Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Boulder Cities New Rates

Boulder City has new utility rates. I write about some of my thoughts on the new rates in my article for the Boulder City Review and you can read it here. I am very grateful for a chance to write for the paper and appreciate my editor, but once and a while struggle with the titles they give me. I don't think water rates are the answer to attract families. I think our current rates might not encourage families but I digress.

But in addition to what I wrote I have had a few additional thoughts. One, while I do believe our rates need to be sustainable, I think the new rates are too aggressive. I think the city needs to run on a little bigger picture and see if we can't both be sustainable and maintain our status of lowest rates in the valley. The current rates seem very hasty and aggressive. I hope the new council will reconsider and look into new possibly lower rates.

The second thought is any family budget has two variables, income and expenditures. Most of us like to solve our financial woes by focusing on income. Meaning we'd rather get a raise then spend less money. I hope City Council is looking at both ends of the equation not just looking for a raise, so to speak, by increasing rates. I say this realizing that we do have real needs for infrastucture improvement. But I wonder if there couldn't be other cost savings as well. Something I have not had time to investigate just hope and trust those we elected are.

Friday, July 21, 2017

This is great...reminds me of jail.


I approach the front desk at the hotel and ask, "So where do the homeless hang out in town?"

After an odd stare, he said, "Try the 99 cent store." This was the first time I had gotten this advice and it would prove valuable on several occasions, (Here is a story of someone else I met at a 99 cent store) not just in Redding California.


Upon arriving at the 99 Cent store, I did not see any homeless but did see two security guards. I approached them and asked, "Don't homeless people tend to hang out here?"


"Not any more." They laughed, clearly proud of having done their job.


"Do you know where they do?"


"Try down by the safeway...and tell them the 99 cent story guards say hi." They laugh again but then add, "Just kidding, don't tell them that."


On my way to the safe way I see what appears to be a homeless man with a small dog. I walk fast to catch up. "Do you know where the safeway is?" I ask. I really wanted to ask, ,"Are you homeless?" but it's a bit of an odd question, so I stick to directions to the store.


"Yea, right there." He points across the street, and we both begin to cross. I introduce myself and learn his name is Carlos Perez.


"Where you from?"


"Florida."


"What are you doing in California?'


"Just trying to find work."


At this point I am very confident he is homeless and decide I'll take him to dinner and find out more then. "You hungry?"


"Yeah."


"You want to get something to eat?"


"Yeah," he says with a smile.


"You have time to sit down?"


"I got nothing but time."


He is drinking what appears to be beer from a Nalgene bottle as we walk.


"So you're looking for work?"


"Yea, I had a job, but I blew that because I didn't have a phone to call in when I didn't show up. I did work on a farm up the highway a ways, but they pay me in weed."


He says it so casually that I assume I misheard him. "Did you say weed?"


"Yeah, weed and wax."


"What's wax?"


"Its made from the oil of the stock. See weed is like 24% TCH and wax is like 84%. It gets you high way faster. But it's too common in California, so it is not worth anything, but if I could send it to Florida it would be worth tons of money. Then I could go home with some real money."


It amazed me how casually he would discuss multi state drug trafficking with a total stranger. But not having much use for the ins and outs of weed dealing I moved on to another topic.


"Why'd you leave Florida?"


"Me and my girl wanted to travel. I'm a traveler, not a hobo who stays in one place. But my girl and I got in a fight and she left last night."


"Where do you stay?"


"We are lucky, we have a car. I'm not licensed or registered or anything but we get around. It is an old truck with no windows and shakes violently when you go over 25, but that is usually where we sleep. But I can sleep anywhere, after all it's just sleep. You do need to know where it's okay to go. Wal-Mart is the best. I've never been kicked out of a Wal-Mart. They let you sleep around the fence or in the lot."


"What about when it gets cold? Do you go to a shelter?"


"No way, I hate shelters. I just bundle up with lots of clothes or put my dog on my chest. If I need gas to run the heat I just sit on the corner with a gas can and people will get me some."


"So how long have you been in Redding?"


"Too long. I hate it here. Everyone is on drugs. This is the meth capitol of the world. That's part of why me and my girl fought, she has been clean for a year but has slipped back 3 times and it's hard here. I've never done that stuff. I don't want any part of it. It's just too addictive. Alcohol is bad enough. " He says, gesturing to his Nalgene.


We enter the Black Bear Diner and stand by the, "Wait to be Seated" sign. We are standing there for several minutes while we continue to talk. Several waitresses walk by. Finally after uncomfortably long I stop one and say, "Table for two." Carlos has his small dog with him. The dog has a vest that has a patch sewn into it that says, "Service animal." The waitress does not ask about the dog, but does lead us to a side room that has a few guests finishing their meal and puts us in the far corner.  It appears that this is the portion of the restaurant that they close earlier than the rest but decided it would be a good place to put us.


"So did you grow up in Florida?"


"I grew up all over. My Dad left when I was 5 and my Mom kept going back and forth between Puerto Rico, Massachusetts and Florida."


"How long have you been on the road?"


"For 4 to 5 years now. I love being a traveler, it is so eye opening not being a slave to work. I'm not lazy, and I like to work, but the rules don't apply to me." He stops, gets very serious and point to himself says, "For me, this is a choice. Some people are out here because they lost their parents or were abused and run away, but not me. For me, it's a choice. My family are still back in Florida, my Mom and my boy."


"You have a son?"


"Yeah, he is 16 years old, lives with my ex. I love my ex, we had our differences but we get along and she lives by my Mom and brother, all in Daytona. I also have a 22 year old daughter but I don't know where she is. She is a rebel like her Mom. I hate that woman. I was 15, had sex for the first time and found out she was pregnant. I stayed with her for 5 years, but she went crazy and disappeared."


I couldn't help but see my own 5 year old little girl and couldn't stomach the thought of never seeing her again.


"So do you see your boy?"


"Oh yea, he lives down the street from me." He speaks of his Mother's home as if it is his own, and even though he hasn't been there in 5 years, considers it so. (I wrote about his idea in How Many Ways is He Homeless?)


"Yeah, I was a Mason in Massachusetts making like $1,200 a week but I needed to be close to my boy so I moved to Florida and was only making $290 a week as a cook. But it was worth it to be by my boy."


It get's silent and I don't want to ask follow up questions because they will all lead to the obvious question of, "why did you leave then?" So I change the subject.


"What's your dogs name?"



"Her name is Black Dog."


Black Dog has been quietly, obediently sitting this entire time.  I realize I have been now waiting longer then I have ever waited at a restaurant. We are now the only ones in this room and I finally get up, find the lady who sat us and tell her we are ready to order.  She apologizes profusely and says she will  quickly send someone.


Shortly after I get back, someone comes to take our order. Carlos gets a Reuben.


"So why California, I ask?"


"I started traveling a little bit at a time. Each time I would get a little further from Florida. Then one day I met My Girl at a rainbow gathering and we decided to try California.  See, at the time, I had this really cool RV. It was the total party bus. I liked to paint and do like body art and tag. So my bus was tagged inside and out. We finally made it to California and a guy come up to us with a garbage bag and I say, 'What's in the bag?' He throws it down and it's full of weed--10 lbs. of it. And he gives me a little handful. I was like, 'I don't have the money to pay for this.' He said, 'No need, welcome to California!' So we decided to stay in California."


"What's a Rainbow Gathering?" I ask, again trying to get off the weed topic.


"They are where woods people gather and have festival. It comes from the ancient nature prophecy that said when the world is falling apart that it will be saved by the rainbow children who will bring back unity. There is some really good rainbow groups on Facebook and stuff. I can show you how to get involved. They are really good people."


Again I realize it has been really long, and I have to get up again and find the waiter. He again apologizes, and shortly after, our food shows up.


Carlos looks down at his Reuben and with a huge smile says, "This is great! It reminds me of jail."


"The sandwich?"


"Yeah, there was this jail in Keystone Colorado. It had the best food! I loved it there. I wanted to stay but got out. Actually I was surprised they caught me. I had just tagged this police car with a Sharpie, and some officers came up and said they knew it was me. I totally denied it, but then they asked to see my pockets and found my Sharpie markers. I should have thrown them in the dumpster. The jail was awesome, but the officer was such a jerk that I told him I would never come back to his town."

The irony of this statement was thick.

"Are most jails okay?"

"No, just that one. The one I spent a few weeks in Florida for having some weed was the worst. They gave you like one hard boiled egg, and that was your lunch. The conditions there were awful."


We get back to talking about the Rainbow People and he notes, "If you go on Facebook and type 'Rainbow Family' and request friends they will let you know when the next gathering is. I always tell people a gathering is like the Robin Hood movie with Kevin Costner when they go into the woods. I told you  about the prophecy and it totally makes sense, who knows how to get by without electricity? The rainbow people.


"Do you have Facebook?" He asks.


"Yeah, I just got it. I had avoided it for a long time." I admit.


"That's good. Most divorces today are because of Facebook. That is part of why my girl and I fought. I saw her phone and read some of her Facebook messages to other guys. She got all mad saying she is allowed to have friends. I was like, 'friends don't say that to each other.'"

By this time I had long since finished. Carlos had only finished half his sandwich but it was clear that was all he was going to eat. I again went into the restaurant to find someone to get us a check. Again, a profuse apology.


After we had paid, we walked out and Carlos asked if I wanted to hang out. I told him I had better get to bed, but at the stop light before I crossed he told me one more story. I wrote about it earlier and you can read it here. Anyone can see Carlos's life was full of contradictions. His decisions to travel versus his desire to be by his son. His disdain for drugs, and his love of Marijuana. His divorce vs. his love of his ex wife. His love of Keystone jail and his determination to never return. We all have contradictions in our lives and Carlos's contradictions made the Serpentine Stone story all that much more poignant. If you have not, I hope you read it.


But I cannot leave the story of Carlos and not address the mistreatment at the restaurant.  I do not think the restaurant purposely mistreated us. My guess is the lady put us in the corner of our own room because of our smell. Carlos's smelled about how one would expect a guy who had been sleeping in an old truck for weeks without a bath to smell. And Black Dog probably wasn't helping the smell much either. Given this, maybe the back room wasn't a bad place. After that, the total neglect, I think, was because they were busy and forgot about us. It was a room they didn't usually use that late, so to get to us was out of the routine. But purposeful or not, it was neglect.

I think most of our neglect of the homeless falls into this category. We don't mean to hurt, ignore or put them down, but to help them is out of our routine. Especially to really help them. So they get put in the back room, the homeless shelter, the bad part of town, and we get busy and forget about them. If we want to really help the homeless we have to get out of our routine, we have to step out of the day to day busyness of our lives, call a personal timeout and remember the back room.





Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Interviews

Several years ago, I made a goal to, once a month, find someone whom I wanted to emulate and interview them. I have not been as diligent at this as I originally intended, but those I have interviewed have brought me great insight.

One day in Sunday School we were talking about marriage and a gentleman raised his hand and told the class about something similar he had done. Years previous he had been through a divorce and was looking to remarry. He wanted his marriage to be successful so he began interviewing couples that had been married for a long time. (I think it worked he has a great marriage). I encourage all to do the same. Whatever you wish to improve or learn about, find someone who knows or who has been there before and go have lunch with them.

Most recently, I had lunch with the man who made that comment in Sunday school, our retiring City Attorney. You can read about it Here. Special thanks to Dave for taking the time to meet with me, it was great.

On a final note, don't delay the chance for such meetings. I had a wonderful interview with Bruce Tschuntz just last year. In many ways that interview changed my life. He was a key player in the Carter Administration in drafting the first Dam Safety Guidelines, and the first Cheif of Dam Safety for FEMA. I am so glad I met with him. I just found out he died a few weeks ago.

I highly recommend taking the time to interview great men and women and highly recommend you start today.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Chapter 1

Eye contact is a powerful thing. Empathy, love, passion, confusion, distress, panic and a plethora of other emotions can all be conveyed between our nose and eyebrows. Pure disdain is another one of those fun emotions that eyes can send from one person to another. That message was coming over loud and clear from Mr. Johnson to Dr. Lewis from the moment he had walked into the office. But, to ensure the message wasn't lost in translation, Mr. Johnson sent it over and over and over again. The forced presence of husbands in their office was something every marriage counselor was accustomed to, but in his experience with Mr. Johnson, this usually was exhibited in simple indifference. No, something was clearly on the man's mind beyond just his disintegrating marriage and the regular contempt any man has for another man who keeps asking him, "How does that make you feel?" No this was clearly something more. As Mrs. Johnson told a story about how Mr. Johnson totally ignored her during their last assignment, which was to discuss why she was originally attracted to him, Mr. Johnson did a very good job of reenacting his indifference to her and instead was focused completely on the doctor. Dr. Lewis himself was usually a very conscientious listener but it was hard to focus on Mrs. Johnson's words with Mr. Johnson’s glare demanding so much attention. Dr. Lewis tried to press on, "So, Mr. Johnson, why do you think Mrs. Johnson feels you weren't listening?" Mr. Johnson paused and, in a rather supercilious way, remarked, "I'm not sure. Does your wife ever assume you're not listening?" Dr. Lewis was used to clients trying to get him to interject his personal life as an example, some were innocent, but increasingly they were less about curiosity and had more of a sinister nature. From the tone, Dr. Lewis feared this was more likely the latter. But, treating it as innocent, he calmly said, "It's important we focus on your situation. There is no value in looking at mine." "Oh, okay. Well, since you don't want to talk about your situation," Mr. Johnson's tone had not improved, "we will only talk about mine. So, why didn't she think I was listening. I may have not had good eye contact. Isn't eye contact important?" His eyes continued to pierce into Dr. Lewis, proving that at least under certain motives, Mr. Johnson's aptitude for eye contact left nothing to be desired. "Yes that is important, but could it have been more that?" The doctor was doing everything in his power to avoid what he knew would turn into an awkward situation, but deep down knew what was coming. "Or maybe I was stressed. You ever have a stressful day?" Dr. Lewis at that particular moment was very prepared to answer this question, but before he could tell himself to hold his tongue, Mr Johnson added. "What do you do when you get home all stressed and your wife wants to talk?" "Again, Mr. Johnson lets focus on your situation." "Good, I want to know what you do when you are in my situation." Directly trying to maneuver away from his personal life was clearly not going to work so he tried the old, answer the question they should have asked, "Your wife deserves open, honest conversation. So if you need a break to de-stress be open about it." Mrs. Johnson at this point began to interject, "But this was on a Sat.." "How would you know?" Mr. Johnson cut her off, demanding all the attention the little office could offer.
"What?" Dr. Lewis was beginning to expect some confrontation but this was more aggressive than he could have imagined. Recomposing himself a little, Mr. Johnson clarified, "How would you know? Have you tried it?" Dr. Lewis was now getting a bit defensive and his response was not his usual tranquil tone, "I have a doctorate from the University of Connecticut, worked for one of the most prestigious clinics in America, counseled hundreds of couples. I am very qualified to discuss these situations. Mr. Johnson was pleased to see he had gotten under the Dr's skin, and it was with a smile that he sat back in his chair and said, "And yet with all that, no real experience. Come on Jen, lets get out of here." He stood and did the only thing he ever looked forward to doing from the first day he had walked into this office, walked out for the last time. Mrs. Johnson was conflicted, she looked at the doctor in a panic, but the heap of mangled ego that was left of him was far from the pillar she would have needed to help secure her decision. The only strength was leaving the room and she followed it. It was not the fact a disgruntled client walked out that left Dr. Lewis in such a worn state. He had faced it before and would face it again. It was the increased frequency of such occurrences. It was no mystery to Dr. Lewis where Mr. Johnson had discovered the fact that in manners of love, the Dr. was a bit of a novice. A client several months ago,who blamed Dr. Lewis for his failed marriage, had used his knowledge of Dr. Lewis's bachelorhood to flood the internet with scathing reviews like, "Why does a man who has never said, 'I do' get to tell me what to do in my marriage." If Dr. Lewis hadn't been so devastated, he would have had to admit that one was pretty clever. Since these had picked up, his clients had dropped off. There were always men who were looking for a way to get out of counseling, but Dr. Lewis had always prided himself on the fact that if they just gave him a little chance, he could help. He had saved so many marriages that had started their counseling with reluctance. Now he was worried no one would give him a chance. They had their out. Inaction was not something Dr. Lewis ever accepted. Every problem had a solution, and suddenly it was crystal clear. The solution was easy. "Yes, it wasn't mainstream, but that doesn't make it wrong," his mind quickly countered. He always counselled his clients not to make life changing decisions under the duress of hurt feelings, and although that same counsel echoed in his mind as he now found himself rationalizing what he would have described as an irrational life choice in a counselling session, he felt himself dig in his heels against his own good advice for the same reason many others had ignored his counsel: because he wanted to. The only question was the method to deliver the message. The internet made the options and reach almost unlimited. Foreign market was fairly good. No, better keep it close to home. It took only a few minutes to create a new hotmail account and, surprisingly, no one had taken the handle yourhusband@hotmail.com. Next, to the Gazette Classifieds. Local professional seeks wife.