time when my great-grandparents were small children, blows me away.

Ever since I saw THIS video I've been taken in. Wow! Imagine. 104 years ago, just like I'm there. I'm looking at the people, and I'm comparing my life today to how they lived. How many times have I wanted to go back in time, to a time long before I was born! I would probably get sick, as so many of our modern conveniences are not in existence yet, such as refrigeration and water purification. Many, if not most, cooked on wood or coal stoves. Their houses had no central heat, and there was no air conditioning. Life moved at a walking speed. If you needed to go far away, you could take the train, and in a few short days you could be as far as San Diego! But it's a totally different society.

Everyone was dressed up. Was that part of the show? Everyone wore a hat, even the newsboys. These dirty little street rats, hawking their newspapers, ran around the cable car with their dirty hands and dirty faces, with the biggest smiles the Twentieth Century ever knew. They all wore leather boots. They'd flip to see what I have on my feet. In the absence of cell phones, iPods, computers or TV, there were table games and sports. Radio was just coming into being. There were no cross-country telephone calls...if you had a telephone. In the absence of antibiotics and modern medical facilities, kids died of mumps, measles, chicken pox, flu, pneumonia and polio. A simpler time? In some ways, yes. But things are leaps and bounds more simple for us today. Everything is done for us. Everything is automatic. Simplicity through complexity and technology, perhaps. The sight of a novelty, such as a movie camera, might attract the same attention today, or would it?

We've encountered one particular boy most of the way. He's the one who keeps running ahead of us, his jacket a bit too short. He held on to the back of one of the automobiles, stood in front of the cable car, and then ran. It must be hard to run in those boots. As he and the cable car reach the Ferry Terminal, he turns around. There's a smile on his face, and a look of accomplishment, and that made me smile. His face has been recorded for far longer than he ever dreamed. Did you notice the man with the long beard in the background? And the kids, the newsies, steal the final scene. I couldn't help but smile at their reaction, but also feel a bit saddened, not only to know what lay ahead for them within a few days, but also the simple truth that they're all gone now. And even 104 years ago, kids were kids. And little did any of them know, that a century later, we'd be watching...from the other side of the looking glass.