#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.

Kenny

downloadI met a young man called Kenny this weekend. He’s wheelchair bound because he was born with Muscular Dystrophy. His brother has the same disease. They don’t live together, nor do they see one another very often. Kenny’s mother has her own life, and his father is nowhere to be found. Kenny though has aim in his life. He insists on being independent.

When I was asked to go and meet Kenny, he had been singled out as having a huge talent in the sport of power soccer. Power soccer is played in electric-powered chairs that are piloted or driven by some very determined and capable athletes. It’s a hugely popular and up and coming sport for those who are wheelchair bound, and not only is it played at inter league level all across the USA, it’s an Olympic sport too. Kenny, just like most of the athletes around the bay area, is living his life around his soccer dreams. He takes three busses to get to practice, which is held twice a week about 10 miles away from where he lives. He does this in his electric wheelchair, receiving assistance to get on and off each time he changes busses, a process which takes him 2 hours to complete from door to door. Once he’s finished with practice, normally late into the evening, he repeats this process, going in the opposite direction to get home. Kenny was doing the same thing to get to his job at Safeway, again, 3 bus journeys too and from work. Unfortunately for Kenny, the busses often ran late and after a year of excuses, Safeway fired him a few weeks ago because they failed to understand why public transportation should be held responsible for Kenny’s tardiness. Understandable really if you’re Mr. Safeway, incomprehensible though if you’re Kenny in a wheelchair.

Kenny lives in low-income housing, near a large outdoor shopping mall in San Jose, but to date, has failed to regain employment because the companies hiring around his home are not as open as Safeway were to employing men and women who have the range of disability that Kenny endures. Very unfortunate, when you think we live in a society that treats employment opportunity as an equal right in most cases. And so, Kenny lives on $10,000 per year, (yes, you read that correctly,10 grand a year!), which he receives in benefits from the State of CA. I have no idea how he survives, but he finds a way to make it happen, eating perhaps only once a day, or not eating at all on other days. He has no TV, no luxuries whatsoever and, as I mentioned earlier, his only passion is his power soccer. He lives it, breathes it and dreams it.

After talking with Kenny and another gentleman called John, I was informed that the game of power soccer has evolved into something of a Grand Prix race. It used to be that Kenny, along with everyone else playing this sport, could do so in the chair they used in their everyday lives. That chair costs about $25,000, (yes, again, you read that correctly!), the main expense being the motors that power the wheels and the electronics that drive the intelligence required to steer the chair. I had a hard time believing all of this when I saw how basic this chair seemed to be, but these are facts, not fiction. With the advancement of technology in both alloys and electronics, a company in Minnesota has now developed a power soccer chair that can not only out think, out maneuver and out power regular chairs, it is also safer and more efficient and an absolute MUST if you want to progress to Olympic level in this sport. The catch?? It costs $8700! A fortune for anyone, let alone a disabled athlete who has already spent 25 grand just to live a normal kind of life and would like the luxury of this soccer chair just to play a game!

Kenny and John are trying to raise funds for their organization to buy the new power chairs, which would enable players on their team to compete with teams from rest of the country who are already using these machines. With some effort, I believe they will be successful in their plight to compete and eventually John hopes that he will manage to raise enough to purchase a total of 4 chairs, which would ‘arm’ his team with the weapons they require to take a run at the national championships. I have placed a link below to the only manufacturer of these chairs in the USA. If you go to that link you’ll see just how expensive a hobby playing power soccer can be, but if you also take a moment to realize that this game is all these athletes have to try to help them live some kind of normal life, then perhaps you’ll understand just how important it is to them to make this happen. Kenny, after all, will continue to take his three busses there and back, with or without this incredible chair, because he loves the sport. But just how long will John be able to keep his team running if he’s unable to put out a team that can compete? If the team crumbles, what kind of existence will Kenny have? I dread to think. It’s already a lifestyle that sends shivers from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet and I really can’t understand how he survives the way he does.

The meeting gave me a brand new appreciation of ‘living to make ends meet’, and I for one am going to try to support Kenny and his teammates as best I can in the coming months. If you think you might also be interested in helping out, please go to fwwaa.org, and donate. Every cent will help propel an athlete towards their dreams.

http://www.powersoccershop.com/strikeforcepowerwheelchairandsoccerguard.aspx

Scotti-Leaks- What you always wanted to know about Scotland that was until now, hidden.

imagesWith Edward Snowden now looking to live in Russia, God only knows why he would want to do that, I thought it was time to come clean and admit to stealing precious never before released secrets about Scotland. Should the Scottish parliament decide I have breached the Official Secrets Act, I will of course flee the country in which I now live, (yes, they have an extradition agreement with Edinburgh) and seek residence in Grand Cayman, where, according to all my ex-wives, I have hidden my millions of dollars from their once greedy finger tips.

Snowden was a fool. He should have made a B line for the Scottish Highlands, where the mere fact that it rains every day and is engulfed by a semi-permanent darkness called ‘Scotch Mist’, would have kept him hidden from all satellite tracking systems and fanatical ex military types hired to capture him and bring him back to justice. Instead he will now be roaming the streets of Moscow, St Petersburg, or even Vladivostok, hanging on dearly to his Marlboro’s whilst trying hard to flag down a taxi driven by an alcoholic Russian who couldn’t give a fuck about anything except where his next smoke and pair of Levi jeans is coming from. At least in the Scottish Highlands Snowden could shag sheep, (and there and plenty of them), instead of drunk ugly Russian women, whilst claiming insanity and an insatiable appetite for the bizarre. Poor Edward, he should have known better.

What I have failed to understand is, what’s so important about letting the whole world know America is spying on it anyway? We all knew that already. The fact that our government is spying on its own citizens through the interception of phone conversations, emails, and social media content, well, that’s a matter I cannot overlook. It’s getting to the point where two tin cans held together by a piece of string is the only way I can keep my conversations private. One mention now of Osama, money laundering, shooting it up in Vegas and countless other ‘buzz’ words, and yep, here we go, the ‘secret’ communications satellite rounds an infinite corner up there in space, finds the exact position and street corner where my ‘alleged’ conversation just took place, and within 60 seconds (often referred to as one minute) the men in the big black van are standing opposite me with their huge arsenal of guns and missiles, all loaded and ready to fire, unless I surrender peacefully. Oh how things have change and oh how sad we have become as human beings. I’m not suggesting for one minute that all the worlds populous are pacifists, nor am I suggesting there are absolutely no bad people on this planet, but surely our paranoia has taken this whole idea about ‘living’ a normal protected life to another extreme? Surely there are better ways to find those who are trying to destroy us without listening to Mrs. Jones tell her husband  over the phone she wants to shag him tonight but only if he plays the part of a rich terrorist trying to kidnap her and take her away to Afghanistan? It’s overkill, stupidity and it’s just as well someone like Edward Snowden has the balls to inform us all, big brother is not just here, he is also the biggest of bullies and isn’t going away any time soon.

In Scotland, the ultimate sin would be to remain sober while divulging exactly what is going on inside that particular country. With thousands of pubs, great beer and the best whisky on the planet, there would be no need to stand up straight and tell the truth about the inadequacies of the Scottish diet, sectarianism found inside the church, (not to mention the child abuse, all hidden of course), our insane belief that we should not be part of the United Kingdom, the staggering fact that we have more heart disease than any other place on earth, or the well known premise that is an outright lie, Scottish people are tight! (Thrifty) No, these are not secrets, these are well known facts. Our secrets are hidden deeper than that. Hidden beneath a society that dislikes express its own feelings, where the word ‘love’ is treated more like a matter of respect than actual sentiment. Scotland itself is a hidden gem, surrounded on 3 sides by water and on the fourth by the dreaded and often hated English. It’s no secret why the English are classed as the Auld enemy, but it is a secret that those who would stand up and be counted as ‘English haters’ are few and far between. More often that not it’s just good natured banter and old fashioned saber rattling that separates good from evil where the English are concerned and although most Scots would never admit it, there is an overriding and strong desire to be as one with their enemy and to get along and to prosper. There are probably more English living in Scotland that claim to hate their fellow countrymen than there are Scots claiming the same purpose!

Our beaches are better than any beach in Caribbean or Florida or Thailand or all of the above, combined. When you drive up the west coast of Scotland you are surrounded by white sands and the most pristine clear blue ocean, unless it’s pissing down with rain and you can’t see 5 feet in front of you! Mallaig, Oban, Ullapool, the all encompassing Isle of Skye, boasting some of the most unspoiled terrain you are every likely to witness anywhere on this planet. There are no 5 star Hilton hotels here, no Ritz Carlton’s and certainly no fancy Spa’s, but what there is, often surprises those who venture out into the wilderness to enjoy some peace and quiet with little distraction, other than the elements. Scotland boasts some of the best Bed and Breakfast homes that the UK has to offer. These homes are run by some real characters, (see previous blog about Granite City), offering a comfortable alternative to those concrete monstrosities that line every beach around the globe. And there are so few people living in this part of the world that when the rain stops, and you do actually venture out onto those incredible white sands, more often than not, you are alone. No need for the Marlboro’s or Levi’s and not a taxi in sight. I’m sure the people who live in the part of Scotland crave the sunshine, just like the rest of us, but frankly, and I realize this week is the exception to the rule, they rarely see the sun, and when they do, the really appreciate it!

And so, Mr. Snowden, you should have turned left and not right when you got to Hong Kong and taken the high road and not the one that has become so low. We in Scotland would have welcomed you with open arms, got you completely pissed, robbed you blind and hung you out to dry like the hero you are not. But, in doing so, you would have had a bloody good time, you wouldn’t have had to drink any crappy vodka, eat any shite caviar and you would have had the pleasure of watching the famous Glasgow Rangers, every week, for less than the price of a shag with a sheep in Leningrad.

Good luck Edward. See you in Siberia when I come to visit. Nostrovia!

Blog Complete

New design is complete, hope you like it. Posts will commence in a couple of weeks, but in the meantime, please enjoy some pictures that I took in my back yard. I’ll post more later this week. Oh, and if you get a chance, drop me a wee line and let me know what you think of the new color scheme?

Back after my Alaska trip!

IMG_3677 IMG_3678 IMG_3679

Andy Murray, Wimbledon Champion.

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At Peace

 

At peace now with the knowledge that a true champion is anointed

Made whole by perseverance and dedication, and then, and then that dream

Pounding hard, night after night inside a body that said, ‘I can do this’

Proclaimed by a nation as the man who actually did

No questions asked, though all now answered, finally and hopefully for good

Laying to rest those ghosts who have haunted his relevance and meaning

Being there, if not in sprit, perhaps in person, for all to admire

Now king of a jungle he seemed to dominate in all but crowning glory

Headed towards eternity with a mantle that can never be erased

Pride, his motivation, his desire, and now, his affirmation

Showing off to all those who were doubters that ignorance rarely triumphs

Atop a perch where folklore shall remain forever the only truth

Yes, at peace, one nation, one man, and of course, that myth, made whole by one victory

 

 

© Alan Zoltie July 7, 13

www.alanzoltie.com

www.electrichaggis.com

 

How To Make Baseball (The World’s Second Most Boring Game) – Exciting!!

imagesCricket is without a doubt THE most boring sport on the planet. It’s so boring that I used to say to my friend Paul, when we attended games at Lords one of the most famous cricket grounds in the world, “It’s more exciting to watch paint dry!” He would laugh and tell me that I didn’t really understand the game and that if I took time to investigate its nuances, I might enjoy it better. That never happened, but what did is even funnier.

When, in 1986, I attended as an exhibitor, a trade show in New York, our whole exhibit got stuck in US customs. We were left high and dry and ready to go back to the UK having shelled out thousands just to be at this Promotions show in the then new and very shiny Jacob Javits Center on 34th and 11th Ave. A reporter from the NY TImes came by our ’empty’ booth and suggested the we just stand there dressed in our full Highland Regalia and look good. We did, and he put us on the front page of the following day’s business section. He also suggested we catch a NY Yankees baseball game in the hope that once the game ended our issue with US customs might be resolved. Dressed in kilts and armed with a real DIRK (a knife that slips in the right hand sock), Andrew, Tim and I went to the Bronx,to find solace, not trouble, at Yankee stadium. It was 85 degrees that day, we were still semi-jet lagged, and having purchased cheap seats and then being upgraded into better seats just because the admissions guy took a fancy to me in my kilt, we sat dumbfounded as we watched what had to be, the second most boring game on this planet. Baseball! I recall falling asleep in the middle of the 2nd inning and waking up at the top of the 5th, burnt as a cinder down the right hand side of my face where the sun had conveniently been shining and had decided to slow fry my pretty white skin. “Never again!” I vowed. 4 hours of complete and utter snooze ball. My cousin, who lived in NY, told me that baseball was actually a great game and that if I learned its intricate plays and discovered how much of a ‘chess’ match it was, I might really enjoy it! Now where had I heard that before?? Yep, Paul had said exactly the same this to me whilst watching cricket!

Fast forward some 20 odd years. Alan, no longer dressed in Scottish regalia, is living here in CA in the San Francisco bay area, and has a 5-year-old daughter who wishes to play softball, AKA baseball for ladies! The league was asking, no they were begging, for parents to volunteer as coaches and with time on my hands, a desire to be more involved in my daughter’s life and knowing absolutely nothing about softball, I accepted. About the same time, The SF Giants professional baseball team was moving into or indeed had just moved into a new ball park up in the city of SF. It was named AT&T park, and everyone who went to visit came back with glowing reports. Baring in mind that the Giants had never won anything in the history of their existence here in SF, and due to the fact I despised the game of baseball, I was reluctant to go and watch, no matter what anyone else said to me. To drive an hour up to San Francisco, pay $35 to park my car and $100 for a ticket to watch a game with the team in orange and black supplying 4 hours of sheer boredom, well that just wasn’t cricket!. Things however were about to mysteriously change, and this is what transpired.

In 2002 the SF Giants made it to the World Series. The world championship of baseball, though how they have the gall to call it world series when it’s only US teams playing I will never understand! At the same time my daughter has just started playing softball and I had begun my coaching career. Put two and two together, and suddenly my understanding of the game, even though I believed it was a slumber party for 40,000 drunken Americans, improved dramatically. Low and behold, with 2 free tickets offered to me for game 4 of what would become a 7 game series against Anaheim Angels, I decided to go and watch it live. My opinion of the game developed from it being immensely boring, to moderately interesting. I enjoyed the ball park, the atmosphere, the food, and the victory that night. SF lost the series in game 7,all due to a monkey they said,(another long story in that one!), but my appreciation of a game I had previously refused to watch, had now spiked. With my daughter enjoying softball and the Giants in a bit of a resurgence, suddenly baseball became interesting, so much so that I would attend at least 3 to 4 games a season, on top of the 20 or so softball games I had to attend as a coach.

As the years moved on and my daughter improved at softball, my attendance at Giants games became all the more frequent. Eventually in 2010 they won the world series and again last year, a magnificent achievement and very exciting to watch. By this time my daughter had become quite proficient in her sport too, without my help I hasten to add, (I had stopped coaching after a 6 year stint because I knew I couldn’t take any team she played on to the level required to be moderately successful), and she would come with me to the Giants in a father/daughter bonding session that even today is not only enjoyable but also necessary (ah yes, those teenage years!).  She is nearly 16 and prefers to go out with her friends rather than me, quite understandable really. Another good reason for attending baseball games was this supposed ‘chess’ match and the way the pitcher battled each batter. It was actually intriguing!  Coaching softball had really given me an appetite to sit and appreciate all the skills involved in the professional game of baseball but, and there was always this BIG but, what I failed at first to comprehend was the audience who came to watch never really watched at all. They would spend 4 to 5 hours, eating, and walking around the stadium looking at memorabilia meeting old friends and then eating some more!, ALL this, while the game was in progress! At soccer games, we are up and down and shout and scream, but rarely move from our seats until half time. Yes, there was an atmosphere, but it was by no means electric. Everyone wanted to be doing something else, mainly eating and drinking, as I’ve mentioned before, but very few of the spectators sat in their seats remained there from the first pitch to the last hit! I decided I had to look into ways of improving baseball to make it more exciting, just as they did in the UK with cricket, taking it from an all day spectacle (in one day matches the game goes from 11 am until well into the evening) to an event played over a few hours that enthralled and involved crowd participation and a willingness to come back night after night as an ‘addicted’ fan. Baseball teams play 162 games in their regular season and then they go to the play offs (if they are fortunate to make it that far), and I found that there were very few people indeed if any at all, who would come to all 80 odd games played at home. Most fans shared season tickets or families would buy seats for just one or two games a year. Loyalty was there, but no undying support. This led me to question exactly why this was happening and so, with that in mind and sitting in the upper deck at AT&T park earlier this week, as the Giants played the A’s from Oakland, our neighbors from across the Bay Bridge, I came up with this new and improved version of the game. Its called ………..

RACEBALL

With the advent of 20/20 cricket, speed golf, Futbol Rapido and most people’s desire to live life in a very fast 21st century lane indeed, there are so few hours left in the day for wasting any precious moments that we may have as we check our emails, App’s, and social media updates. Why would anyone want to sit still for 5 hours, when there are so many other things that can entertain us? This makes RACEBALL, the perfect game to be the NEW favorite American past time. Let’s review the rules one by one, and I’m sorry in advance if you don’t know the rules of baseball because RACEBALL is going to be a derivative of that game.

The entire game will last 5 innings, or 2 hours, which ever comes first. If an inning has commenced and it’s not over when the time limit expires, then time will be allotted to allow it to be completed. There will be no breaks, no interval and no community singing in between innings.(AKA 7th inning stretch)

Each inning will consist of 4 outs for the hitting team, and not the standard 3 outs as we are accustomed to in todays regular baseball game.

A pitcher cannot be changed, unless injured, until the 5th inning of any game,. If no 5th inning is achieved due to time restraints, no changes can take place.

Fielders may rotate into any position on the field  even while the game is in progress, except the pitcher and catcher, who must stay where they start the game. During the game the outfielders must change positions at least one time. There will be 4 in the outfield instead of 3.

Pitchers do not have to bat. There will be 6 hitters, 10 fielders, once a hitter is taken out the game, he can no longer field. The substitute bench can contain up to 6 additional players. No one player can re-enter the game after being substituted.

A lead off batter on deck in any inning, either left or right-handed, can hit the ball and run either from 1st to 2nd to 3rd base and then home or go in the opposite direction, but once he has made his decision, the rest of the players batting behind him in the line up must go the same direction. This will leave the fielders totally confused every time a leadoff hitter comes to the plate at the beginning of each inning not knowing in advance if he will run counterclockwise (the normal progression) or clockwise.

Scoring. When a player scores, the scoring team will be awarded 1 point. If the batter has runners on base and hits a home run, his score will double. For every strike out the pitching team will be awarded 1 point. There will be a bonus point for a strike out with no balls throw, only strikes.

No outfielder can wear a catching mit. Bear hands only.

If the fielding team manage a double play, they are awarded a bonus point.

The strike zone allowed by the officials shall be from the neck down to the top of the knee.

If during the game, and at any point in time there is a point differential that exceeds 10, the team leading must remove a player from their team until that differential is halved. Every 5 points after the initial 10 will result in the removal of one more, up to a maximum of 3. It can be a hitter or a fielder or both.

No game can end in a tie. If there is a tie then starting pitchers will be forced to bat in a ‘hit off’. The hit off will have each pitcher hit balls from a chosen pitcher who cannot be a pitcher that has played in the game. The hit off will consist of 5 throws by each pitcher to each batter, and the one with the greatest number of hits, including foul balls and bunts, wins the game.

With these rule changes, baseball, and all its long drawn out tedious innings would be revolutionized instantly. People will flock to see battles that will be unpredictable, exciting and most importantly, last only 2 hours. The attention span of most who will attend these games will ensure they keep their bums on their seats and will be less tempted to spend $10 on a beer or $5 on a bottle of water, both which actually cost less than 20 cents, for fear of missing some action. The owners will have to re think, the fans won’t have to think at all, and complete equilibrium could be achieved in the flash of a simple idea called, initiative! Try playing this in your local park, try it in the streets, but at least try it and then let me know what you think. It worked for cricket and I promise it will work for baseball. The new RACEBALL season is but only an out away!

I am taking a break for the summer.(Don’t fret, I shall return), and hopefully when I do come back, I will have some more exciting news, a change of format and at least a decent read for those of you who kindly follow me every week. Stay out the sun, stay healthy and be happy.

Peace!

Pimp Your Ride

imagesThey stand at every street corner. There is no escaping them. Have you noticed that over the past 12 to 18 months there are no traffic signals without them? Who are THEY? I’m talking of course about those irritating wannabe homeless people with signs. “Will Work For Food” “Homeless Vet. Please Help” “At least I am Honest. Need Money For Beer” etc etc. Well, the truth of the matter is, they are not homeless. Indeed. they are far from needing anything, at least not from us. Now, let me clarify that last statement by confirming that I have not, nor will I ever, be able to go and interview each and every one of them. Quite impossible. But, from the research I have done, virtually all on site up close and personal, and the experience I have had, not trusting anything I was told, I have discovered that 95% of these ‘con-men’ and women are completely disingenuous with regards their financial circumstance and living accommodation. No surprise there, I here you shout. Well, what might come as a surprise is how these panhandlers are organized, how they are chosen and lastly, how they are rewarded. No, they don’t get to keep all they receive, far from it. Let me explain.

Just like prostitution, there are needs and there are desires. Everyone has them, everyone wants them, in this case, money, or lack of, is of course the main catalyst for the propulsion of such an energetic transformation of our normally mundane landscape. Over the past few years, due to the economic slow down and instability in the work place, most of us have become accustomed to seeing more and more of our friends and relatives losing their jobs and being unable to find employment. This has led to desperation, isolation and lastly, deception. All of these factors placed alongside a somewhat alternative and affluent society, especially here in the San Francisco Bay area, leads to this insane form of entrepreneurship, perhaps better described as criminal behavior, that we see at every traffic light and street corner. My father used to say, ‘it’s not the way you make a living that counts, it’s that you indeed make a living!’ Perfectly true, only in this case, organized crime is right behind what we witness through our windshields when we stop to make a perfectly legal left or right turn.

Last week, outside Safeway here in Los Gatos CA, a town where the average salary is probably 7 figures and where anyone driving anything but a Bentley, Porsche or Ferrari, is commonly ‘scoffed’ at, sat a gentleman dressed in army fatigues, aka Desert Storm vintage. He sat slumped at the front door, holding a sign which read, “Homeless Vet. Please Help” written on a piece of card, 12 x 12. Been there, seen that, and sometimes, though not always, I have given, and given willingly. There was something about this man however that made me look twice. In my experience, shoes are the great leveler. From my time being homeless in San Francisco, I learnt that shoes tell not only a great story, but also an accurate story as well. If a person asking for money has on shoes that look newish, or indeed are in reasonable condition, chances are, homelessness is far from something they are experiencing.  If their shoes are in tatters, homelessness is almost guaranteed. Homeless people cannot get shoes that easily, and they tend to wear what they can find or scavenge. Also, truly homeless men, women and children, should they be able to find a decent pair of shoes, will guard them with their lives. Try taking the shoes from someone who has no place to live and see what happens. I promise you it won’t be pleasant. And so, when I looked into his face, a tearful face, and one that looked very distressed, I couldn’t figure out exactly what was going on, a sure sign from within my heart that something was amiss with this so-called homeless Vet. True to form, after a long gaze and eye contact that seemed to last minutes and not seconds, which it really was, this gentleman picked up his sign, wiped the tears from his face and made his way downstairs into the underground parking lot. Curious as ever, I followed. Sitting in a spot, right at the back of the lot, a reasonably new Ford Explorer, and guess who jumped into that vehicle and drove off at the speed?

Just like those who stand in broad daylight at every street corner, this was an organized affair. These people, who claim to have little or nothing, are not who they seem to be. Another point to consider is that they are controlled by ‘pimps’ who determine who stands where and for how long. If you have a keen eye, and fortunately I was blessed with one, alongside a good memory, and you take the time to drive around the most popular spots in my hometown, you’ll see that most of the panhandlers are rotated on a two hourly ‘shift’ basis. What this does is ‘freshen’ up the workforce and of course, because they stand at traffic signals and cars passing them by rarely, if ever, come back the same way, they can keep their cash coming in with almost absolute confidence of never being seen twice or recognized again on any particular day. And what happens to that cash? Well, that’s a very good question.

After talking to one or two of those would be ‘pretenders’, I discovered that this many making racket is being controlled by gangs, and in particular, gangs who remain local and reside within 15 minutes of each catchment area. The ‘faces’ paraded on every street corner are also controlled. They ‘donate’ willingly to their ‘pimps’ on the understanding that if they don’t, well, we all know what happens in gangland when a pimp is disobeyed! By the sheer precision of this regimented system, you and I, the general public, are continually fooled into believing that these poor souls we see at the stop signs are genuinely in need of help. It’s just not the case. In fact, giving to these people really detracts from the real homeless issue that lies out there, unabated. We are giving to those who don’t really need, and those who do are going without. Hence my admiration for all those volunteers who are out on the streets trying to locate and to confirm and then register those who are really homeless and those who are not. My only hope is that they succeed in their task, a task that is often hazardous and difficult. In the meantime, my suggestion to all of you when you stop at a light and are approached by a man or woman with a sign looking for help, is to politely decline. This is a racket, and a racket that needs to be stopped. Instead it seems to be spreading far and wide across not only our state, but the whole country. The people behind these schemes are taking our money, tax-free, and indeed some of them are living quite comfortable lives from the proceeds of our ‘donations’. When I was living alone for that one week I went homeless up in San Francisco, I met a gentleman, who shall remain forever in my thoughts, who came into town every day in his Lexus, parked at Safeway in Daly City, got on BART (the local subway train) to the Embarcadero and after taking in $300 to $500 cash on a daily basis, would return back to Daly City and drive home in his Lexus to his nice house in the suburbs. All his money was tax-free and he had no qualms about what he was doing and how he was doing it. He was very good at his ‘job’ as seen by the amounts he collected, but he, like all the others who are con-men, were taking money away, easy money, from those who genuinely needed it. He had no regrets, and I’m sure the rest of them don’t have many either. The issue could be stopped through education. Education of us, the masses, teaching each and every one of us how to spot a fraudster, although, that is probably an impossible task, but a task that could start by a simple look at a pair of shoes.

As I’ve mentioned before. When is doubt, politely decline, and if you still feel the need to give, which we almost always do, do so without feeling like you’ve been bullied. Go to your local homeless shelter and donate directly to them. They need and cherish every single penny you can afford to give and they appreciate it too! You will do so knowing that your cash is going straight into a system that can feed and help those who are genuinely down on their luck and it will assist in supporting their rehabilitation and not the empire building of any pimp.