#SoldOut Raising Funds and Awareness

I recall many years ago standing on the terraces at Hampden Park, Glasgow with 145,000 other rabid fans, waiting for the teams to come out of the tunnel to begin the annual Scotland v England ‘Home International’ football,(soccer), game. There would always be 140,000 Scots and about 5,000 English fans in attendance. As a Scot, born and bred, I was brought up, just like the majority of others who were standing around me, to ‘hate’ the English with a vengeance. It was just part of our parochial culture at that time, and probably still is today, although I have not lived in Scotland for 40 years and with the demise of Scottish football and an awareness that political correctness is now the order of the day, perhaps the ferocity of that hatred has mellowed. The two teams, now standing in the center of the field, would face the main stand, where all the dignitaries were seated, and the British national anthem would begin, God Save the Queen. This was before the Scots were allowed to sing their own anthem, a change in protocol that occurred some years later. The band, yes, a real brass or bagpipe band, would strike up the first chord and immediately there would be a wall of noise emanating from the Scottish support just booing as loud as possible at the UK anthem. It completely drowned out the band and any semblance they had in mind of being heard as a unit. We hated that anthem, supposedly, and we all gave it little or indeed no respect. Within seconds, our vocal distaste of everything that the British Monarchy stood for was demonstrated by this blasphemous howling and booing which seemed to last an eternity, but which in fact lasted only about 120 seconds, the length of the British national anthem being quite short. Once over, the game began and the fact that 140,000 Scottish football fanatics had remonstrated vocally against our forced inclusion under the monarchy we all loved, or at least some of us loved, was soon forgotten as the football took over and blood and guts was then spilled on the field of play rather than on the streets of Glasgow. It should also be noted that while the anthem was sung by the players on the field from the England team, all the Scottish team just stood in silence, some smiling, some not, but to a tee, not one of the Scottish team would sing along. It was an unwritten rule, followed religiously. Silent protests against supposed oppression, acceptable and respected throughout the world. No harm done, no one to cry foul. Until now!

When Colin Kaepernick knelt down for the Star Spangled Banner whilst playing for the San Francisco 49rs some two years ago, the whole world, at least the world that surrounded American Football and Donald Trump, went berserk, and for what reason? Well as far as I can tell, the National Anthem was never played at any sporting event before the end of the second world war. And even after that, there were sports events in the USA where the anthem remained just a figment of everyone’s imagination, laying silent as battle commenced on the field of play. So why, all of a sudden, after Kaepernick and some of his fellow Pro’s decided to protest, quite justifiably in silence to make what has turned out to be a very relevant point on an issue that has haunted this country for generations, has the President of the United States and the owners of some of the football teams where protests have been continual and well publicized, lost the plot by telling players they will be fired if they continue to ‘abuse their privilege’? There is not one reason on earth why anyone should be forced to alter their beliefs, especially those who feel threatened or abused and more especially inside a country that not only preaches pure democracy and a right to free speech to the whole planet, but a country that encourages its populous to be vocal in the form of protest when under threat of unjustifiable racism. Racism is rife in America. You can smell it in the streets, it’s a pollution that has become silent in its poisoning of its population. Racism cannot be tolerated, hatred of anyone, any race, any creed and any color has to be kicked out, but, unfortunately, and in the opinion of this author, it’s just being swept under an already filthy carpet, where, when the dust is uncovered, it becomes a mountain of trash that is becoming ever worse and unstoppable, fueled by a President and government that just turns a blind eye and looks the other way whilst telling us all, quite disingenuously that there is absolutely nothing wrong! Well, not much!

My guitar teacher Tony, remember him from the first article I wrote last week, inspired me to make the lapel pins you see in the image above. The players protesting and following in the footsteps of Kaepernick, have a right to do so. It’s not disrespectful, it’s poignant, it’s their human right, it’s peaceful and most importantly, it’s something they believe in. However, it seems if these protests carry on players will be fired or, and I say this with the utmost respect, the President will have to intervene personally, something not one of us would like to see happen.

With all of this in mind, I have this idea, not only to raise the awareness to a very great cause, but to raise money for charities associated with racism and the profound effect that racism still holds on our society. The #SOLDOUT will soon display the pins pictured above for sale, to make people aware that there is genuine suffering out there, whether it be in the murdering of Jews in Pittsburgh, or the simplicity of daily senseless traffic stops on innocent African Americans, it matters not. We have a right to protest, so by wearing this pin, our protests shall be seen, and by the money we raise, out protests shall be heard.

Keep reading this blog for more updates and check out our Instagram #soldout to get your pin.

If there are any athletes, well known or otherwise and or charities, who would like to be considered as spokes people for this idea, please get in touch. Colin Kaepernick, if you read this please know that I have tried in many different ways to contact you because I believe you should lead this movement, but to date, no response.

Thank you everyone.

#Sold Out

I have a music teacher, his name is Tony. Tony is black and adopted. He is 25. His mother and father are white. His real mother and father are no longer alive. He comes from Texas, lives now in California and was educated at Julliard in New York. Tony is a fine upstanding citizen, a musical genius and a pleasure to be around. I’ve known him for two years, and not once in that time had we ever discussed race, or the place it plays in US society. Not once, until last year, when all the American Football players began to kneel during the national anthem before their games began. We were sitting playing guitars, strumming away to AC/DC Back in Black, when suddenly I turned round to him and asked this very question.

“Tony, be honest with me, very honest, no BS. You’re black, you’re African-American, and you’ve seen what’s going on in this country for the past months with all the athletes kneeling during the national anthem. You’ve seen what Black Lives Matter have been saying and doing, you’ve witnessed at first hand how this country is so divided, but have you personally ever suffered any kind of racial abuse, either growing up or since you moved to CA a few years ago?”

When I asked this question I was somewhat convinced that just like everything else we read or see on TV, the bias towards sensationalism in our media far in a way outweighed the reality of life. I fully expected Tony to turn round and tell me that most of what we were looking at on TV was stage-managed to drum up support for factions in society that had nothing better to do than create issues that really didn’t assist in the harmonic bliss I seemed to live with on a daily basis. How wrong and how naive was I. This is what Tony said to me.

” Alan, I have lived 25 years, in Texas, New York and now CA. In all 3 States I lived in nice middle class suburban areas, other than in NY where Manhattan is as diverse as it comes and everyone seems very wealthy. Let me tell you how life really is if you’re black. Let me also tell you how I have seen it, living with white parents, white students and now in a predominantly white middle class area here in Orange County. Let me also tell you that what I am about to say is not at all exaggerated. It’s the truth. After you listen, you can then decide who is embellishing the truth.” He looked at me straight in the eye and then he began.

“I drive a great car, a Ford Mustang Shelby. I drive it everywhere because there’s no public transportation down here in OC. Do you know I get stopped by the cops at least twice a week? Do you know why I get stopped? I don’t speed, I don’t do anything illegal, I just get pulled over. It doesn’t matter if I am here in Laguna, or in long Beach or up in LA. I get stopped, and every time it’s the same nonsense.

” You’re joking?” I said, not quite believing what he was saying.

He continued.

” I am a music teacher, I drive to schools, I drive to people’s homes, white people, Chinese people, brown people, black people. It doesn’t matter. If I pass a cop, especially where schools are located, they will come from nowhere, lights flashing, pull me over and ask me why I am where I am. It happens so regularly now that I know the drill off pat. I stop, put my hands where they can be seen, wait for the cops to come to my window and I stay silent until they ask me the very same question every single time.”

“What question Tony?” I asked.

“What are you doing here son?”

“Son??” I laughed

“Yes. SON!. No respect. As soon as I tell them I am a music teacher with clients in the neighborhood, as soon as they see my guitar, my books and my other instruments, they very quickly and impolitely step away and wave me off as if I’m a piece of dirt they’d just happened to get stuck on the side of their highly polished shoes, and without apology, send me on my way”

Well Tony’s story blew me away. It got me thinking that I really knew nothing about the racism that people were going through on a daily basis and that being closeted, very comfortably, in a predominantly white are with predominantly white friends and a very white attitude, was so far from reality, that I had to take action. I had to find a vehicle to show my support for the black community and all the black friends I had. It was time to do something to raise awareness, time to react and time to make a statement that will never be forgotten.

At the top of this page you’ll find a lapel pin design. In my next post, later this week, I will send out more information on a campaign I am going to run in conjunction with some major athletes in the USA to raise awareness for a cause that most of you know is already rife in our society. A cause that millions of people suffer from each and every day in a country where everyone is supposedly equal but as I have come to find out, where no one actually is.

#SOLDOUT

Yep, Here They Come

One by one now they will answer that call. The call of insincerity, the call to power, a call to govern and be remembered as the one and only President of the United States. The question is, who are they and why should we believe they will be any better that the lame duck we have at this present time? We all know who Hillary is, and bar an international incident where she shoves her private Blackberry up Putin’s arse, (we all live in hope), we know she will run in 2016. But what about the other side, the good guys with all the bad ideas? They think they know better, they think Obama’s inconsistent government has given them an opportunity to reform our once proud country. Are they right? Only time will tell, but if Jeb or Rand or Chris, et al, decide this job is for them, will they too end up grey, battered and bruised and also lame? Of course they will. That’s the unfortunate way this country runs. Get in, get out, build your library and walk into a sunset, often clouded with the pollution of poor decision-making and bad judgement, to make over $100,000 per speech at dinners and fund-raisers. Oh how stupid we all are.

They say downloadmore than 6 will throw their hats in for the Republican nomination, and I really think it will be 8 or more. The problem is, are any of them truly worthy of that nomination? If we look back in anger at those who we have voted for in the past, other than Clinton, perhaps Reagan, have we at all been impressed with anything to have come out of such closely fought elections over the past 50 years? Not me. I think each President has brought about his own demise through insincerity, inaction and a great inability to communicate with modern society. Look at Sen. Cruz for example. He’s led off the flurry that is sure to follow with his right-wing Christian beliefs, all wrapped up in a nice bow called elitism. The man who stood for 21 hours reading Green Eggs and Ham now wants to negotiate Middle East peace? Come on Sen. Cruz, get a grip. Go back to Texas or where ever it is you are from and get a proper job. Then you have Gov Christie. Surely, and I mean this sincerely and without bias, his obesity and his desire to kiss Jerry Jones at every opportunity will lead to an instant demise should he win the country over? The fact of the matter is, there is no outstanding candidate on the Republican side who would stand a chance against Hillary or any of her cohorts.

So here we go, it’s March 2015, we have 18 months to sit and listen to all this crap, to watch billions of dollars get washed down a drain called popular misconception and at the end of the day what happens? We get a man or a woman, (and I pray this time we get someone who can make a decision), who will take office, become older and grayer, do very little outside of raising more money for the next time an election comes round and then, as I so eloquently put it, fuck off from whence he or she came. Do me a favor, don’t watch, don’t listen, don’t vote and then don’t complain, because if you do, you are just pandering to their every desire and their very inflated alter ego’s, an ego which is turbo charged until they too end up in a gutter like the rest of us, complaining that it wasn’t their fault defeat landed right bang smack in the middle of their total inadequacy to relate to what is really going on in the United States of America. They have no fucking clue, they never will have and the sad thing is, they don’t care, none of them, not one. We are alone people. Not one of our current or future politicians care about you or me. They are all self-centered, power grabbing ego maniacs who are so out of touch with modern-day society that if a solution stared them right in their own face they’s ignore it in favor of deferring to another non answer.

The time is now. Let’s change America. Let’s not give any of this moronic crowd the benefit of the doubt. They are all wankers, each and every one. Let’s try to find someone, anyone, who can stand up and say quite honestly, “I am one of you!” I know it’s an unlikely scenario, but we have to try. Fill the position with normality for once or I’m telling you, in four years, eight years and even sixteen years from now, we will be so much worse of then we are today.

Rant over! I am off to watch Obama play golf yet again!

Applaud, But Only If It Seems Politically Correct

downloadDid you watch the Oscar ceremony? You did? Well you were in the minority. With its lowest viewing figures in more than a decade, is it any wonder people are turning off from a show that is filled with self-centered egotistical has beens, wanna be’s and cannot be’s? Isn’t it sad that so many of us put so much faith and so many hours into lauding those who are mostly wealthy beyond belief, placed high up on a social pedestal because of their ability to portray someone else’s misery on a screen where they can become larger than life itself and more endearing than an ice-cold bottle of beer on a scorching hot day in the desert. Hasn’t it become all too boring, too predictable and too politically correct? Is it now all about color, race, religion and patriotism? Have the actors themselves become too wrapped up in their own image of self-importance, their own beliefs and most importantly their own inability to be themselves and not who they think we would like them to be?

After watching some of the show on Sunday, what annoyed me most, other than the continual commercial breaks, expected of course because this is America, was the incessant mild applause for the movies and the actors who appeared in those movies, which were seemingly politically correct. Selma, a movie that has been proven to be mostly inaccurate because of the relationship between MLK and President Johnson, shown as one of conflict when historically documented as exactly the opposite, nominated for very few awards and yet there we sat, watching its lead actor cry as the theme song from the movie was performed with gusto by John Legend, some rapper guy and a choir. Overwhelming and outstanding were just two adjectives that seemed appropriate in a performance that stole the show, other than Lady Gaga, who had yet to entertain. My point is, why do all those in attendance, well not all, but most, feel a requirement to show their emotion to a cause they have little or nothing to do with and which will not rear its head in their lives ever again? Why are these actors so consumed by showing support to what they think is correctness, when quite frankly they really don’t care? If you are black, if you have ALS, if you have Alzheimer’s, or if you truly want to be a Birdman, then yes, cry away when it’s your turn, but please don’t bawl or applaud each and every time a simple mention of that movie is brought up on-screen. Not only is it frustrating, annoying and disconcerting, it’s just bloody stupid.

Go home to your trillions, billions or whatever it is you have. Think about those who have noting, or those who have so much less than you have. Don’t tell me that women deserve equal pay when you are earning 20 times what the average woman is earning. Keep your political views to yourself, we all know what’s going on in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Let me watch the news ON the news and NOT on the Oscars. I don’t care if you’re Mexican, Polish, Japanese or from the moon. Get up, thank your mum and dad, your kids, your wife and or your mistress, and then get off. Don’t come back, unless you’re fortunate enough to win another award, and please, please wear something that covers up your tits and your bum! It’s just annoying to look again and again at fake boobs, paid for in the hope that it can extend a career. That’s why Jack Nicholson and John Wayne and Kevin Spacey were great. They were themselves, no additions. Meryl Streep is natural, unblemished by surgeries, as far as I am aware, and look what she’s done!

It’s over for another year, the audience was down, the humor was crap, but the host, again, in my opinion, was superb. Kudos to NPH, he was excellent. Highly articulate, funny at times and took the show to another level not seen since the days of Billy Crystal. To those who won, congratulations. To those who lost, too bad. To those who weren’t nominated? What the fuck were you doing there in the first place and finally to those who applauded again and again for the reasons already mentioned above? Go get a proper job earning proper money and then tell me who you’re going to clap for!

Presidents Day

IMG_0088It’s Presidents day, and it’s George Washington’s birthday! Must be time to buy a new Honda, Nissan or some other brand of vehicle being continually advertised on television. Or perhaps it’s time for that new mattress, you know, the one with numbers or the one from that company who have the train shooting endlessly up and down their tag line which states they are employee owned. All steeply marked down to coincide with Presidents day, although most of those who advertise such marvelous discounts have been doing so since January 29th and will probably do so until Feb 28th! Or maybe it’s just time to sit down and reflect on whether having a president, indeed having any form of our current government is at all helpful or necessary at all in making our minds up to purchase the luxury goods we all crave.

Celebrating George Washington is one thing, but to celebrate all Presidents on the same day? What did we do to deserve such a feast of merriment? Why are Presidents I’ve never heard of, such as Cleveland, Harrison, Garfield and Harrison, who I’m sure all played their part in shaping this nation, and who are rarely, if ever, mentioned on any TV or radio show I watch or listen to, having their names remotely connected with such an esteem character as GW? Surely we’ve got it all wrong? In my opinion, the only Presidents who matter are Washington, because he was the first, and Obama, because he’s the latest. If Jimmy Carter was that great, then why not take a holiday on October 1st? That way, Toyota, Sleep Train et al, can advertise deep discounts more than 45 times per year, presuming no two past presidents share the same birthday. Oh, hang on, Toyota and their cohorts already do try to entice us into their showrooms 52 weeks a year with never-ending sales or price reductions! Fuck it, who needs a President anyway?

It’s back to what I was stating when I opened up this debate, today is just an excuse to have a day off. How many of you out there are actually working? Probably most of you, and in that case, how many cars can Honda actually hope to sell? Perhaps that’s why the incentive’s are so deep? Get them out of work and into the showroom so they can all say, “I dogged off work to buy my new wheels!” OR, “I’m shagging the wife in out new sleep number bed tonight, she’s the hard side and when I’m done, I’ll be soft!” Whatever the deal, make sure you have a nice day. For those of you on the East coast, I am sorry, but why the fuck would you ever want to live there? 20 feet of snow and more to come? It’s 80 here, yes 80! No wonder our taxes are so high and no wonder there’s no doubt that global warming is going to make billions homeless or dead within 100 years. But that’s OK, we can still look forward to more stellar car buying deals or incredible mattress offers as we all burn in Hell and Presidents day rolls on throughout the annals of time.

Strange People I Meet.

William is Asian, Hong Kong being his place of birth, although upon the completion of our first piece of conversation, it seems he’s a bit of a Heinz 57. Born in China, moved to South America then to Europe then to Hong Kong and eventually ending up in Washington State, here in the good old US of A. William is by trade a geologist, someone who knows the lay of the land, how it’s constructed, how it was formed and really in all honesty he should know how to navigate this land he so loves. Well, he does know his stuff. After conversing for some 30 mins, even though he was over an hour late for our meeting, he proved conclusively to me that the glaciers came and created the North West of the United States, 15,000 years ago, then melted, even though they were over 3000 feet thick at that time, taking 2000 years to dissipate and retreat to the Arctic, where they now lie in wait for the guaranteed melt that is coming. He also insisted that once all our ice pack melts, our oceans will rise 267 feet, killing or making homeless, 2 to 3 billion humans. As I sat listening to this gibberish, all that concerned me was the manner in which he took his glasses off, then without notice brought all his documentation within 2 inches of his eyes and began to read silently as if praying. He was then suddenly awoken from this study only to begin spouting more useless statistics about our planet.

The reason William had shown up in the first place was to inspect a piece of land that a friend of mine was having issues with. It had willingly subsided 4 feet in the past three weeks, and William had been summoned to make sure that this unwanted hole was nothing more than an eyesore and not something that warranted more concern than a few buckets of sand, some top soil and seed to make it all better. However, the realtor who’d ordered William to appear, became concerned just about an hour earlier when William had called to say he was stuck in a field. “Stuck in a field?” she’s shouted as she’d released her grip on a cell phone that I believed was about to be thrown across my friends lawn, while rolling her eyes as if to say, “what an idiot!” Yes, he’d confirmed that he’d taken the wrong road and was now firmly entrenched in a field, some 5 miles from the correct address, unable to move his car, getting wetter and wetter by the minute in the pouring rain and pleading, yes pleading for someone to come and get him. Lisa obliged, traipsing over hills and dales to collect William and bring him to the meeting. After an hour with us, William, now suitably refreshed, decided to start calling local towing companies to see if anyone on this Island, yes Island (I forgot to mention I was on a remote Island) would come and assist. 20 calls later, without losing his sense of humor, at last, someone kindly obliged. I asked him as he was leaving, “William, you’re a geologist, how can a geologist not know that you can get stuck in mud when it’s pouring rain and there’s no gravel or road surface for the car tires to grip?” He took his glasses off slowly and looked at me. He said, with a grand smile cut across his aging features, “Alan, you should never let a geologist drive your car” “Why’s that?” I asked, “because they always get hammered and stoned!”

Lisa drove him back and three hours later he got out the field and made it back to town. William was knowledgable, though very strange. Lisa was pissed, she’d lost a whole day, and my buddy, the guy with the land subsidence issue? Well, he’s still got his hole in the garden but he now knows that glaciers were there 15,000 years ago, that the ice wall was 3000ft thick and that eventually his place on this island will be 40 feet underwater, though he’ll be long gone by then as will William!

Too Many To Count

IMG_0352Yesterday was warm, around 68 degrees here in San Jose, not a bad day to be out in shorts and a tee-shirt? Well the days might be warm, but the evenings are certainly winter cool, not cold, just cool. Ideal conditions of you have a home to go to, turning on the heat as you walk in through the front door after a long day at work, ready, willing and able to put the stove on, or perhaps just the microwave, so that you might enjoy your favorite meal in the comfort of your favorite arm-chair in the company of your favorite lover or with your favorite pet by your side.

For those who are homeless however, last night was yet another slog to get in line at the Home First Boccardo center in San Jose to guarantee a bed and a hot meal. And it’s to that very same center that I once again set off around 4 PM to help Chef Diane serve more than 300 starving souls, who, unlike you or I, have absolutely nothing in their lives except the misery and depression that being homeless brings.

The line for beds was out the front door and into the street, and as I parked my car I could see that this was going to be a night unlike any other that I had seen before when volunteering at Boccardo. I’ve been going there for years now, through thick and thin, cold and warm, but never have I seen a line like the one I saw last night. Was it because ‘the jungle’ off CA 87 had been closed? Always a resting place in the past for refugees of this continual homeless crisis we can never seem to fix, now closed due to pressure from council members who wanted them out. Was it because there was spaghetti cooking inside the kitchen run by Miss Diane and word had spread that tonight dinner would be delicious? Or perhaps it was just that we cannot control a situation that is out of control and the sad facts are it won’t get any better soon.

Having gone into the kitchen to assist, Diane informed me that she was short of volunteers and that during the winter months most of those who come to help serve and prepare seem to just vanish. With gloves and apron in place, desert carved and plated, peas and salad and warm bread all ready to be dished out, the spaghetti would not be short of company tonight.

Then the chaos began. One after another, an endless line of deprivation strolled expectantly into the dining hall. Some were pleasant, others ungrateful, the usual mix which I’ve seen many times before. Some wanted no meat, some no tomatoes and some only chocolate for desert. Whatever their poison, Miss Diane controlled the line with her usual dignified authoritarian energy, pushing those who dithered towards a table that bore empty seats, and those who were perhaps more decisive and bold when asking for extra food, towards the exit. She’s a real trooper and still, to this day, I have no idea how she and the rest of her staff cope with this never-ending, depressing situation day in and day out.

When you get home from work tonight, think about that line. It will be there for sure, just like it is every night, 300 souls with their hands out looking for assistance and receiving it courtesy of those who donate their lives to the betterment of others. Give up some of your time if you can and come and help Diane and the rest of this very dedicated team. They will make you welcome and you will make their day.