#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

Is Hawaii Being Targeted?

IMG_5561I arrived here, all excited, ready to relax, hoping for three or four days of pure bliss. Maui, ready and waiting, though very cloudy. ‘No worries’, I was reassured time and time again, ‘it will soon clear out and sunshine will once again be the order of the day.’ But first things first, a massive line for the rental car avoided by some true Scottish guile and some amazing chutzpah, a two-hour saving at least, and parked safely inside my 8 passenger mini van, it was onwards to Wal-Mart, and places beyond, ready, so ready for a nice wee break by the ocean.

Wal-Mart on a Sunday in Kahului around noon time. Picture this. A line to get a parking spot, a line for the bank situated inside the main entrance, a line for the McDonald’s, situated right next to the line for the bank and an even larger line to check out, situated right next to…… Well you get the idea, right? Up and down the aisles, hundreds of locals were clearing out shelves of anything they could get their hands on, faster than those same shelves could be restocked! It was incredible. “This is obviously the place to shop” I thought to myself, as I placed a 6 pack of water into my cart, turned a corner and bumped straight into 4 very large Hawaiian ladies coming in the opposite direction. Their conversation was riveting, well, not really, but it seemed that way as I slid one way then the other in order to avoid a full on collision. Me against them? No contest. I would have been flattened. Eventually, cart complete and ready to go, I slipped gingerly into a shortish line, only to have my line Karma fulfilled once again. First it was Hertz, now Wal-Mart, as that lovely lady appeared out of nowhere, ushering me into her brand new empty line where she was about to begin her 6 hour shift. I didn’t have the heart to ask her if she was part of the employee law suit against her bosses, her fake smile was the only indication I required to show she was ready and willing to go home before her day had even commenced.

Back in my mini van and pedal to the metal, an enthralling 40 MPH was achieved as I hurtled relentlessly towards the Marriott Maui Beach Club in Lahaina, fully stocked, fully stoked and about to be made fully aware of just how Hawaii is being secretly targeted by our government and by all our national TV stations.

Hawaii, often referred to as “Paradise” by those who live there and most who visit, is anything but. The population is growing, and not just in numbers, it seems that every time I come here I see human being larger than life and much larger that their height/weigh ratio suggests. This, along with the overweight and definitely aging visitors who flock from all around the globe, meets for an interesting people watching experience and now, with the advent of our ‘tattoo nation’, there are even more reasons just to sit and ogle the freak show that has become ‘Paradise Lost” That being said, the sunsets are still magnificent, the views incredible and the topography and geology, just out of the world, literally.

Having settled in to my hotel room after a two-hour wait for the room to be become ready, (my line Karma deserting me in favor of yet another Marriott hotel screw up), the three-hour time difference, the heat and the fact that San Fran were playing live in the Sunday night football game, made for a great excuse to shower, chill out and watch a few minutes of sport before retiring to bed for the night. San Francisco were way ahead in the game, in fact it seemed to be a completely one-sided match, so I switched the channel from NBC to ABC, to see if there was anything better to watch. What hit me first, and not as suddenly as it should have, was that every single commercial at every break in the show that was playing was advertising some kind of drug. It really didn’t hit home until I began to count the Ad’s and make notes of what was being sold to me on this small screen. It went something like this.

Zantac for ant acid or acid reflux

Androgel for low testosterone

Lyrica for diabetic nerve pain

Abilify for adult depression

Cymbalta, again for depression.

And this was only the first commercial break. The second followed a similar pattern, and every break thereafter. It seemed there was nothing else being advertised on ABC, other than the occasional diaper or local surf and dive shop. I changed the channel and went back to the ‘blow out’ football game on NBC. Waiting patiently for the next commercial break, which if you watch all these shitty American sports, you’ll know they happen at least twice in every 90 seconds of every game, if not more. That’s the issue with American sports. They are built around advertising and not the other way round. Let’s make a play and have a TV break! I took out my pen and paper and began to make notes as the commercials ran their course. Yet again,

Chantix to help quit smoking

Requip to treat muscle spasms related to Parkinson’s

Cialis for ED

All the above were followed by the usual disclaimers. “Don’t take these meds if you get a sore throat, itchy balls, runny eyes, have a heart attack, smell funny, can’t sleep, get an overly large erection, etc etc. You know the one’s I’m talking about. All rattled off in the time it takes to swallow one of their incredibly ‘bad for you’ pills.

And they kept on rolling. It was amazing, I couldn’t believe that this was actually happening. What on earth was going on here? Hawaii was being targeted by every major drug company in the USA. Not just targeted, but brain washed. Any Hawaiian watching these commercials, and believe me, most people do watch intently, would have to think that they were in need of a complete drug makeover and that a visit to their GP would be the order of the day come Monday morning. There was a pill and a cream for everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, other than how to get rid of the crappy adverts for the pills they were insisting you take. It was sad in a way that everyone tuning into these TV stations was being bombarded with nothing but drug related product, all advertised under the guise of ‘scientific life improvement’, only in San Fran, where I live, the variation of products advertised is completely different and even though drug related Ad’s are prevalent, they are in no way as common as they were on this particular night in Hawaii.

Do the Hawaiian’s need more drugs than any other state? Well I think that was a question that needed to be asked. Hawaii is often referred to as an ideal spot to live life in peace and in happiness. It didn’t come across that way to me as each Ad rolled off the screen screaming, ‘take me’ and pleading for participants in a new game called ‘let’s all be druggies’. Baffling, truly baffling. And when it was all over and the 49’rs had won the football game, my mind flipped back to that Wal-Mart and the rush to ‘clear’ the shelves of everything that seemed edible. Perhaps the locals had a ploy to eat, drink and then be drugged or perhaps it was just a silent reminder that although pretty, relaxing and certainly a joy to visit for a short period of time, Hawaii is just like any other state in the union, filled with gullible fat people whose health is dependent on drugs that do more harm than good and a diet in overdrive which has created a TV/video game laziness and an ignorance for the good old-fashioned idea of getting outside and enjoying the islands for what they give out naturally, fresh air and a desire to live life!

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.