Saturday, August 20, 2016

Milwaukee gets Trumped

On August 13th in Milwaukee, Wisconsin  a young man died in an officer involved shooting. The official police report stated that the deceased had been armed and refused to comply with repeated orders to  drop the weapon. What followed were riots beginning at the scene of the incident which lasted an additional two days.
           In the midst of all of this, presidential candidate Donald Trump decided to speak to the black community. On the surface a good idea until one considers the way in which Trump had gone about it. Trump went to West Bend, Wisconsin a suburb or Milwaukee and gave a speech in which he told African Americans that their every assertion about law enforcement was "incorrect" then told them that the problems within the black community were the result of "failed democratic policies". He then asked blacks to vote for him.
          I sat back watching and simply couldn't believe what I was hearing.  This display proved to me that Donald J. Trump had no political instincts whatsoever.  He stood in an auditorium in a suburb of Milwaukee whose black population was 1.2% and spoke "to" African Americans.  I thought this is exactly why being a businessman DOES NOT qualify one to be president. Businessmen on Trump's level are used to giving orders and having them followed. They're not used to working with committees or listening to dissenting opinions.
         If Trump wanted black votes, what he should have done was going into Milwaukee itself and arranging a closed door meeting between himself, local law enforcement, and black community leaders and activists with no journalist in attendance.  He could have simply sat there and acted as a mediator between hard working cops and members of a community with whom they have friction. He could have asked both sides what needed to be done to make sure that Milwaukee never had riots shake her. In other words, he could have talked TO black people rather than AT us. There may be some who are swayed by his spin doctors as they appear on television saying "Trump went to Milwaukee" but I for one am sad that he skipped out on an golden opportunity to at least appear as if he gave a damn about something other than his own ego.
         A closed door meeting with civic, leaders clergy and cops would have made it known that he was more concerned with problem solving than with a photo op and that he actually cares NOT about winning an election, but with actually making America greater.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Stupid Statements from Classrooms

There's an old cliché which says: "There are no stupid questions." I would have to vehemently disagree as I've heard questions and statements in classrooms that were so excruciatingly stupid that I wished I had some sort of telekinetic ability to either blow up the idiots who uttered them or at least sterilize them so that they couldn't pollute the gene pool. Some of these things I heard directly others were repeated by colleagues.

"What's the difference between an 'oxymoron' and a regular moron?

"Do we have to do work today? It's MONDAY!"

"Report cards come out next week and I got a zero? Can I get some make up work?"

"It don't matter If I work in here or not. You GOTTA PASS ME!"

"How come I got a F? I was HERE every day!"

"Why do we have to do class work? It's FRIDAY!"

"I know I aint did nothing today, but I gotta leave early for football practice."

"Why you giving us work today.  It's the last day before Thanksgiving!"

"You gave me a zero for copying? He copied off me!" (the person saying this had a 37 average)

"You lucky I don't kick your ass!" (kid half my size)

"Why we gotta work? They gettin' ready to let us go on Christmas break!"

"How come I got a 37 in your class?" (he turned in two assignments during a grading period)

"Man I don't need this class! I'm going to the NBA/NFL/My dad/uncle's construction company!"

"Me and my girlfriend gettin' ready to have another baby! I don't know why, but her mama act like she don't like me."

"You aint from the hood, you wouldn't understand." (I'm from the hood)

"I thought you couldn't get pregnant your fist time having sex!"

"I want a baby! They so cute!" (said by a 15 year old)

"Why we gotta work today? We gettin' ready to go on Spring break!"

"No,  it's only offensive if it ends in 'er' not if if ends in 'ga'. " (explaining the difference between "n:883r" and "n:88a")

"I don't give a (bleep) if I flunk this class it's just (fill in name of ANY CLASS)"

"She my daughter, but I try to be her best friend."

"Man. I just come here to meet girls and sell drugs."

"I don't come to school to mutha-(bleep)in' READ! I come here to PASS!"

"Mr./Miss _______ failed me  cause  (he/she don't like me/ is racist/don't like blacks/Mexicans)"

"I don't feel like doing my work, can I go to the liberry/gym/random location?"

"We wutn't smokin' weed!" (when you walked in and caught them and they were the only ones there)

"My son/daughter doesn't lie."

"My son/daughter said this woman is flunking her because she doesn't like Mexicans." (90% of the students in the class are Mexican and many are passing)

"Why don't you just give us the answers?"

"Can we leave early?"

"Can we go to all three lunches?"

"Hey Miss ______ what's your number?"

"You aint tell us we had a test!" (When you've given them a review sheet with the answers TO the test)

"Man I don't do no homework!"

"What pages the answers on?"

"Why don't you just give everybody 100?"

"You can't flunk me just cause I aint do no work!"

"Can you show me how to make meth?"

"Can you show me how to build a bomb? I won't tell nobody!" (yeah because I'm not telling you dumb ass)

"How come we can't go in the teacher's lounge? That aint fair."

"Give me a dollar."

"I'll just take this class in summer school." (kid doesn't know that you're the only one teaching the class in summer school) 

Monday, July 18, 2016

3 Days.

"Went back home to the refinery. Hiring man said 'Son if it were up to me...'. Went down to see my V.A. man. He said 'Son, don't you understand?"

:Bruce Springsteen "Born in the U.S.A."

I remember it like it was last week. I sat on the other side of this guy's desk in a freshly pressed suit. I was wearing the spit shined D.O.D issued oxfords that every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine had been issues but only Marines ever seemed to keep and maintain. My hair was still so short that  if you were standing behind me you could clearly see the coin slot scar at the crown of my head that I got when I was seven which has always caused me to be a bit subconscious.
          He held my resume in his left hand as he extended his right to shake mine and thanked me for coming in for an interview.  He told me it was always an honor to meet someone who'd been in the service and that I out of respect for me he would be up front and tell me that I wasn't getting the job. He didn't think I'd be a "good fit", he went on to say that given how disciplined and focused I appeared to be, he doubted that I would be looking for work for very long.
           I have friends who are veterans who've told me similar stories.  Many soldiers, sailors and Marines leave their branch of service and seek employment only to be told they're "unqualified". Some re-enlist others elect to use their G.I. bill benefits and get an education only to be told they're "over qualified" when seeking work. At what point was the veteran qualified "enough"?  This problem is hardly new.  Many vets feel as if they're on the "fringes" of society as if they are alienated by society as a whole. In 1932, 10,000 veterans of world war one marched upon Washington because they'd been given certificates for "cash bonuses" which had yet to be honored. This lead to the G.I. Bill of rights.

     At the end of the second world war many called ex soldiers and sailors living on unemployment "drains on society" and many struggled to adjust to post military life.  Korean war vets fared slightly better, but Vietnam seemed to change the rules.  Veterans of the conflict in Southeast Asia were often ostracized and treated with hostility.   In 1972 David Morelle wrote the novel "First Blood" which chronicled Congressional Medal of Honor recipient and prisoner of war John Rambo who after the war couldn't keep a job parking cars and became a drifter who gets into a small war with a small town sheriff in Oregon who arrests him and roughs him up for "vagrancy."  In the novel Rambo takes on the sheriff's department and seriously injures the sheriff and several of his men. The conflict ends when Rambo's former commanding officer arrives to take him into custody and hand him over to we assume State Police.  The Rambo character is portrayed as a sensitive soul who became a killing machine who felt discarded by a nation he loved and saw his friends dying to protect.
    I'm mentioning the Morelle  novel because in my lifetime I've turned on my television to see a veteran of the first gulf war named  Sergeant Tim McVey blow up a Federal Building in Oklahoma city.  I saw a former Gulf War Vet Sergeant John Muhammad randomly kill innocent men and women in the District of Columbia.  L.A.P.D officer and Naval Reserve Lieutenant Christopher Donner went on a killing spree that crossed state lines before being killed by an incendiary device.  Former Sailor Aaron Alexis went on a killing spree at the U.S. Naval yard in Washington DC, and most recently in the Cities of Dallas and Baton Rouge Army reservist and Afghan war vet  Micah Johnson and Marine Corps Sergeant  and Iraq veteran Gavin Long went on rampages killing eight police officers between them.

      What is my point?  Let me say off the bat that I DO NOT CONDONE the actions taken by those I've mentioned, nor do I in any way justify them.  What I'm attempting to say is that veterans (especially war vets) need the government whom they were willing to give their lives to protect to have their backs.  They need access to doctors and mental health services. They need vocational training.  Many need access to mental health care professionals as they've seen things that most of us can't even imagine.  I'm just some schmuck who served in the military during peace time. I don't think I warrant the respect due to combat veterans but I definitely feel they deserve far more than they get.
      Let's face it this country has a seriously short attention span and a "what have you done for me lately" attitude. There seem to be three days on the American calendar when Veterans receive the respect of the American people: Memorial Day, the fourth of July and Veterans day.  Vets are often turned down for work by the same people who might have put up red white and blue streamers the day before and thanked them for their service a week earlier without much thought.

       I'm weary of listening to politicians from major parties telling me how they will fix the Veterans Administration system and hospitals. I hear this empty rhetoric from men and women with elephants and donkeys next to their names (some of whom ARE veterans themselves) but at the same time I see their colleagues in the House of Representatives and the Senate blocking bills that would give veterans hospitals more funding or give vets greater access to psychiatric help simply because the bill in question MAY have been put forth by someone from an opposing party and they deemed it more important to score political points. As that bickering goes on I find myself driving past men and women near freeway over passes who may or may not be homeless veterans.
     Navy Seal and American Hero Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield were both shot and killed while attempting to counsel former Marine Eddie Routh at a gun range.  Which leaves us to ask, if Routh had greater access to mental health care would  Chris Kyle be alive today?  If this nation's love for veterans extended beyond three days a year, would any of the homicidal veterans I've mentioned have committed their atrocious acts?

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

You Can't Hide Forever...we WILL find you...(satire)

I've imagine the scenario more than once. It's always at night and he's running down darkened streets. We walk in a large group knowing full well that he wouldn't be able to evade us. No matter where he turned we were seconds behind him until finally he runs into either an alley or is standing before an abandoned store front and finds himself desperately pleading with us. "Guys. can't be serious! It was 1981." One of us would angrily say "Why not Larry, or Bobby or Steven? Hell you could have even gone Matthew!"
He would then plead with us "Come on guys it's just a song." and before we set upon him one of us would defiantly  yell "It's your damn SIGNATURE song!"  We would then rain kicks and blows upon him and as we left, one of us would start to whistle the melody of the song with which we'd been tortured and maybe one of them would look back at him as he lay in the street and taunt "Hey Springfield...this is all just a bad dream. If anyone asks remember...Jesse is a friend" and then sing "and yes he is a good friend of mine...but lately somethin's changed..."
              I'm sure Rick Springfield has had this dream but usually wakes up from it in terror.  The greatest writer in the history of the English language once said: "What's in a name? It is neither hand, nor foot, nor any other part belonging to a man." Shakespeare said this in Romeo and Juliet, but at the time when he wrote it "Bill" (one of the shortened forms of the name William) wasn't an annoying note one got for services rendered at the end of a month, and it certainly wasn't a song in which the lovely Marilyn McCoo was asking him to her.  Had either been true he might have thought twice about the use of the brilliant phrase.

            Being the muse for a brilliant musician or even a mediocre one has to be quite the compliment, but if you just happen to share a name with someone about whom a song is written and that song becomes a huge hit,  it can be more annoying than those tiny lose hairs that always seem to be on your neck after you get a haircut. When Beethoven wrote "Fur Elise" (whose name was Therese by the way) you have to know she was flattered, but how many women named Elise have wanted to bludgeon the genius for having written it?

Doubt me? Find any woman who grew up in the 1970s named Caroline and serenade her with the Neil Diamond classic which bears her name. If she doesn't lunge at you with murderous intent consider yourself lucky. Neil Diamond probably has round the clock security simply to protect himself from women named Caroline.  The Beach Boys' Brian Wilson probably could wall paper his Malibu home with copies of the restraining orders he's had to get against women named "Barbara Ann" who want to take his hand and punch him in the face with it while asking "Why ya hittin' yourself? Why ya hittin' yourself?" They might want to see him "rockin' and a rollin' " and even "rockin' and a reelin' " down the hill his house sits on into the Pacific. Who knows one of them might have so much "Fun, Fun Fun" she'll drive off in a T-bird till LAPD takes it away. Yes those were horrible puns. I regret nothing.
        Ask any woman named Janie if she's "Got a gun". Stephen Tyler is smart enough NOT to do so. Women named "Nikki" don't like to be told how "Darling" they are. Women named "Layla" don't like to be told that you've got them on their knees. conversely women named "Donna" and "Peggy Sue" would most likely be sending hate mail to rock and roll legends Ritchie Valens and Buddy Holley and while Micheal Jackson was one of his generations greatest entertainers women named Billie Jean probably used to throw things at him in airports. Have women named "Lucille" or known as "Long Tall Sally" stopped wanting to assault Architect of Rock and Roll Little Richard? Hell your given name doesn't even have to be IN a some for someone to annoy you with it.  Don't believe me? Sing the song "Tomorrow" from the musical Annie to ANY woman named Tamara and replace the title of the song with her name.

        Lest you think everyone whose name is used in a song is annoyed by it, I've never met any woman named Angela who didn't love David Bowie's tribute to his wife "Angie" as she was leaving him as sang by his friend Mick Jagger.  Peter Chris' (formerly the drummer of KISS) wife "Beth" still hasn't dumped him despite having written one of the most ANNOYING ballads in the history of music about her circa 1970 something.  Most women named "Bernadette" love the Four Tops song which bears their name and there are women named "Michelle" who adore the Beatles song which bears their name.

        Before you call the FBI and tell 80s Australian actor/singer Rick Springfield that  kabal of guys named Jesse are hunting him down, I'm kidding! Most of us mean Rick no harm, except maybe guys named "Bruce" who hated being immortalized in his tongue in cheek song "Bruce" about once having a groupie confuse him for rock legend Bruce Springsteen. Hell I have to admit I actually like the REST of the guy's music.

       To musicians out there who feel inspired to write a song about someone, take a lesson from some of the greats. Carley Simon has YET to tell us the name of the guy who was "So Vain" that he probably thought the song was about him...well wasn't it?  Alanis Moiressette to this day hasn't divulged the name of the guy to whom she gave fellatio in a theatre. Dave Coulier from the 90s sitcom Full House claims it was him and truthfully if I'd dated Alanis Moiressette before that song was written I'd probably say it was about me. Wouldn't you? Jim Morrison died without telling us the name of the girl to whom he walked up and proclaimed "Hello I love You."  Who was the "Lady" Lionel Ritchie sang of? He must have loved her because he wrote a second song about her (with the same title) and let Kenny Rogers sing it. "The Girl from Ipanema" enjoyed relative anonymity as did the "Island Girl" of whom Elton John sang.
       At the end of the day, those of us who have been inadvertently immortalized by song writers consider ourselves somewhat fortunate.  Somewhere out there is a guy named Fong who would love to hear his name in a song. Don't worry Fong my man, some love struck girl is probably immortalizing you as you read this. Hope her song's a hit.

Monday, July 11, 2016

America. Black and Blue

Thursday July 7, 2016 I turned on CNN and saw my friend Christina's block in downtown Dallas on TV.  There was a Black Lives Matter protest which both CNN and Fox News agreed was "peaceful." The event had been peaceful UNTIL a sniper decided to open fire on the Dallas Police and Dallas Area Rapid Transit Police from a parking garage. I sat there trying not to cry and feeling as if I'd been kicked in the gut.

Let's back up. For as long as there have been black communities there have been police in them.  Richard Penniman who is better known as the self proclaimed "Architect of rock and Roll" Little Richard's father ran a bar in Macon Georgia and was shot and killed by one of the bar's patrons. The police detained the murderer but released him and explained that one black man killing another wasn't a crime worth wasting "tax payer money" to bring to court. Richard was infuriated but there was nothing that could or would be done.
       In 1955, Chicago teen Emmet Til was kidnapped at gun point from his cousin's home in rural Mississippi where he was tortured and killed for being "fresh" with a woman whose husband owned a local store. Two men were arrested and tried for the teen's murder but were found not guilty. The reason? Til was black and the two men who killed him were white.

      The Ku Klux Klan once used as a major selling point in recruiting that none of its members had ever been convicted of killing a black man. When John Lewis (now an elderly congressman) was one of the "Freedom Riders" who attempted to integrate interstate buses in the 60s was traveling across the South, J. Edgar Hoover's Federal Bureau of Investigation called local sheriff's departments and let them know when bus loads of "agitators" and "trouble makers" were to arrive.  The result was usually the sheriff letting local hotheads know when the buses would arrive and then when the sheriffs department would arrive.  Essentially the sheriff's departments were giving the local thugs a good 10 minutes to crack skulls and leave before they arrived. In the minds of many people of color the police were the guys who kept you in line and who protected those who brutalized and slaughtered you. Luckily the 60s brought about laws that enabled persons of color to integrate universities, vote, become civil servants (like police officers and elected officials) and to sit on juries.

          Let's put things into context here.  During the 1960s black cops were as rare as four leaf clovers. In many cities and states the idea of a black police officer male or female seemed laughable. Things have changed. Police randomly placing a random black man in jail because a crime was committed are over, but generations of this occurring have lead to a degree of distrust that has been passed along like a horrible disease.  Police brutality at one point WAS rampant in this country no matter what  your race. Blacks (in my opinion) probably felt more "victimized" because the criminal justice system more often than not gives them harsher sentences than whites accused of similar crimes.  The criminal justice system is harsher on defendants who can't afford good legal representation and as many of the impoverished are persons of color this creates the appearance of a bias. 

        Being a cop is like being president of the United States. There are those who love you and in whose eyes you can do no wrong, some who can be objective to you and what you do and those who vilify everything you do. Your actions have an impact and you have to make decisions upon which the lives of others hang in the balance.  It's not a job any geek of the street could do. The great thigns you do will often be ignored and your every error will be hung around your neck like an albatross.
       I can't claim to be an expert in the "black experience". My "black experience" was growing up with both parents in a working class neighborhood. I can't speak for someone who grew up in a much poorer neighborhood with a single parent. I can't speak for someone who grew up literally afraid to cross a street in the North or Midwest for fear of entering an Irish or Italian neighborhood because I have no idea what that's like. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said last week according to Time Magazine:  “If you are a normal, white American, the truth is you don’t understand being black in America and you instinctively under-estimate the level of discrimination and the level of additional risk.” If I said the exact same thing I'd be called a whiner or simply ignored or dismissed.  I do however know what it's like to be unfairly stereotyped and judged by the actions of others OR by the preconceptions of others and to that end I'll wager most cops do too.
      Cops and men of color have much in common. Entirely too many people are quick to assume the very worst about both us to be true. Many make snap judgements about both of us based on the actions of a handful of sociopaths who in no way represent all of us. Both groups have to deal with stereotypes and prejudice from people who have limited (if any interaction) with us.  Sadly both groups have detractors who wouldn't lose a wink of sleep if large numbers of us were brutally killed.

Oh and we have one other thing in common,  neither of us seems to want to listen to the other.  There are serious similarities between men of color and the cops and differences. What needs to happen is a dialogue in which we take a good look at the common ground we share and stop looking at our ugly history.  We should think about where this country is headed and make sure that one day when or if we hear about a man being shot by police, we don't ask his race but rather what events lead to the confrontation between he and local police.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Guns! Guns! Guns!

I was trying as best I could to get comfortable. When the troop handlers told us to pack our sleeping bags we thought them insane, but after the desert sun had set and the temperatures had dropped we were thankful that we'd followed what had seemed like a ridiculous order at the time.  Every newly minted Marine happily stuffed himself into the warmth of the thick down sleeping bag he'd been forced to pack under threat of court martial or at least a write up.
         Getting comfortable proved difficult because each of us had to have in his bag his new girlfriend better known as his M-16 A2.  It was a cold piece of steel and plastic for which each of us was held responsible and which would have set us back $1500 and a good month in the brig had we lost her. Some of us gave names to the ones we had in basic. I'd named mine Charlene, not as an homage to the movie Full Metal Jacket, but rather to the bottom heavy cheerleader with whom I had NO CHANCE in hell in high school.  The weapon I had in combat training was simply an inconvenience.  Even if you didn't fire it, you had to clean her at least three times a day because of the dust in the lovely area of southern California in which we found ourselves.
          If at the end of the week the armorers didn't think your weapon was clean enough your weekend liberty was cancelled until it was. The happiest part of the end of combat training was simply giving the Corps back its damned weapon.  I've disliked the M-16A2 ever since then and whenever I see some guy at a sporting goods store or gun show buying an AR-15 (the cheap floozy kid sister of the M-16A2 )  I try not to laugh and think: "You must really love cleaning rifles bud."
        Over the past several years I've turned on the news and seen multiple shootings committed by various idiots and whenever it does the same thing happens.  Whomever the president is says how tragic it is, a bunch of well meaning pundits express their grief then the political debate begins. The left points out how easy it is to have a gun, the right points out how the constitution gives each American the RIGHT to own as many as he can afford. They argue until a new news item takes the front page only to resume when the NEXT gun tragedy occurs.

        Sad facts? Simply having access to guns DOES NOT mean someone is more likely to commit a criminal act. Most gun owners aren't shooting up the streets on a daily basis; conversely, it is remarkably easy to legally procure a weapon in these United States. Contrary to the popular opinion of many liberals, the average person doesn't have access to fully automatic weapons, and simply being able to fire more rounds DOESN'T mean you're going on a killing spree.
         But if I may be blunt with my conservative counterparts, the 2nd amendment is the shortest and most VAGUELY written amendment IN the Bill of Rights.  You can CORRECTLY argue that the words "shall not be infringed" means precisely what it states, but be honest and admit that the founding fathers wanted us to have weapons in the event that we had to rise and for militias as they did NOT want a standing army AND they realized that many hunted for food in the 18th century.  Also please stop pretending that the same founding fathers who didn't want us to directly elect senators or the president would have been cool with us having fully automatic weapons, flame throwers and grenade launchers.  Does anyone actually believe that had they known what kinds of weapons we'd develop they wouldn't have made the 2nd amendment FAR more specific?
         The far right however does raise a very interesting point about killers not needing a gun in order to kill.  Human life is very fragile. You can kill another human being with anything you can physically handle and if you can't find anything to pick up, you can use your bare hands.

            America's problem ISN'T Guns and access them, nor is it Indians,  The British, The  Mexican army,  Rebels,  Chinese Immigrants, Irish immigrants, Italian Immigrants, The Kaiser,  Communists,  Negroes,  Illegal Immigrants or members of a particular religion. It's VIOLENCE. We Americans solve every other problem with violence. This country was taken from it's first inhabitants with violence.  Africans were forced to build the south (and part of the north) with violence and psychological torture. Irish, Italian and Chinese immigrants were met with low wages and violence upon their arrival and more often than not the robber barons of the 19th and 20th century settled labor disputes with violence.
            Martin Luther King Jr. is considered a hero by many because he championed non violence as a means of getting unjust laws changed. The unjust laws were kept in place with acts of violence. We canonize King and vilify those who tell us to defend ourselves "By any means necessary."  Because at our core we've accepted violence as part of who we are as Americans.   Our movies involve explosions and our heroes are armed with high calibre weapons. We pay hard earned money to see grown men locked into steel cages and pummel one another.
            We Americans are a violent people and we simply don't want to accept that. Accepting that fact would require us to use more thought when resolving our problems. It would deprive us of the opportunity to solve problems with our fists and trigger fingers. It would deprive us of scapegoats and boogie men and require us as a nation to engage in some retrospective.  We need to accept that violence begets violence and as long as we are a culture of violence there will be mass shootings in our schools, theatres, clubs, office buildings, streets and shopping malls.  We need to clear our heads and dedicate some time to have that existential moment when we as a nation see ourselves for who we are and figure out what our next move will be. Perhaps we'll have that great epiphany while field striping and cleaning our AR-15s.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


A friend of mine is in the hospital. I ignored a persistent cough and decided to visit her.  I elected to park my car and use mass transit to get to and from the hospital to avoid the traffic and nightmare of driving around for a rare $12.00 parking spot.  Upon leaving the hospital in the early evening, I returned downtown to discover that finding the bus which had delivered me downtown to bring me back to my car would prove to slightly easier than finding an honest man at pickpocket convention.
          The bus routes in my city have recently been changed supposedly for the better, and no one seemed to know ANYTHING about the routes which have been in place for two months now. I asked a driver who knew nothing, a bus system employee who knew less and the final person I spoke to was a large black woman in a bad wig who only said: "Chiiild...I don't know nothing about the bus routes" as the words "Metro Administrative Officers" served  as an ironic backdrop over her right shoulder.  I walked through downtown on what was once the bus route and saw abandoned bus shelters and bus signs.
       I finally got to where I knew a bus would be when I entered an area of Houston's second ward which used to be old Chinatown. The new residents elected to call this enclave "Ea-do" to indicate that it's "east" of "downtown".  Maybe they thought they were paying homage to either London's Soho in Westminster or it's namesake in NewYork city. Hipsters are known more for their sad need to belong than for any degree of originality.
        This section 10 years ago was warehouses, empty lots and shotgun houses. Seeing opportunity, our realtors bought as much as they could, slapped up shoddy town-homes as quickly as they could and sold them for five times what surrounding properties cost. The  result was a spike in property taxes which forced long time residents to vacate because they couldn't afford to pay taxes on homes they'd owned for generations. Funny. Groups of people can be relegated to living in certain parts of a city because of real estate prices, but when those who did the initial relegation change their minds those living on that land must simply pick up and go to the next sport designated for the poor. It's basically what the U.S. Government did to the Indians and what became the state of Oklahoma.

      I walked past a vacant lot which had been a known brothel five years ago until they built town homes next to it. Strangely enough the new residents rather than trying to figure out why they'd purchased property next to a whore-house simply called the cops and harassed their "neighbors" until they eventually moved.
       I glanced over at gate that a moderately handicapped man could scale with ease and atop a tiny aluminum post slightly above my head saw a cheap security camera the size of a man's wallet. I chuckled as it caught my eye and nearly blinded me with an impossibly bright red light affixed next to its tiny lens,  I gave a toothy grin and extended my middle finger and continued walking until I heard an effeminate male voice in the darkness utter a pathetically sarcastic "thank you."  I laughed and said "I love you too pal, have a good night." How miserable is your existence if you've nothing better to do at night but watch your security camera in the dark on a Tuesday night?
      I followed the ghost bus route further until I saw what looked like a warehouse for all intents and purposes from the outside which had been converted to a bar with  and gated outdoor section. I scanned the crowd inside as well as those outside who seemed to be playing some sport with a net which could have been either badminton or volleyball (it was truly of NO consequence to me) and was saddened not to have seen a single face with any pigment. There were no blacks, no Latinos and there might have been one Asian girlfriend but she was the exception.
      The exterior was gated off the same way the town-homes a block away had been. This neighborhood until seven years ago had been black and Hispanic but now new "urban" dwellers who wanted it said they lived in the city but wished to do so without having do deal with the aforementioned put up gates to insure that they wouldn't have to.  The zoo simply wouldn't be as fun an outing without cages to protect you from the animals would it.

         I trudged along pristine sidewalks that were ignored when I and people named Fuentes and Rodriguez begged for them to be resurfaced. I walked past ugly, quickly constructed buildings whose sole purpose was to drive up property taxes and was nearly blinded by the street lamps. I couldn't help but wonder where the hell were these lights when I and neighbors  asked the city for them? Ironically black rock group Living Colour's song "Open Letter to a Landlord"  (which is about a slumlord who ignores the plight of his tenants and eventually burns the building to the ground to rebuild and sell for a profit) came on my ipod.  Irony in two senses. Living Colour initially couldn't get a record deal (until discovered by Mick Jagger) because no record execs were willing to listen to a black rock group and secondly because I found myself walking across a landscape that while familiar was seeming more alien and less inviting than it had ever been when it was what many would consider a "rough" neighborhood.

       Do I have a problem with people investing in urban neighborhoods? No I have no problem with people engaging in commerce as it makes the world go round. Do I object to people building homes and living where ever they choose? Not at all.  I am however bothered by the fact that if I built a house on the same piece of land that  it would have no effect on the value of that property.  I would welcome any man or woman as my neighbor if he or she were a decent human being.  Do I take issue with my city raising my property taxes simply because non minorities choose to become my neighbors, but LOWERING my taxes when more persons of color like myself move in? You're damned right I do. A society which tells me I'm "equal" should treat me the same way it would treat anyone else rather than using buzz worlds and phrases when I choose to live in a certain area or if someone wants me out.

        Near the end of my walk I can see my car. Three buses heading in the opposite direction passed me during my evening stroll, but as my car is in site as is the bus stop where I would have disembarked, the bus for which I was initially waiting finally passed me by.  I uttered a loud epithet before approaching my car but as I did I thought about my friend Dave who lived a few blocks away. He'd told me how some bottom feeding real estate lowlife had knocked on his door and offered to give him cash for his home. The problem is he only offered him 1/4 of the homes value. Had he sold, it would have gotten a fresh coat of paint and simply have been sold to some hipster douche-bag who would have boasted about his new place "in the city" but only after getting the latest in burglar alarms and maybe a tiny security cam atop a slender aluminum pole.