On My Own Lack of Empathy…Happy Thanksgiving!

I’ve known for a long time I don’t contain the natural empathy or feeling of the average person. This could be how it’s always been. This could also be (in part) desensitization from a career in social work…twenty years of witnessed experiences and darker narratives:

– Doing paperwork in a crisis house when a woman walked up to me with a towel over her arm, “I think I made a mistake,” she said removing the towel, uncovering a clean incision from elbow to wrist…I nodded sympathetically, “Okay, wrap the towel back around and I’ll grab my keys. We’ll go to the hospital.”

– In the emergency room, listening to a young woman with broken front teeth and a bloody eye detail the horrific abuse she had been receiving from her husband…while I made steady, softened eye contact, nodding appropriately and formulating a plan to provide assistance.

Screenshot_2018-11-17 Donald J Trump on Twitter

Twenty years of horrendous situations, traumatic stories from people dealing with  homelessness, abuse, people who have been beaten and thrown away. I’m not trying to say that I feel nothing. I do, but it’s muted, and comes less from an emotional response and more from an analytical choice of what the next correct decision should be given the situation. It’s learned. When my grandfather passed away, I left work early, not because I really felt the need to go home, but because the look of concern from my supervisor indicated that would be the appropriate response. When my client came to terms with her terminal diagnosis from untreated breast cancer, I sat with her for two hours as she tearfully processed this, leaving only to go get her some popsicles from the corner store because they were her favorite and seemed to be what she needed in that moment, or the times spent marching in the streets with thousands over the Chicago Police Department’s murder of another young man – this was correct because racism is wrong.

I used to try to see if I could fix this lack. I thought that perhaps my sense of humor was too dark or that there might be something wrong with the anger being my most frequent go-to, or strongest felt emotion. I knew, intellectually, that my muted responses made me a little different and also that my father was similar in these respects. I also learned from the myriad of social situations most everybody finds themselves in that certain responses are more socially acceptable than others, and if I was going to give up trying to fix what wasn’t going on within me that I was going to need to become practiced in what those responses should be, as well as really put in the time to develop a sense of ethics and social justice as an overall guide.

Screenshot_2018-11-17 Donald J Trump on Twitter Republicans are doing so well in early voting, and at the polls, and now th[...]

This past month a co-worker unexpectedly passed away. I had known this person for about a year as we had shared an office with others, her sitting directly behind me. We’d gone to lunch once or twice, had conversations. We’d discussed the sadness she had felt recently when she’d had to put her dog down. I knew about some of her struggles, her difficulties with her family and some of the challenges she was working to resolve. I received news of her death via text while working at a different site. The person who sent me the text was pretty busted up over it, you could see it through the characters and while reading the successive texts I didn’t have too much of a reaction, but I also knew that would be the incorrect response.

So I answered in kind, “That’s terrible. How is everyone doing down there?” (south side clinic) and we engaged around this for a few more texts, and being this person’s supervisor I suggested that if they needed, they were free to leave for the day in order to take any self-care necessary. This was the right thing to say as a supervisor. Also being the right thing: knowing another co-worker at my site was very close to this person, and that it might be better if I told them in person rather than potentially finding out by group e-mail later in the day. So I found them and told them what had happened. I watched them cry. I watched another person sit next to them and put his hand on their shoulder, and made a mental note that next time, in this situation, that would be something I might do.

Screenshot_2018-11-19 Trump_s Puerto Rico tweets are the purest expression of his presidency

I once had a conversation with my wife where we discussed social work, a profession she also enjoys. She told me one of things she admires is the compassion I have and how much I care about people. I was a little drunk at the time, and a bit honest about it all as I told her the reason I felt I was good at my job was because ultimately, I didn’t care too much. Writing that might make me sound bad. I get that, and it’s not something I enjoy about myself, rather I’ve learned to accept it. I told her I was able to look at social work situations like Chicago, not like New Orleans, meaning my approach is more clearly analytic, unclouded by an emotional heart. I’ve been successful doing things this way, but I wouldn’t have been nearly so without constant interaction and correction by other people, by observation, by learning that even if I don’t necessarily feel any which way, the right thing to do is this or that; it’s the ethical thing, the thing most likely to get justice for a particular individual in a situation that inherently contains very little.

Screenshot_2018-11-19 Trump_s Puerto Rico tweets are the purest expression of his presidency(1)

So next week Saturday, I’ll be going to a memorial for my co-worker who passed away, deep on the south side of Chicago at a small park where a tree will be dedicated in her memory. This gathering will be attended by friends and family of the deceased as well as many people from the non-profit where I work. Emotionally, I feel no real compunction to go, but do I understand it is the right thing to do.

And I want to do the right thing. It’s important.

Have a nice day, and Happy Thanksgiving.

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On Leaving San Francisco…Converse All Stars, High Rents and the Fillmore Jazz Fest

Um, yeah...right.
Um, yeah…right.

I was standing outside the Converse All Star Store on Market Street in San Francisco when it became clear to me it was again, time to leave this city.  The sign in the store window yelled, “SHOES ARE BORING! WEAR SNEAKERS!” in large, capitalized letters and behind this sign stood an equally loud, colorful scream of red sneakers, white sneakers and blue, all arranged on the wall to form a huge American flag of Converse, Chuck Taylor All Stars. It was a catching display, big and bright and then further inside the store, large banners did their turn, celebrating the rebelliousness of the shoes themselves, of the purchasing, owning and living in these shoes (or…sneakers) and what doing so might say about you and your lifestyle, about who you really are and hey…you know, you can step right inside and go to the “Create lab” and with the able help of a “Maestro,” actually design your own sneakers while playing “loud raucous tunes” to further express your unique individuality in their biggest store ever for the low, low price of $75.00! Yes-sir! Express all that you are, and can be:

With. Fucking. Footwear.

Yes sir, time to fucking go…Converse told me so, reminding me clearly of the power held in reputations and the potential emptiness existing below their surface. Them All Star’s got a reputation, an individuality image and so does San Francisco, often defined round here as: “Kook City,” and that is only one example. Some also consider it the land of gay rights, gay marriage and the Castro, or maybe it’s the hippies in the Haight (smaller in number, but still there). It’s known as a liberal playground of civil rights, of compassion and care, as the land of a truly progressive politics that tries to see the big picture for the benefit of everybody. Good lord, by reputation alone this is clearly not a city in America, it’s a nation unto itself, a utopian peninsula where the best of American liberalism has taken it upon itself to finally shine from the Pacific Ocean to San Francisco Bay.

Yeah. Okay…right.

Honestly, if any of that was ever really true, it’s bullshit level has been increasing exponentially the past five years or so, leaving a lot of longtime residents disillusioned about the myths they chose to believe in, kinda like the people who buy into that All Star reputation as some sort of independent status symbol only to later discover the black death of child factory footwear, Nike, bought out the whole chain years ago. Oops.

And who bought San Francisco?

Well, the San Francisco of today is real estate developers and speculators flipping properties and evicting people to work around rent control. It is tech companies getting tax breaks to stay in town while they make money hand over fist. It is the gearing of an entire city towards a luxury class while our compassionate citizens, lead by story after story in the Chronicle demonizing panhandlers and the homeless, help enact a set of brutal homeless laws that make it a crime to sleep in a park or sit down on a sidewalk. It is a wealth gap forming like a canyon between the quite well off and those unable to afford even the most basic needs, continuing an ever-increasing homelessness while the city also cuts shelter beds and mental health support in the same shelters. It is a glut of tech workers moving in and greedy landlords going batshit insane, raising rents to a place where the average rent for a one bedroom apartment in San Francisco is around $2400 dollars and at those prices, now left out of the new San Francisco are such mainstream salaries as teachers, nurses, cops, social workers and city employees (just to name a few) all being forced out by these high rents, forced to commute in from the East Bay or go away altogether. Right now, I pay $1000 a month for a tiny studio in one of the worst neighborhoods in the city. The only reason my rent has stayed so low over the past couple of years is rent control. New rentals in my building now go for $1,450 dollars, and by market rates this is still pretty cheap. If I were to be evicted I would have to leave this city, no longer able to afford it and I work a professional job, and that’s a fucking powerless feeling, and Jesus Christ, what if you were dumb enough to be here with fucking children? How do you put down roots knowing if your landlord decides he’s had enough of owning his building and sells to the speculators constantly knocking on his door with ever increasing offers, you would have to abandon everything?

Yeah, even childless, I say fuck that.

And that’s a big part of the problem, a lot of people are saying “fuck that.” People like…the aforementioned teachers and nurses, but also the musicians, artists, designers and writers. So many are leaving, and though many have tried Oakland…Oakland is now going the way of San Francisco and as their rents keep climbing, it too is being abandoned. The cultural center of San Francisco is hollowing out, leaving behind a shell of wealthy techies and other higher paying professionals who run around this playground trying hard not to get bored while people commute in from all over the Bay Area to serve them doing retail, restaurant, hotel and other service jobs.

Let them have tips. Let them eat cake.

That’s not a city.

It’s a pretty fiefdom of entitled, dull dilettantes wearing Google Glass and buying eight dollar cups of coffee. It’s a place that hosts the America’s Cup boat races. It’s the land of foodies and food snobs, and so many of the (new and old) wealthy entitled. Now, this doesn’t mean the city’s all bad, and not even bad for me. I love my job, the Bay, the views and the movie houses. I enjoy how most bands on tour stop here, the hills, the never-ending series of taquerias (I have a favorite in every neighborhood in the city and can recite them like poetry). These are all good things, but it’s not enough anymore. Not for me and not for many others, and certainly not when you have other options because everything I like about this town is also available somewhere else. Even one of the strongest reputations San Francisco is known for is losing it’s luster; the city may still be a gay mecca of sorts, but the country’s changing and is it really anymore of a Mecca than many other cities? Even the famed Castro neighborhood is now filled with families complaining about the noise of a scene they once were a part of, back before they decided to get married and adopt kids. It’s all changing. The reputation has expired. One hanging dick from some naked guy on Folsom street no longer makes you “Kook City” when your city council actually went to the trouble to outlaw nudity. Little by little, the unique character of the city gets stripped away. Hell, they even kicked the chess players off of Market Street, stating they (were homeless) attracted crime. The Castro Halloween party? Gone. The Lusty Lady? Gone too. The long trite phrase “Only in San Francisco” becomes vain and rather pointless when there’s far crazier and far friendlier shenanigans happening in Austin, Chicago, New York, New Orleans, Denver, Pittsburg and Seattle…just to name a few. Oh, and with the exception of New York, I can actually afford to live in all of those other cities (and many more) and much more comfortably, and with a much cleaner conscience, especially when I know that the guy who got my coffee or made my tacos or helped me find that book in the bookstore is actually living in the same city I am…maybe more difficultly than in the past but he or she is still there.

But not in San Francisco, here they would need several roommates in their studio to try it, and even then they still couldn’t afford a pair of fucking All Stars.

One more example: a couple of weeks ago, they had the Filmore Jazz Festival. The Fillmore District in San Francisco is a legendary neighborhood once known as the “Harlem of the West.” It was where Louis Armstrong played, where Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday performed in the clubs and shopped at many black owned businesses, historically important and culturally iconic. Every year, they still hold the Fillmore Street Jazz Festival in the district, but today Fillmore Street is a fucking joke, a collection of high end shops, pricy eateries and a Starbucks on every block. The only reason one might ever know the history of the neighborhood is by spotting a banner that hangs off a light pole when you walk out of the Mac cosmetic store or the cute little homemade organic soap shop. They might call it the “Jazz District,” but that’s about as accurate as referring to the famed Cable Cars as anything but a tourist trap. In truth, the Fillmore is nothing but  a series of cosmetic stores and clothing boutiques punctuated by the occasional artisan cafe all tailored to the new gentry of yuppies and other assorted professionals who can somehow afford the exorbitant rents.

And this is your new San Francisco.

Many people like it. These people often own and work in tech companies and/or own a lot of property, or maybe they own high end restaurants or shops that sell five hundred dollar handbags, three hundred dollar pairs of sunglasses or expensive organic food. The CEO of Apple? He fucking loves San Francisco but the people who work at the Apple Store…not so much. They all live in fucking Pleasanton or with their three roommates in Oakland or in their rent controlled studio hoping the owner of the building doesn’t decide to Ellis Act their ass and kick them to the streets so he can flip the building and double or triple the rent on new tenants. Cities change. I get it. I can accept that, and sometimes you roll with that change or you decide that the dissonance between what a city claims to be is too great from what it actually is and you get the fuck out. Sometimes you take a look around you and just get disappointed, and then maybe you even get bitter and start doing your research and realize how places do exist in this country that actually are what San Francisco (still) claims to be…

Growing up I used to wear Converse All Stars. Great fucking shoes…I mean, sneakers, but then they got bought out by Nike and the prices for them tripled over time and their reputation became only that to me, a reputation and I moved on…to shoes that didn’t define me, but were authentic and affordable and they’re fucking shoes! Who fucking cares! It’s not a lifestyle.

It’s. Fucking. Footwear.

And San Francisco is just a city, just another city, not really all that special anymore and sometimes, it even feels kind of ugly being here so very soon, it’s off to Chicago again and yes, I understand it suffers from many of the same problems as San Francisco but it’s way better off for a few reasons: hell 0f a lot more room to maneuver, it’s still affordable, there’s a real chance they might kick Rahm Emanuel the fuck out of there and maybe most important of all…it’s a hell of a lot easier to get to New Orleans from Chicago than it is from San Francisco. And I really love New Orleans too, despite what’s happening in the Bywater, and you know? Maybe because of what’s happening in the Bywater, you can bet your ass I’ll be watching for any sign of a Converse store on Canal or Magazine and if that should start to happen, I’ll be ready…

It’s only fifteen hours by car from Chicago to NOLA and even though I don’t smoke anymore, I seem to always have a lighter around and I’m betting that shoes burn a lot easier than a reputation, no matter how empty.

Have a nice day.

The winds of change…

Another Disenfranchised Citizen at the corner of Geary and Larkin, Tenderloin neighborhood in San Francisco. See ya soon...

Hello again…

Some of you out there are aware the moving days are upon me…just completed one move, literally down the street which helped pave the way for the big move, five weeks from today to New Orleans San Francisco. Originally, I wanted it to be New Orleans, but alas…you got yourself one fucked up governor down there and the only thing he likes better than giving no bid contracts to his campaign donors is to cut education and social services so…long story short…you got no jobs down there man! Not for a person like me…so I go to the one other place I enjoy so much and that would be San Francisco…

So, what does this mean for the Citizen…well…there gonna be somewhat of a pivot going on round here…

Now…never you fear, I got enough hatred of oil companies like BP and frankly any company who run roughshod over a populace with complicit politicians, government agencies, the courts…Looking at you Barbier and a bunch of asshole lawyers like Feinberg and the Plaintiff Steering Committee…

For example, if you haven’t seen this article yet, man…really, check it out:

BP Settlement Sells Out Victims

Wait, what? You mean to tell me the people of the Gulf Coast got screwed again?

No way, say it ain’t so…

However…like I mentioned, there will be a pivot where I’ll also now be writing about some Bay Area stuff…like the coming fiscal and environmental tragedy called the America’s Cup…where you just know the city of San Francisco in general, and the people who can least afford it in specifics are all about to get financially hosed by a bunch of wealthy bastards on racing yachts…oh yeah, and then of course there’s San Francisco’s newly elected Sheriff, Ross Mirkarimi who is about to go to court on domestic violence charges…

Yeah, and I’ll be attempting to keep writing while I move cross-country, find a job, find an apartment..etc… Hell, I even had to go buy me a new smart phone for the task…

Oh, and by the way…want to know a huge similarity between California and New Orleans?

One big fucked up levee system courtesy of the Army Corps of Engineers with a long legacy of mismanagement and shortcuts.

Anyways, wish me luck and I’ll see you back here tomorrow afternoon…

Have a nice day.

-Drake

Romney: I like being able to fire people…

Ever see that South Park episode where people defecate out of their mouths?

Mitt Romney, the presidential candidate one pundit described as the candidate who most looks like the guy who laid you off during the recession had this to say in New Hampshire today:

“I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.”

Granted, the line was taken out of context as he was discussing how people dissatisfied with the service they are getting should be able to take their business elsewhere…but seriously, this is politics so you can take your “out of context” and put it in the same fucking coal bin as your “it’s not a lie, it’s spin…” argument.

All of them…this charade…Republican and Democrats where these tools march around stages, smile insincerely and tell you whatever you want to hear, whatever they think we need to hear to make us feel better, more positive, as completely in the dark as possible…

Well, I like being able to fire people too…

And I’d like to fire the entire mainstream news media for participating in this bullshit charade, then heading off to the bar to pat each other on the back for the service they’ve done for nobody.

And speaking of bullshit disservice…

How about Chefs Emeril Lagasse and John Besh, doing their part to feed the BP Public Relations Machine…

Mitt!

There’s some firing to do…

But more on that for tomorrow…

Have a nice day.

In here is more important than out there…

Ken Feinberg, before the audit pushed him under the water...and held him there...

Internals and externals…

Why do I do what I do? Why do I write the things I do on the internet? For what purpose?

Do I believe that by writing all the things I’ve written over the past year or so about British Petroleum, Ken Feinberg, the GOP, Barack Obama and whatever else will create a world of my liking…that British Petroleum will finally admit just how bad they’ve fucked up, and how yes, they could have been more careful and now…they are truly ready to make things right in the Gulf Coast? Or maybe Ken Feinberg will finally admit he could have done a much better job at compensating people for British Petroleum’s cluster-fuck rather than hiding behind a bunch of platitudes such as – look how much I’ve paid out! Look how many claims we’ve received! Hey, this is a lot better than Road Home…right right? Just one more blog post and Ken will fess up, review the claims again, give the benefit of the doubt, really be more generous than any court of law, stop being content with a reasonable margin of error and make sure that nobody, zero…no deserving claims go unpaid. Or maybe the next post I write will finally convince greedhead dipshits like Cantor, Boehner, McConnell and all the corporations they enable how the main goal in life, and the main theorem of their oft-espoused Poli- Christianity is not “Fuck that guy! I got mine!”

Hmm…I’m thinking none of this is very likely.

BP will continue to be BP up to, and including their next environmental disaster and employee death.

Ken Feinberg will continue to get rich from the denial of his conscience.

Politicians will continue to spin, help the haves get more so they can retain whatever it is they are trying to retain in lieu of a fucking soul.

Oh, and New Orleans will still have crime and poverty problems because nobody local, state or national really wants to do that much about the cause, instead preferring to criminalize the symptoms of all these problems we have.

Okay…so then, why write at all…because, sometimes, in here is more important than out there.

The reasons why I do what I do is because it’s what I know how to do and by doing it…this helps me get along in my day to days. Venting. Expressing. Blowing off steam so I don’t start looking fondly at Guns and Ammo magazine. These things help maintain a balance within myself and continue on down the roads of self-cultivation as I filter my experiences through eastern philosophies for context and a greater understanding of my condition and how it relates to the world…out there.

And hey, if it helps or gives some enjoyment to others along the way?

Cool.

So keeping all that in mind, a couple of weeks ago, courtesy of the New Orleans Ladder, I read Nicholas Payton’s blog post entitled Fuck the 99% and my initial reaction to this piece was Fuck Nicholas Payton. His post seemed pretty judgmental (something I know a lot about) very cynical and way off base, at least from my experience on why people in the 99% movement were/are involved in the 99% movement…and he seemed to be saying that people should focus on inner peace and if they did, the world would take care of itself. My initial reaction aside, I did some more thinking about what he said as far as living authentic, connected lives and letting that outside world take care of itself and I realized Payton was right…and wrong.

I believe we need to do both.

We need demonstrations, anger in the streets and more connection to our surrounding communities…and we also need to take a hard look at ourselves and where we’re at and why it is we do what we do and how to come to terms with all of it…to find peace within.

Oh, and just when you think you’ve got yourself figured out?

Then, look again.

Developing inner peace as an internal reflection to what we wish for from an external world is just as important as being involved in helping to create that world, be it demonstrations, teaching, writing, family, what have you…so yeah…we enter a new year, and in here may be more important than out there, but out there is still something to pay attention to, be happy with or angry about and then respond accordingly, the best way you see fit.

And one of the actions I’ve chosen, along this road, is to write, and even if whatever I write never matters to anyone at all…it does matter to me, and my continuing search for balance…so, so be it…

And, when it does come to that external world:

1. Here’s hoping the federal audit of the GCCF is more than a smokescreen providing economic and political cover to Feinberg, British Petroleum and the Obama Administration.

2. Here’s hoping that criminal charges against British Petroleum finally come.

3. Here’s hoping we get to cheer the New Orleans Saints to the Super Bowl, and the same goes for the San Jose Sharks and the Stanley Cup.

Peace!

Have a nice day.

New Years Day…

Back…at…it…

“Willing To Fight”

The windows of my soul are made of one way glass
don’t bother looking into my eyes
if there’s something you want to know, just ask
I got a dead bolt stroll, where I’m going is clear
I won’t wait for you to wonder, I’ll just tell you why I’m here

’cause I know the biggest crime is just to throw up your hands
say this has nothing to do with me, I just want to live as comfortably as I can
you got to look outside your eyes, you got to think outside your brain
you got to walk outside your life to where the neighborhood changes

tell me who is your boogieman, that’s who I will be
you don’t have to like me for who I am
but we’ll see what you’re made of by what you make of me
I think that it’s absurd that you think I am the derelict daughter
I fight fire with words…words are hotter than flames, words are wetter than water

I got friends all over this country
I got friends in other countries too
I got friends I haven’t met yet
I got friends I never knew
I got lovers whose eyes
I’ve only seen at a glance
I got strangers for great grandchildren
I got strangers for ancestors

I was a long time coming, I’ll be a long time gone
you’ve got your whole life to do something, and that’s not very long
so why don’t you give me a call when you’re willing to fight
for what you think is real, for what you think is right

Hear hear…

See you tomorrow…

Have a nice day

I’m working on it…

Something like that...

So, been away for a little while…well, more than a little while…

I feel like I’ve been away for six weeks or so, even though I’ve written a number of things up here during that time…guess one could say I felt like I was running out of things to say, or maybe trying too hard to say what I think people want me to say…

Plus, I’ve been having a hell of a time trying to rectify a move to San Francisco with everything I’ve been working on up here for the past year and a half or so…and frankly, I still don’t know how to sync it up…I mean,  what do the people who’ve been following the oil spill care about homelessness in San Francisco? What might people in San Francisco care about British Petroleum and the Gulf of Mexico?

I don’t know…

What I do know is that in 77 days, I’m leaving the Midwest for California, for San Francisco…my second favorite place in this country, next to New Orleans…and I guess you might call this blogger’s block…hell, I could show you the series of posts I’ve started and not felt it worth finishing to prove it…

In any case, I’m still around…and I’m working this out…

Be well…

Have a nice day.

Be back Monday…the trouble with the (personal) economy…

2nd choice...

So, four months from now on March 1st of 2012, I am finally out of the Great White North and heading back to what I thought might be New Orleans. Would certainly make sense with all the writing I do on this site that this town is where my interests lie, and it is, but the damned economy…here’s the thing that keeps throwing rocks in my pool, floating the ripples so I can’t see so clearly through the water…

Louisiana, and New Orleans in particular which has been much spared by the recession and boasts an unemployment rate of 6.9% has essentially no social work jobs to speak of, or at least very few that would enable someone such as myself to be able to afford the rents that never seemed to go down all that much post-Katrina, yet in San Francisco, even though the city by the bay shamefacedly hosts an unemployment rate of 9.2% while the state of California struggles under its own 12.1% rate, there are social work jobs to be had, a few anyway.

So whereas I thought I would be able to head South, the ability to eat and sleep indoors may shove me West.

Needless to say this is disappointing and has led me to go on hiatus this week from the website while I figure out what this means both for me and for the website in general…

In any case…please excuse these more personal meanderings; just explaining an absence that maybe don’t need to be explained at all…

See ya Monday. Have a nice day.

-Drake