#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.

Driving Miss Daisy

IMG_0341I used to drive to Santa Rosa once a week, a journey of about three hours from my home, to look after my Great Aunt Ella. I only met Ella in 1998, and even though she was my grandfather’s sister, I didn’t know she existed let alone lived only three hours from my home. I was attending her sisters funeral in Scotland when her niece told me of her whereabouts and asked if I’d ever met her. “No” was the extent of my curt response. I made a point of contacting her immediately upon my return to the US in the summer of ’98 and we became great friends and lunch buddies. She was an amazing person, with some incredible friends, some of whom I had the pleasure of getting to know rather well. One of her closest pals was Esther, a petit 80-year-old, at the time, and someone I grew not only to respect, but to love and admire.

Esther lived in the same complex as Ella, but in a house situated at the top of a hill about half a mile from the golf course that split this retirement paradise in two. I say paradise because all along Highway 12, where the complex lies, there are some amazing wineries, fabulous hotels, and tremendous restaurants, some of which I have had the pleasure of frequenting over the years, and most of which were above average in all their ‘Napa/Sonoma’ decorative splendor. The thing I loved most about going to see Ella and Esther was the lack of noise whenever we ventured outside. No planes, hardly any car noise and certainly no screaming kids. This was retirement at it’s best. You had to be 55 or over to live there, and most of the residents had been there since that tender age and were now pushing into their late 80’s and early 90’s. Some of the sights were just too funny to describe, such as the two ladies in the golf cart, who I saw every week, driving along with a dog leash dangling from the passenger side of the cart, and a brown lab, tethered to the end of said leash, enjoying his walk while they drove and chatted. Exercise for the !

As I got to know Esther, and some of the other ladies, such as Rosemary, Joan and Joe, I found it fascinating just to sit and listen to their stories, tales of times gone by, a different era altogether, and one that sort of made me yearn for the opportunity to have experienced the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. Esther related countless memories of her times living in Seattle, Los Angeles and parts in between. How she’s met her husband whilst on a business trip with her father to Seattle. How she’d grown up in LA when traffic jams were just something in one’s imagination. How Santa Barbara was a fishing village with one or two large homes and a never-ending stream of billionaires trying hard to make their dreams come true.

Sometimes when I was headed back to Los Gatos, Esther would ask me to take her to San Francisco, where her daughter lived. Esther stayed with her daughter at least once a month, and unable to drive herself there, I substituted regularly for this drive who she hired to shuttle her down to the city whenever I was unable to oblige. We had some super conversations on these journeys into town, when Esther would relate her safari experiences, (she was 80 when she went to Africa), her fitness tips, (she was a yoga maestro) and her recipes to make the perfect Coke float, (one which I enjoyed every time I went to see her at her home). Yes, a true lady. She spoke so eloquently, she was a really lady and she never thought bad of anyone, other than my Gt Aunt Ella, whom she scolded constantly for becoming a hermit as the years rolled by.

Esther always reminded me of the movie Driving Miss Daisy. Me as the driver of course and her as Miss Daisy. Her character was just straight out of that particular era. And so, as time went on, my aunt died and Esther grew too old to live in her house all alone, she moved to San Francisco into a retirement home, where, instead of driving her up and down Highway 101, I continued to visit her for lunches and dinners. I used to say to her, “Esther, you are 95 and are the only hope I have of knowing someone who can live to be 100!” Her health was in great shape, her mind even greater. She hated growing old and still feeling like she had a mental age in her late 30’s. She attended regular lectures, traveled to Palm Springs once or twice a year and worked out in her gym every day. Miss Daisy was super it! Nothing was going to stop her. I brought her chocolate, and she reciprocated by buying me the same. We told jokes, she reminisced, I sat and listened.

I had lunch with her two weeks ago, and I took this picture, the one above. I’d never taken a picture of her before. Something inside told me I should. I mad a dinner date to see her on May 16, and then on May 13, I canceled because I had another commitment. She died on the morning of the 16th May, age 96 and a half. A stroke, sudden, quick, painless, and now she’s gone.

I lost a friend, a hero of sorts. RIP Esther, you were special. I shall remember you fondly for the rest of my days on this planet and no doubt we will one day meet again in a better place.

How Would You Choose To Trim Your Pussy???

IMG_0191The door opened and I walked in, my eyes immediately fixed on this poor wee pussy cat. Looking once, then twice, and then once again at an aberration, which was facing me dead on in this strangers hallway. I’d never been in this home before, nor would I ever be coming back, but within moments I was captivated, shocked and desperate to take pictures of. what seemed to be, one of God’s little mistakes. How wrong was I?

Missy, we were now on first name terms, is a Persian cat with an incredible story to tell and one that was worth writing about. She’d just been shaved, as you can tell from the pictures. Why? Well her fur had become so long and matted that her shape was beyond recognition, and so, after a quick trip to the groomers’ store, this was how she ended up! Fluffy at the head, fluffy at the tail and well…….. well the rest you can see.

Her mother, a grayish white version of the same breed, patrolled the hallway just in front of Missy, the only daughter she had left from the litter she bore less than 5 months ago. Alert, snuggly and very curious, she seemed to roll her eyes in disgust as yet another visitor gave preferential treatment and attention to her daughter. She’d seemingly seen it all before, this little bald cat, the center of everyone’s affection. And I was just like the rest of those who had entered before me, iPhone at the ready, snapping what would be the first of many pictures, just to be certain this moment could be shared and remembered for all eternity.

I asked her owner why so short? The response? Well it came in spurts, but the long and the very short is, Missy either got shaved or she would have died on the fur balls she was chewing every day. Her own fur! So now, with mother in close proximity, her flesh exposed from the loss of hair and her sights set on an extended stay in Los Gatos, Missy is alive and well and enjoying her new-found bald spots, all of which have saved her life, for the time being.

Not a sight for sore eyes, but a sight that made happy eyes very sore from all laughing I did just imagining what a trend setter this cat could end up being. She could start a band called Shaved Pussy. She could join the BRAVO TV show, Shahs of Sunset, as the most intelligent Persian poosie on the cast. She could be the first cat to be invited to try Bosley hair replacement, and finally, she could have been the first cat ever to swallow a whole ball of wool and give birth to mittens!

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Save 10%

downloadComing from Scotland, we never ever had to worry about drought conditions. It rains 300 days a year at least, sometimes more and very often 48 to 72 hours non stop. I arrived in California in 1992 and I recall phoning all of my friends on my first Christmas day, which was spent on Santa Monica beach where the temperature was over 80. My phone bill that day was over $200, money well spent I believed, bragging endlessly to those less fortunate than me, all sitting in a cold damp climate back in Glasgow Scotland. ‘If this was to be the norm’ I thought, then I was going to be a very happy person indeed. What could possibly be better than living in a climate where it hardly ever rains and where the lowest temperature in the winter is a balmy 60 degrees?? Two years after that glorious Christmas day basking in the sun, I moved north to San Jose, a short distance of 350 miles, where I expected similar climactic conditions to prevail, but was surprised that when I arrived, in January of 1995 it was raining and never really stopped until May of that same year. When I say it never really stopped, I mean that it rained and then we had perhaps two or three days in the 70’s and then it would rain again. This pattern, so I was told, was highly unusual and was created by a climactic effect called El Nino. El Nino is a disruption of the ocean-atmosphere system in the Tropical Pacific having important consequences for weather and climate around the globe and creates a sub tropical rain forest type climate that can take up to two years to dissipate. My concern that I had moved to a place where the reminders of Scotland were not just in the large mountains that surrounded San Jose, but also in the continual rainfall that mirrored my homeland, were to be short-lived. After May of 1995, I never saw rain again for about a year. I was amazed, happy, and reveling in this perfect climate where not only could I cultivate a permanent and obligatory sun tan, I could also play golf, cycle, coach outdoor sports of any kind and never fear that we would be rained off and banished to the house to watch movies or just snooze while unwanted big black clouds meandered past dropping gallons of unwanted water!

Roll forward to present day California.

It’s now 13 months since we have had any significant rainfall here. 13 months where the happiness of playing outdoors has turned to complete fear of never seeing rainfall again. It rained last week, for 5 hours, which, under the drought conditions in which we now find ourselves, was hardly a blessing and not enough water to come within 100 miles of alleviating the dire situation we are facing. There is little prospect of any more wet stuff, and this past week, Governor Brown, idiot that he is, has called a State of Emergency here in CA, asking everyone to use 10% less water until we see what the coming months rainfall will bring.

Governor Brown’s actions baffle me. NBC news showed the current situation from satellite pictures offered up by NASA. These pictures show our current water supply predicament compared to that of this time last year. They also show the snow pack levels, which are critical to our long-term water situation in that the ‘melt off’ affects our summer and Fall water levels. Small snow pack, very little water. If you look at these images, and if you talk to some of the farmers in our once fertile growing areas such as Napa, Modesto, San Joaquin Valley, we are fucked. There is little to no supply and absolutely no reserve plan. Governor Brown has it all wrong. We need rationing and we need it now.

I always believed that our next world war would be about water and its supply or lack of to those who were powerful but thirsty. This war is now upon us, certainly here in CA. Water is at a premium and if we don’t recoup our losses very quickly, we could find our state become the victim of an internal war between those who have and those who have not. We need to do something and we need to do it now. Asking all citizens of CA to volunteer to cut back their usage by 10% is a joke. How do you do this? Do you drink 10% less, wash only 90% of your car, water your lawn on one side but not the other? It’s ridiculous for the Governor to assume that all 38 million of us here in California will heed his commands. It’s naive and foolhardy to believe that even one person will listen to his plea, a plea that should be taken very seriously indeed. The Governor, in my opinion, has to grab the bull by its horns and become a water Nazi, and he has to do so right now. We would be well advised as a State to listen to the words that all of the experts are telling us. These words are, sufficed to say, scary and unbelievable, though very possible. “A 200 year drought” as one expert put it, would not be out of the question. If this happened, we are all screwed, but it might, and it might happen sooner that we believe. After all, according to climactic records, it wouldn’t be the first time and California IS a desert after all.

The Governor has to ban the use of hose pipes, garden sprinklers, and all unnecessary use of fresh water now, not tomorrow, not next week and not ‘let’s wait and see what happens. NOW! We need to conserve and we need to find a way to do it before this emergency becomes a crises that we can’t fix. This is our one natural recourse that is irreplaceable. This is the meaning of life, the elixir of all being, and where would we be without it? DEAD! Yes dead. We have no options but to plan for our future and while I realize that it won’t be easy, I am willing enough to partake in any plan that makes sense, and so should you.

While the rest of this country is being blasted by the polar vortex and temperatures well past minus 25 degrees, we sit here in CA basking in more sunshine, where, to the envy of most, it’s 80 plus. Do not kid yourselves, I know a lot of people here who are actually praying hard for rain. One of my friends, a man name Dan, posts on Facebook almost daily, that he’s doing the rain dance and we should all help him out. Dan, I hear you and I’m happy to do anything that will bring an end to this madness. We need water, and it’s not coming. Governor Brown, show us you are not the idiot I always believed you were. That failed politician who cannot find anything better to do in life. Get some cahones, some balls, and get them now. Ban us from washing cars, watering lawns and fix all the leaks we have in aging pipelines that are in desperate need of repair. The buzz word should be CONSERVE not selfie or tools or solutions. While we wait for your direction, people, take heed, spread the word and let’s see what we Californian citizens can do to make this work until one day the rain starts to fall again. 40 days and 40 nights wouldn’t be enough right now. We need more than divine intervention, but we need it as soon otherwise we will find ourselves in a position of no return and that’s a position I do not wish to see happen.

I’m off to think about washing my car. Thinking about it is better that actually doing it, but I have to begin somewhere, and I choose to begin today.

 

 

Needless Deaths

It’s a balmy 50 degrees here in San Jose today. Tonight it will be 33. Quite chilly for this part of the world and as every gardening enthusiast in our area rushes outside to cover up his or her plants so they survive until Wednesday next week, bare a thought or two for those of us out there who have nothing or no one to cover them up.

Last night 4 people died here in Santa Clara county. 4 homeless people. Needless deaths indeed when you consider that the nearest shelter was half empty. Tonight all the local homeless shelters are putting on extra beds, which under the circumstances is quite admirable. It leaves the unanswered question though of why 4 had to die without being offered the chance to sleep indoors in a warm bed? Having spent a week being homeless, I can understand the reluctance of some, the minority, who choose to sleep rough and who will sit stubbornly at the side of the road or under their favorite bridge clinging to everything they possess and believing that nothing worse could possibly happen to them. On the other hand how can we, yes, you and I, as todays so-called ‘caring society’ not be out there rounding these people up and placing them in a safer environment especially suited to seeing them through the climactic conditions in which we find ourselves tonight? It beggars belief that here I am, sitting in a home with unlimited central heating, 6 incredibly warm empty rooms, and yet there are many, some 7000 plus in this county alone, who have nothing but plastic sheeting, a supermarket trolley and perhaps a coat, and not even a warm one at that, braving temperatures that are normally found in places far North of California.

If you go out tonight, even if you don’t live where I live and are based in other parts of the planet, give some thought to those who might need just a wee bit of guidance. Help someone. Help them get to where their souls might be warmed and their bellies filled. We live in strange times. People line up for iPhones and Play Stations, sometimes in the cold, and yet others….. Well, you get my point. We have so much in the way of resources, but yet we give so little.

I hope no one else meets their demise this evening, and I hope you are all at home feeling nice and warm and lucky that you are not one of those who have to endure several more nights of this weather without anything other than a prayer and an empty heart.

 

 

Shamelessly Shamed

photoSo there I was, walking my dog, on our usual route, and chatting casually on the phone to my fiend Mary who lives in Portland. The sun was out, the sky clear, as per usual in Nor Cal, and the ‘show and blow’ (gardeners) were in full swing. Leaves were beginning to turn a little brown as Fall set in, and there was a very slight chill in the air, although that soon evaporated as I descended upon a parked SUV covered with some kind of white painted slogan. My curiosity peaked and my conversation with Mary suddenly came to an abrupt halt as I read what at first seemed to me to be a joke. After careful study and a few more words with a now very confused Mary in Portland, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The picture above, which Mary insisted I take and forward to her, says it all. I actually circled the SUV twice before taking out my camera. Not only was the man’s name emblazoned boldly on the back of this van, it was on the side and front too, with a message to the town of Los Gatos, suggesting shame be placed on the city for some reason. I was impressed and very interested to know why James Alfred Hogan Jr was a dead beat dad, and not only was I curious as to why Los Gatos should be scorned as well, but it got me thinking, after I ended the call with Mary, what other signs I could decorate my car with and drive around this town insulting or indeed praising people.

Los Gatos has about 30000 residents, and so it’s quite a close-knit community one way or another. People here are also fairly wealthy, by choice or by design, and there is a very lively and one could say, incestuous feeling about this city. Everyone seems to know what everyone else is doing. There is really no place to hide and if someone is shagging someone else’s husband or wife, normally the whole town knows about it before ‘the about to be’ scorned partners of each reckless sinner even have a chance to deny their indiscretions. And it’s with much respect that I bow with some reverence to the “Lavender Lady” for grabbing the bull by its horns and ratting out her husband, if she is indeed married to this man, without giving a ‘rats arse’ to what anyone else might think. Good for you “Lavender Lady”, now move over, it’s my turn.

The only issue in preventing me from completing my task efficiently is that the car I happen to drive is very small and perhaps I wouldn’t be able to fit all the desired verbiage on to the rear and or the sides of said car without creating a ‘newspaper’ like small print version of Lavender Lady’s mammoth extravaganza. Without doubt though, on my car, in big bold black letters, I wouldn’t only insult, enrage, uncover, and blame, I would for sure create a scene like no other in a town which is more synonymous for the way people tend to flaunt what they don’t have rather than living through the more pleasing means of discretion and modesty. Yes, Los Gatos, here it begins and here it will most definitely end.

There is more silicon inside the women that live here than there is in the entire valley, Silicon Valley, located just a few minutes from where I reside. And so, with that said, my first sign should perhaps read, “Vivian, how much did you really pay to look that stupid? 6 Grand?” Vivian knows who she is and probably will read this blog without too much of a shock to her system only because we have had that conversation face to face in rather more unfortunate circumstances. Let’s just say you can see her before her whole body actually turns a corner! Here in Los Gatos there are many restaurants too, all which I think are fairly average. There is one place however that I went twice and twice I threw up after my dinner. And with that in mind, my next sign would be directed to Opa, “Can you people not get it right and cook a meal that doesn’t come back with me looking endlessly for my uncle ‘Rolf’ in my toilette?” And then there is this dickhead that comes through the park each day on his bike when I am out walking my dog. He lives right round the corner from me and I don’t know his name. He is about 70 to 75 years of age, he never smiles and not once in 4 years, even though he’s seen me virtually every single day and even though I make a conscious effort to acknowledge his presence, I have yet to receive a ‘good morning or ‘hello’ or even a smile from his sour puss face. With that in mind, I would write on my car, “Miserable Fucker! Yes you, the man on the bike with the yellow safety vest. Say hello or smile. It might help you through yet another miserable fucking day in your miserable life” I’d park the car right outside his house, since I know where he lives.

Yep, it would be great to follow Lavender Lady’s lead. She is a trendsetter for sure.

I decided to Google Mr. Hogan to see what came up. I discovered that Lavender Lady has some ‘previous’ with the Los Gatos cops and with authority in general. See the link below. This leads me to believe that Mr. Hogan might not be deserved of all the publicity Lavender Lady is bestowing upon his character. I need to investigate further, because here in a town where the criminal reports read like a comic book every week in the local press, this really is fascinating if you love to pry! I am not really into gossip, but Lavender Lady started it by flaunting insults brazenly across her windshield, and now, well, now curiosity has the better of me.

http://losgatos.patch.com/groups/politics-and-elections/p/los-gatos-woman-files-counter-claim-against-town-aftecc0b9e7fd2