Corporations as “People”, the trillion dollar student loan debt and The Tea Party

When I went first started going to college in 1964, it was very affordable. I went to East LA College (ELAC) when it was called East LA Junior College that is a 2 year college. I guess they didn’t like the word “Junior” so they dropped it. Anyway, 2 year colleges are now called community colleges that offer the first 2 years of a 4 year college degree at a cheaper cost. When I started ELAC it was $6.25 a semester to go full time which was carrying 12 units or more and each class was 3 units so you could take 4 classes or more for $1.56 each per semester.

Then when I transferred to Cal State LA to finish my BA in Sociology it cost $50.00 a quarter (10 weeks rather than a 15 week semester) full time which was also 12 units or more so if you were taking 4 classes, each class cost $12.50 per semester.

When my kids began going to college in the 1990’s, I think the cost of community college was something like $200 a semester full time and Cal State Chico was something like $300 a semester. This past summer my daughter took one class at Cal State Sacramento and it cost $3000.00 for one class! Hell, my entire 4 year college career might have cost less than that and that included food and housing!

Now it’s common for kids graduating college with a 4 year degree to be in debt $50,000.00 or more! And many of them are not able to find a job. Hell, right out of college I was offered 3 jobs as a social worker. Granted they didn’t pay much but I could afford to pay my bills including rent, food and car payments. People graduating college today don’t only have student loan debts, they also have credit card debts that are also many thousands of dollars.

What happened? Back when I was in college, the tax rate for corporations was higher than it is today. Thanks to President Reagan and President Bush, the tax rate for corporations is now lower. Meanwhile due to inflation, the cost of everything from birth to death has gone up substantially and somebody has to pay the difference and since it’s not going to be who has the most money today, the corporations, it’s going to be the people with much less money, the middle class and the working poor who would like their children to be better off than they were so they send them to college.

So in essence, our kids and their parents are now paying  a whole lot more for a college education since corporations are no longer helping pay for it. And with billionaires like the Koch Brothers making hundreds of millions of dollars a year as “campaign contributions”, thanks to President Bush’s stacked conservative  US Supreme Court, corporations are now considered “people” that have the same rights (actually more) as individuals do, so they can influence Congress to make even more changes that benefit corporations and have the middle class and working poor pay for it while the corporations (now considered “People”) benefit.

And corporations and the Koch Brothers have convinced  millions of Americans that government is the problem and many of those people now hate the government and now vote against government spending on programs that help people and want deregulation of corporations thinking they’re helping themselves but they are actually playing right into corporations hands. And if that keeps up, not only will the cost of college keep going up but so will the cost of everything else and that is contributing what is fast becoming the “United Corporations of America.”

So people who think the Tea Party is their friend and that government regulations and environmental safeguards and affordable education and affordable health care is the problem are actually being sold a bill of goods by Big Money and corporations that want to get bigger while everyone else pays for it and they wonder what’s happening. They’re actually voting against their own best interests.

I guess the Tea Party is working on the premise that if you tell people enough times that President Obama and Obamacare and government is the problem, that people will believe it, whether they can afford a college education and have health care or not.

Last month, Denmark was crowned the happiest country in the world.

“The top countries generally rank higher in all six of the key factors identified in the World Happiness Report,” wrote University of British Columbia economics professor John Helliwell, one of the report’s contributing authors. “Together, these six factors explain three quarters of differences in life evaluations across hundreds of countries and over the years.”

The six factors for a happy nation split evenly between concerns on a government- and on a human-scale. The happiest countries have in common a large GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy at birth and a lack of corruption in leadership. But also essential were three things over which individual citizens have a bit more control over: A sense of social support, freedom to make life choices and a culture of generosity.

“There is now a rising worldwide demand that policy be more closely aligned with what really matters to people as they themselves characterize their well-being,” economist Jeffrey Sachs said in a statement at the time of the report’s release.

But why Denmark over any of the other wealthy, democratic countries with small, educated populations? And can the qualities that make this Nordic country the happiest around apply to other cultures across the globe? Here are a few things Danes do well that any of us can lobby for:

Denmark supports parents

While American women scrape by with an average maternal leave of 10.3 weeks, Danish families receive a total of 52 weeks of parental leave. Mothers are able to take 18 weeks and fathers receive their own dedicated 2 weeks at up to 100 percent salary. The rest of the paid time off is up to the family to use as they see fit.

But the support doesn’t stop at the end of this time. Danish children have access tofree or low-cost child care. And early childhood education is associated with health and well-being throughout life for its recipients – as well as for mothers. What’s more, this frees up young mothers to return to the work force if they’d like to. The result? In Denmark, 79 percent of mothers return to their previous level of employment, compared to 59 percent of American women. These resources mean that women contribute 34 to 38 percent of income in Danish households with children, compared to American women, who contribute 28 percent of income.

Health care is a civil right — and a source of social support

Danish citizens expect and receive health care as a basic right. But what’s more, they know how to effectively use their health systems. Danish people are in touch with their primary care physician an average of nearly seven times per year, according to a 2012 survey of family medicine in the country. And that means they have a single advocate who helps them navigate more complicated care.

“This gatekeeping system essentially is designed to support the principle that treatment ought to take place at the lowest effective care level along with the idea of continuity of care provided by a family doctor,” wrote the authors of the family medicine survey.

By contrast, Americans seek medical care an average of fewer than four times per year and they don’t just visit their general practitioner — this figure includes emergency room visits, where many uninsured Americans must access doctors. This diversity of resources means that many Americans don’t have continuity of care — not a single medical professional advocating for them and putting together a comprehensive medical history.

Gender equality is prioritized

It isn’t just parents who can expect balanced gender norms. Denmark regularly ranksamong the top 10 countries in a World Economic Forum’s yearly report that measures gender equality. While no country in the world has yet achieved gender parity, Denmark and other Nordic countries are coming close. That is in no small part because of the strong presence of women in leadership positions. Reported the World Economic Forum:

The Nordic countries were also early starters in providing women with the right to vote (Sweden in 1919, Norway in 1913, Iceland and Denmark in 1915, Finland in 1906). In Denmark, Sweden and Norway, political parties introduced voluntary gender quotas in the 1970s, resulting in high numbers of female political representatives over the years. In Denmark, in fact, this quota has since been abandoned as no further stimulus is required.

Indeed, the country currently has its first female prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt (although she has been leader of the Social Democrat party since 2005). Its blockbuster hit television show, Borgen, features a female prime minister (pictured above) as well — a complicated, strong female character that stands in contrast to America’s enduring obsession with male anti-heroes.

But government leadership merely exemplifies greater gender balance throughout the culture. As Katie J.M. Baker puts it in her exploration of gender politics in the Scandinavian country: “Unlike in America, where bestsellers goad already overworked and underpaid women to Lean In even further, the assumption in Denmark is that feminism is a collective goal, not an individual pursuit.”

Biking is the norm

In Denmark’s most populated and largest city, Copenhagen, bikes account for 50 percent of its residents’ trips to school or work. Half. Half of commuting happens on a bike in Copenhagen and that doesn’t just improve fitness levels and reduce carbon emissions, it also contributes to the wealth of the city, reported Forbes:

Researchers found that for every kilometer traveled by bike instead of by car, taxpayers saved 7.8 cents (DKK 0.45) in avoided air pollution, accidents, congestion, noise and wear and tear on infrastructure. Cyclists in Copenhagen cover an estimated 1.2 million kilometers each day — saving the city a little over $34 million each year.

What’s more, just 30 minutes of daily biking adds an average of one to two years to the life expectancy of Copenhagen’s cyclists.

Danes feel a responsibility to one another

Danes don’t prioritize social security and safety simply so they can receive benefits; there’s a real sense of collective responsibility and belonging. And this civic duty — combined with the economic security and work-life balance to support it — results in a high rate of volunteerism. According to a government exploration of Danish “responsibility”:

Denmark is a society where citizens participate and contribute to making society work. More than 40 percent of all Danes do voluntary work in cultural and sports associations, NGOs, social organisations, political organisations, etc. There is a wealth of associations: in 2006, there were 101,000 Danish organisations — worth noting in a population of just 5.5 million.The economic value of this unpaid work is DKK 35.3 billion. Combined with the value growth from the non-profit sector, public subsidies and membership fees, the total economic impact of the sector represents 9.6 percent of the Danish GDP.

But that sense of stewardship isn’t just extra-governmental: Danes also take pride in their involvement with the democratic process. During the last election in September 2011, for example, 87.7 percent of the country voted. It’s not surprising, given these statistics, that the University of Zurich and the Social Science Research Center Berlin have given Denmark the very highest rating for democracy among 30 established democracies.

The difference between the above factors and  The Tea Party? All the above factors and programs are supported and encouraged by the Danish government. Just the opposite of the Tea Party wants. They want to get rid of such ideas altogether and let the rich and powerful control everything. They must really believe that corporations are more trustworthy than the government is because they want tax breaks for corporations that ship jobs overseas that causes unemployment here. But how is unemployment insurance paid for? By taxes that the Tea Party wants go get rid of.

The irony? The great majority of Tea Party members are not rich. Far from it. They can hardly keep up with their bills and who do they blame? Not corporations.  No. They blame women’s rights, liberals, gays and lesbians, The Sierra Club, immigrants and the government. Oh, yeah, and President Obama.

The Republican party fought Social Security, it fought Medicare, it fought seat belts and air bags, it fought affordable college education and just about every other government program that most of them depend on every day just like they’re fighting affordable health care that most of them will need soon enough.

It reminds me of rebellious kids fighting their parents rules who only want what’s the best for their kids but the Tea Party rebels are being taken by rich corporations who they should be rebelling against.


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Friends and Relatives

When you’re a kid, friends mean almost everything to you, seemingly even more than relatives do. You hear people say, “Blood is thicker than water.” As a kid you don’t know what that means. I’ve heard some old people say, “You’re lucky if you have one good friend all your life.” When you’re a kid you think that’s crazy because you know everybody and you think they’re all your friends but as you grow older you lose friends. Some from moving away some from dying and some because they don’t want to be your friend anymore.

I’ve always felt that if someone was ever my friend, shouldn’t they always be my friend? But evidently not everybody feels that way. I’ve known a lot of people in my life from different epochs of my life, as a kid, as a teenager, as a young man, in school, as a cholo, in the army, as a hippie, as co-workers and as neighbors. And when I see them someplace, I’m always glad to catch up with them. I even try to reach old friends on the Internet and on Facebook but with more than a billion people on Facebook, just about everyone you’ve ever known is on Facebook and so are many other people with the same names that you and just about everybody else has. Go ahead, type in your name on Facebook and see how many other people with your name comes up. Who’d a thunk?

But as you get older and you find that some so-called friends are not really your friend, then eventually the old adage about blood being thicker than water begins to sink in. At least it usually does with close family relations. I have 3 older brothers and they have known me all my life. Sometimes they love me a lot and sometimes not so much but we’ll have each other all our lives. How many friends have you had that you can say that about?

Yes, we’ve all heard the slogan, “You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your relatives.” and “If he/she wasn’t my brother/sister I wouldn’t have anything to do with him/her.” But for the most part, relatives are stuck with each other for life on one level or another but friends, even close friends can drift apart and lose touch with each other.

I’ve lost some so-called friends for different reasons, some because of what other people may have said about me and some because we have different political beliefs and some seemingly because as we get older people seem to want to be with their spouses and family more than they do with people who were once their friends.

I guess the best relationship is the relative/friend relationship or the mother/daughter or the mother/son or the father/son or father/daughter relationship if it is close and loving but not all those relationships are close and loving but they should be.

I’ve observed that many of the women I’ve known have less than close relationships with their mothers. Some have no relationship with their mothers. Sometimes there even seems to be competition between mothers and daughters. To  me that seems strange.

Fathers and sons may be the same thing but I can’t say I’ve noticed it as much. I had a very close relationship with my mother, who I could talk to just about anything with. I had a close relationship with my father too but he was more of a strong, silent guy with a “let’s get things done” attitude so we’d talk about different things than I did with my mom but I was close to both parents. My father and I rebuilt my old 50 Chevy when I was a teenager and that’s a fond memory. My mom and I would talk on the phone for an hour every week after I moved away from home and that too is a fond memory.

But some father/son relationships I’ve observed are more based upon the father seeing the son as a reflection of himself and if the son isn’t interested in sports or may be gay, the father doesn’t know how to relate.

What was it Kihlil Gibran, who wrote “The Prophet” said? I think it was, “Children are the arrows of the parents bows.” Which to me means, children going to do and see things differently than the parents see things. I remember my mother once saying to me that one of my sister in laws said to her: “We’re looking at the world from your shoulders.” and my mom didn’t know what my sister in law meant by that. Naturally it was an arrogant thing to say but the message was pretty much the same thing that Kihlil Gibran said, that children see things differently than the parents do. Of course my sister in law meant that she could see further than my mom could see. Which, as I say, was arrogant as hell.

But what I’ve noticed lately is that as I get to be the age I can very clearly remember my parents being, I see that they knew a whole lot more about life than I realized they did at the time. They didn’t live all the years they lived and not know what they were talking about. They had a lot of life experience and they learned from it. I’m glad I paid as much attention as I did because although I didn’t realize I heard what they had to say much of the time, I can hear it now.

Friends, on the other hand, who I sometimes thought were all knowing, turned out to be full of crap a lot of the time and when I see what happened to some of them, like becoming alcoholics or drug abusers or dying young, I’m glad I’d paid as much attention as I did to what my parents had to say and naturally I’m hoping that my kids are paying at least some attention to what I’ve had to say as I’ve raised them.

Dad My mom and dad

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Rosarito Beach

It was April, 1963.

We lived in East LA.

My car was a custom copper colored, lowered to the ground, tuck and rolled, four door, 1950 Chevy. It was a very cherry ride with loud dual glass packed mufflers.

It was the year before I was with Marissa Mendoza for 5 years and had a baby with.

It was a couple years before Eddie and I were sent to Vietnam.

We were both 16 years old. I was almost 17.

It was before Interstate 5 was finished so we drove all the way to the Mexican border on the old Ball Road Highway to get to the Mexican border town of Tijuana. It seemed to take forever to get there even though it was only 100 miles from LA. And then we continued on another hour or so into Mexico.

I remember Eddie’s mom and dad and little sister Diana and of course, the best friend I ever had, Eddie, in the car with me.

Eddie and I sat in the back seat with his sister Diana who was 12 years old. A  younger boy named Junior was also with us. Eddie’s parents, Ester and Alex, sat in the front seat of Alex’s dark blue, 1951 Chevy with Alex’s friend, Trinity, who everybody called Trini. Junior was Trini’s son. Alex and Trini were happy and laughing and singing and trying to get me to speak Spanish. Trini kept saying: “Mucho Frio, que no, Senor Felipe?” and I nodded my head and pretended I knew what he was saying. Finally, after a couple hours Trini speaking Spanish to me he finally said, “It’s very cold, que no, Senor Felipe.” I felt a little better because I finally got it.

Alex and Trini called each other “compa” which took me another day or two to figure out was short for compadre, as they also were obviously long time best friends. It was a happy occasion as we were all going down to Rosarito Beach, Mexico to vacation for seven full days.

The beach was unspoiled at the time and the waves were big, powerful and loud.

Eddie and I played on the beach throwing cherry bombs at each other and throwing them into the ocean waves and watching them explode. They were much quieter than we expected them to be because of the wide open space and even though they hit the water their fuses kept on burning and we could still see the flash from the explosion beneath the waves.

We ate burritos from vendors on the beach that cost 25 cents and tasted delicious.

Tires were smoldering on the sand as cheap bond fires all night long and threw black smoke high up into the air and came down in tiny little black ashes all night long.

I bought a pair of bongos to put them on the back shelf of my ’50 Chevy when we got back to LA. Oh, man, the car was going to look even more cherry than before.

We ate dinner at a nice restaurant called Ignacio’s who everybody called Nacho’s. I remember Eddie’s mother telling Eddie and me to use our knife and fork and to stop using our fingers to eat the chicken on our plates. We were afraid the chicken would wind up on the floor so we ate real slowly because it kept sliding around on our plates.

It all felt so foreign and distant from home even though it was really maybe only a few miles south of the US border but at the time it couldn’t have felt more extraterrestrial. I sent my mom and dad a post card with the address and included, “Planet Earth, The Universe” because it felt like we were a million miles away.

I remember Eddie and me going up to Tijuana to shop and look around. We walked along the main drag as men in front of the bars tried to coax us to go inside the bars along the street. We shook our heads and said “No, gracias, senor.” until we got to this one bar called Rodrigo’s and the guy practically shoved us inside as he said: “Hey, it don’t cost anything to go inside and take a look. There’s some nice chavalitas in there, vatos. Orale pues.”

It was dark and smoky inside with two old men sitting around a little table drinking beer.

We sat down and didn’t know what to do. A waiter came over and said something to us in Spanish. Eddie and I looked at each other and both said “Dos XX” and we were both surprised that at our young age we were served with no hesitation whatsoever. All we had to do was say “Dos XX, por favor.” And “Ten pesos.” is all the waiter said until he came back and asked us in Spanish if we wanted another round. We nodded our heads as we wondered how much ten pesos was in US dollars. All I had was maybe five dollars or so in my pocket and I wasn’t sure that was going to be enough but that didn’t stop us from nodding our heads again when the waiter asked us if we wanted another round.

After the third round two girls who were probably in their 20’s or early 30’s came up to us and asked us in broken English if we wanted some company. “They don’t look too bad.” I said to Eddie. Eddie nodded his head and said: “No, they look pretty good.” and the girls sat down next to us and put their arms around us.

“Oh, man, you got the pretty one.” Eddie said to me. By that time I was too drunk to even notice. Hell, they both looked pretty good to me. The one with me had flame red hair ratted up high and black dangling earrings hanging down to her shoulders. To me she smelled like a supernatural being. Eddie’s girl had had bright red earrings and long, curly black hair that went past her bare shoulders and halfway down her back and onto Eddie’s bare arms. Both girls had had eyeliner that made their eyes look like some kind of goddesses.

“What’s your name?” I asked the girl sitting next to me.

“Dorellia.” She whispered into my ear. She didn’t even ask my name. She just said: “You want go up to the room with me?” as she nodded her head toward the stairway to the second floor.

I looked over at Eddie and he asked me how much money I had. “Maybe five bucks.” I answered. “What you got?” I asked him.

“Maybe six.” Eddie answered then he looked at me and said “But we gotta pay for the beers.”

So we sat there drinking Dos XX with these sexy women who wanted to take us upstairs and take advantage of us but we couldn’t imagine they’d do anything other than laugh at us if we said all we had was eleven bucks between us before paying for the beers.

So we sat there, drinking beer and acted like we weren’t interested in taking the girls to bed and we pretended that we’d rather just sit there and drink Mexican beer.

After the girls sat there and nobody said anything for a couple more minutes, we ordered another beer when suddenly two other young guys walked into the bar and the girls got up and went over to them. A few minutes later we watched disheartened as the other guys got up and took the girls upstairs and Eddie and I looked at each other, nodded our heads, got up, put five dollars on the table and went out the door of Rodrigo’s.

When we got back to the street a guy approached us and asked and said, “Orale, vatos,  you wanna buy some marijuana?” Again Eddie and I acted nonchalant as if we weren’t really interested even though I couldn’t remember a stranger ever coming up to me and asking if I’d like to buy some pot.

“Quantos?” I said.

“Cinco pesos.” the guy answered.

“Too much. That’s what we pay back home.” I said as I looked away and acted disinterested.

“Yeah, but how big is it?” the guy asked.

I opened my arms as big as I could and said: “This big.” As we all laughed at the sight.

We went back to Rosarito shaking our heads because we weren’t smoking any pot and we didn’t get any lovin’.

Somehow or other I got myself an air mattress/raft and went out into the big waves that were at least 10 or 12 feet high and rode those waves back to shore fast and hard. Eddie thought I was crazy but I did it again and again and again for hours. I left my glasses on the shore and kept going out for more to show myself I wasn’t afraid or a chicken after all.

When we got back to East LA we heard that a friend of ours named Johnny Martinez drowned at the beach in Rosarito the same week I was riding those waves.

And so Eddie thought I was the one who was crazy and wild and yet it was Eddie who died 18 years later at the LA Country General Hospital from minor surgery due to a screw up with the respirator that was inserted improperly and Eddied died of asphyxiation.

But, of course being strung out on reds probably didn’t help Eddie any either as his system was probably distressed and suppressed and more easily shut down than it would have been otherwise.

Eddie died on March 28, 1981. That was 32 years ago. The trip to Rosarito Beach with Eddie and his family was 50 years ago and of course, before we lost you Eddie. And before Marissa and I had the baby. And before my mom and dad died. And before Eddie’s mom and dad died and before Trini’s son, Junior died in Vietnam.

And here I sit with Sweet Lady T at the airport in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico remembering those days and writing and reading and crying and missing the best friend I ever had as I sit next to the best lady I ever had and I watch people from all over the world going back home hopefully from one of the best vacations they ever had.

And maybe one day they’ll be lucky enough to have a wonderful memory

Of  a friend and

An adventure they had together

A long time ago

At another time

In another place.

And in another world.

Eddie no last name The best friend I ever had.

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Religion. It’s supposed to have something to do with belief in God or spirituality or something like that. It may be one of those things but if you ask 5 people their definition, you’ll probably get 20 different answers.

A lot of people say they’re religious and they may even try to explain what that means. Evidently it doesn’t have to mean they go to church regularly except in times of crisis. Then suddenly people seem to go and pray regularly.

I remember a lady I was with who wasn’t close to her mother. We were breaking up and I hadn’t seen her in a while but we ran into each other downtown. I asked her how she was doing. She said, “Not good.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. What’s up?”

“My mom has cancer and she’s dying.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Yeah, it’s tough. I’ve been feeling like going to church.”

“Really? I thought you gave up the church a long time ago.”

“Yeah, my parents stopped going when I was a kid because the Pope didn’t believe in birth control and they didn’t want to have any more kids.”

“Oh, yeah. I remember you saying that. So, you’re gonna go back to church, huh?”

“Well, I haven’t gone yet but I was thinking about it.”

“Sure, if that helps.”

What I find interesting is that a lot of people who profess to be religious say they want to live like and follow their spiritual leaders (Jesus Christ, The Dali Lama or whoever they may try to follow) and who usually profess to live by the Golden Rule or at least to be kind and loving to other people including people they don’t know, which is what all religions are supposedly based upon but at the same time, the same people believe in the economic system of Capitalism, which is based upon selfishness and greed. How can they believe in both?

What I always think I’d like to ask people who consider themselves religious is, “Would your spiritual leader be a capitalist or a socialist?” Which is not an easy question to ask since the connotation in our society of socialism is usually not good but the connotation of capitalist is not only good but is aspired to.

I’m sure they wouldn’t especially like the question and I’ve never asked anyone that but as I see it capitalism is based upon accumulating wealth as an end in itself and socialism as a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole and not just by the wealthy. Which one would their spiritual leader believe in?

The next question I wish I could bring myself to ask religious Republicans is: Would their spiritual leader be a Republican or a Democrat? Republicans today are characterized by typically right-wing, conservative beliefs including, but by no means limited to, pro-business policies, lack of dependence on the government in daily life, religious convictions, and desire to outlaw what they deem socially undesirable actions.

While Democrats want to instigate change and reform. They believe the past was flawed and look more toward a future of change and innovation, usually involving more government action and assistance. This makes the party appealing to some key groups who hold an interest in seeing sweeping changes in the central government and country as a whole: I’d like to ask “religious” Republicans which one would their spiritual leader be?

I realize the questions wouldn’t be appreciated so I don’t ask but I must say I do think about asking.

pantheon The Pantheon

notre_dame_cathedral Notre Dame de Paris

Religious/spiritual leaders:

DaliHendiOrthoFemale leaderMLK



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My Sterile Cuckoo Development

The other day I was flicking channels on TV while eating lunch and I happen to come upon a movie I haven’t seen since I was just becoming a hippie in 1969, “The Sterile Cuckoo” with Liza Minnelli who is actually Judy Garland’s daughter. It’s the story of a young white girl leaving home to go away to college. She acts cuckoo to cover up her insecurity. I thought she was great.

Liza Liza, The Sterile Cuckoo

I remember going to the movies with a couple of my old cholo friends of from East LA. One of the guys was called Creepers. The story back in high school was that Creepers had creepy eyes so he got the name Creepers. Where I grew up we all had nicknames. The other guy’s name was Jack and his nickname was Blackjack. He was very tall, skinny and dark.

I had several nicknames myself including “Blinky” because I blinked my eyes a lot trying to keep my contact lenses from getting too dry and irritating and making my eyes red. I could hardly wait to take the uncomfortable things out of my eyes. I was also called “Fuzzy” because I hadn’t started shaving yet but evidently I needed to shave because the principal once called me into his office and took me into the bathroom with a razor and made me shave. I guess that was better than being taken into the bathroom to get a “swat” which he’d done before but it was still uncomfortable. I was also called “Sr Felipe” because I always came to school in dress slacks, a “Sir Guy” shirt and spit shined shoes.

Creepers and Blackjack and I had just finished smoking a joint as we walked into the Alhambra Multiplex Theater. the movie we came to see hadn’t started yet but “The Sterile Cuckoo” was showing so while we were waiting for the movie we came to see to begin we snuck in to The Sterile Cucko for a few minutes until our movie started. I forgot what the movie we came to see was but as we walked out of The Sterile Cuckoo into the movie we came to see, Blackjack said: “Man, that sure looks like a crappy movie about some stupid white chick. I’m sure glad we’re not going to see that one.”

But I didn’t want to leave The Sterile Cuckoo. The next day I went back to see it all by myself and I loved the movie so much that I believe it helped change who I was at the time. I was beginning to identify more with the hippie community than with the cholo community that I grew up in. Marissa Mendoza and I had just broken up after being together for several years and I was growing my hair long and growing a big beard. Marissa said she thought I “was hiding behind my hair” but I think I was just beginning to get in touch with who I really was. I was ready to make some big changes and I wasn’t exactly sure who I was or what I wanted to be. I felt like I wanted to do something a little cuckoo myself and if it was okay with Liza then it was okay for me.

I was excited about the new possibilities that lay ahead in my life and hanging out with Marissa Mendoza and my old cholo friends was not what I wanted to do any longer. I’d had enough.

I loved The Sterile Cuckoo. I even loved the theme song, “Come Saturday Morning” by the Sandpipers that was played fhroughout the movie which was a very patty-like (non-cholo) song that was being played on the radio all over the airwaves. I remember turning up the radio when the song played and getting chills and singing loud along with the radio as I drove throughout LA while thinking of Liza’s character. I usually hated that kind of music but I identified with Liza Minelli’s Sterile Cuckoo character so much that my personality changed. I loved the song, not enough to buy it but enough to not change the channel on the radio during the hundred’s of times I heard it playing in my 1965 VW bug with flower stickers all over it and with “Freak Out in God’s Nature” and “Spread Love” written all over the back windows in florescent crayons.

I soon met a very middle class white girl named Judy and we became totally immersed into the hippie culture and acted kinda kooky like Liza’s character doing kooky things like The Sterile Cuckoo and just not being afraid to be ourselves who we were both just beginning to understand. Judy and I even hitched hiked across the US with some other hippie friends thinking we were being free. Judy too helped me understand better who I really was.

It was a great sense of liberation from trying to fit into the cholo community that wasn’t really very nice to me. I was ready to let it go and become myself, whoever that might be.

But when I recently happened to switch channels onto the movie The Sterile Cuckoo, it did absolutely nothing for me. I couldn’t stand watching it for more than a few minutes before I switched channels again. The movie just seemed silly so I flicked channels and what did I find? I found Cheech Marin’s “Born in East LA” which was another movie I loved when it came out in 1987. Both movies were just starting as I sat down for lunch. Born in East LA shows City Terrace, the part of East LA I grew up in and the movie even mention City Terrace in the title song. I remember it giving me chills. I loved seeing Cheech Marin (who is actually a cousin to a couple of friends I grew up with) acting like I used to act and seeing East LA in the movie but that movie too, after only a few minutes, I had to turn off….

I guess today I’m happy just being who I am and I no longer can really relate to who I was at the time in 1969 as a hippie or who I was at the time as a cholo as the I was when I was a young kid.

Today I live with a very loving, smart, kind, playful, intelligent, strong, 6 foot tall white girl who I call Sweet Lady T, who loves me just as I am, whether I’m being who I was as a kid or who I was as a hippie or who I am now. She says she can sometimes still see the cholo and the hippe in me. I guess we all have different facets of who we are inside ourselves.

Thank you Liza Menelli and The Sterile Cuckoo and thank you East LA for helping me along the way but give me who I am today. It was a good experience and I learned a lot getting to where I am and becoming who I am today. I enjoy looking back (sometimes in disbelief) but being here now is where I want to be.

liza 2  Liza

Phil cholo Cholo Phil 1960

Fire Pix Hippie Phil,

Val' 2005 Phil and Sweet Lady T


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Being a Single Parent

There are many things I miss about my children being the little kids they once were. Yes, I’m glad they’re grown up adults now and on their own and living fulfilling lives – but just the same – I miss them running up to me and jumping on my lap and being happy to just be pushed on a swing or going to the park or going for an ice cream.

Yes, I was overwhelmed as a single father having to do way too much with too little and trying to earn a living and paying the bills and teaching the kids how to read and how to ride a bicycle and how to cross the street and helping them with their homework and reading to them and singing them to sleep at night.

But what a wonderful experience it was to have these little children be happy to just hold my hand and to go for an ice cream during a hot summer night and going for a swim in the creek and encouraging them that they can be whatever they want to be in life.

It was so overwhelming that I don’t know how I was able to do it all.

Their mother shared parenting the children and I had them half time which gave us both half time off but that, in itself, was not easy either.

That meant that it took a few days to get used to not having them around to do the daily routine like getting them fed and pack a lunch and to school and picked up from school and fed again and help with homework and teeth brushed and ready for bed and sing them to sleep and do that for several days until they go back to the other parent and the get used to not doing the daily routine until they came back. And that was how it was for years until they began to drive. Then they could get around by themselves and have the freedom of coming and going when they wanted to go.

That was nice but what I found out about raising children is that once they get a car, they’re basically out of the house except for coning home and going into their room and sleeping and leaving the next morning and then, before you know it, they move out altogether and suddenly you don’t see them for days or weeks or if the move out of town, for months at a time.

I love them every bit as much now as I ever did but now that I have more time than I did when they were little, I don’t get to see them as much since they’ve moved to Sacramento and  they are involved with college and jobs and boyfriends and relationships and being overwhelmed themselves with doing too many things with everyday living.

I look forward to becoming a grandfather and loving my children’s children and having them running up to me and jumping on my lap and pushing them on a swing and watching them grow up to become too busy to realize that yes, it’s very hard work and you don’t know how you’re going to do it all.

And yet, how fast it all becomes something you wish you were not too busy to enjoy at the time and than it’s all over only too quickly.

As little kids:

589372-R3-49-49  Nadia & Riana

589371-R4-04-4 Josh

As adults:

A3 kids Nadia, Riana & Josh

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Unfinished Business

I’d lost people I’ve loved before and it was very difficult and painful to know that I wouldn’t be seeing them regularly again or possibly at all in the case of a break up and in the case of death, I’d never see them again for the rest of my life – but losing my mom and my dad was completely different.

As I reached the age I remember my parents being, I began to understand them better than I ever did while they were alive.

My parents got married relatively late in life compared to the age other people at the time were getting married. They married at about 30 and were in their 40s when I was the last born of 4 children, so compared to my friends’ parents, my parents had a good 20 years on them. So they seemed old by the time I was a teenager.

At 9 years old I was sent to summer camp (not my choice) with my older brother Richard for 2 weeks and I was very homesick. Going to camp was probably more for my mom’s sake to get a break from us kids than it was for me to go and it was the longest 2 weeks of my life up until that time. They treated us like we were in the army, wake up at the crack of dawn, go for a run and do exercise like jumping jacks and pushups for an hour, eat food I didn’t like, go for an all day hike up what they called “Pikes Peak”, camp out in the cold and swim in the ice cold water and take an ice cold shower that was so cold that it that took my breath away and that had no sprinkler head, only  forceful water coming out of a water pipe. That was supposed to be fun?

10 years later, at 19, I was drafted and sent to the army for 2 years including a year in Vietnam. That was, without doubt, the longest year of my life. I got home at 21 years old. Oh but coming home again was so good. But I left home again at 26 years old, moving 500 miles away to Chico from my home in LA, thinking that I could always go home again if/when the time was right.

Next thing I knew I had children and a job and a business so I was too busy to get home very often, maybe a couple of times a year as it was a 1,000 miles round trip drive from Chico to LA but I always thought I could just go at another time.

But you know how time is, it moves along whether you’re ready for it to or not. So time moved along and everybody got older including my parents. When I got to LA to see them they looked older and more fragile than the last time I saw them but they still were my parents and I’d always had them there, so I guess I never really thought of what it might be like for them to be gone.

Even when my parents got sick or went to the hospital or had birthdays in the higher numbers, I couldn’t fathom what it would be like for them not to be there to call on the phone or be able to make the 8 hour drive down to LA to see them, talk to them, hug and kiss them.

But then the phone call from my mom came telling me her cancer came back 5 years after she first got it the first time and that the doctors said she only had a few weeks left to live. Suddenly the thought of my mom not being there for me to talk to on the phone or go to visit in person began to seep in, although I still could not really fathom what it was going to be like.

The few weeks flew by and suddenly my mom was gone. But…but…but… what about the person I knew all my life as my mother to talk to about all my problems and my struggles and my hopes and dreams?

It took a while for the reality to sink  in and the next thing I knew, 4 months later, I got another phone call. This one from my oldest brother, Bob, telling me my dad had passed away that night.

But..but…but… What, how, who am I supposed to talk about every and anything who has known me all my life? How could I ever go home again?

Then as time when by and I got older, I began to understand who they were and what their hopes and what their dreams and their fears were because I was having the same hopes and dreams and fears and I never got the time to really talk to them about what they were going through and what they wanted and what they felt and now they’ve been gone long enough for me to look in the mirror and see my father looking back at me and I would just love to talk to him about what he wanted and what he felt about anything at all.

And my mom? What did she feel about any and everything? I remember talking to my mom about how frustrating it was dealing with my dad being so different from her. My dad had to quit school in the 6th grade to raise his four younger siblings because his dad went back to Russia to visit his family he left behind when he came to America but since he came here illegally, he did not have a US passport so even though he had 5 kids in America, he was not a US citizen so he couldn’t leave Russia again and he wound up dying in a concentration camp along with millions of other Jewish people.

So my mom and my dad had a completely different outlook about life and the world and that caused serious problems between them. They fought all the time. My dad didn’t care what people thought. My mom did. Both my mom and dad worked full time. My mom was a clerk in downtown LA. My dad was a hard working man, sometimes working three jobs to provide for his family.

One time while I was visiting my parents in LA and I heard them fighting like they always did and I saw how stressful it was for my mom, I looked in the phone book and called up a shrink in Pasadena and told the shrink the problem my mom was having. The shrink said she thought she could help my mom.  When I told my mom about the phone call my mom said, “I don’t want to talk to some man about my marriage.” I said, “It’s a women.” All my mom said was, “Oh…” and she never called her.

And I believe the stress of being in an unhappy marriage and dealing with all the other frustrations and aggregations of daily life (not to mention LA’s smog) contributed to my mom’s demise. And the death of my mom contributed to the death of my dad only a few weeks later.

But, but, but… what about me realizing all the things I now realize about my mom and my dad? I want to talk to them and show them how I now understand who they were and what they were feeling. I understand how they did everything they could for their children. I understand that they knew more about life than I did even though I didn’t realize it while they were alive. I understand how they tried to tell me not to make some of the mistakes and bad decisions they saw me making but I wouldn’t listen. I thought I knew better.

Some people say my parents are looking down at me now and smiling. I look up and I don’t see them but I do feel them in my bones and in my heart and I want to thank them for giving me everything I have today, the life I live everyday, the people who I love and care about and who love and care about me, my children and my memories of you. Thank you for everything. You were wonderful to me.

Dad'sDad My dad’s dad who I never met.

Mom & Dad 001 My dad and my mom.


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Did Your Life Turn Out the Way You Planned?

I was talking to Sweet Lady T after breakfast Sunday morning and I looked at her as she was drinking her coffee and reading the paper and I looked out the window at the rain coming down and I asked her if her life turned out the way she had planned.

She looked at me, smiled and asked if anybody’s life does.

I thought about it for a moment and said, “I’m not sure I ever really planned my life but I know you did and you seem to have gotten where you had planned.”

“Well, I’m happy with my life and I love where we live and I love you.”

I said, “You know, I love the fact that you’re happy.”

“Good because you make me happy.”

“That’s the nicest thing anybody’s ever said to me, honey.”

Then she looked at me and asked if my life turned out the way I had planned.”

“I guess I just took it day by day and life just kinda took me along for the ride.”

“But are you happy?”

“Yeah, I guess I am.”

Trudi smiled and went back to reading her paper.

Then I thought of  a friend  I had (I’ll call him Mike), who made deliberate plans to live the life he wanted to live. He was very organized and actually planned ahead what he was going to do with his life. As I was looking out the window I wondered what happened to Mike who grew up in Detroit. He decided he wanted to become a librarian and he went to library school and got a job as a librarian and did that for a couple of years but he felt that wasn’t want he wanted.

He got married and then decided being a librarian wasn’t for him so he went to optometry school in Texas. He graduated and was ready to become an optometrist but he didn’t want to live in Texas so he packed up and he traveled with his wife all over the country and he checked out different towns where he thought they might like to live. He choose Merced, CA and lived and worked there for a while working as an optometrist.

Then he decided he wanted to live in a college town so he moved up to Chico where he lived and worked for a few years and he had two kids and then he got divorced.

I, on the other hand, didn’t do much planning. I guess I just went with the flow. I grew up in LA and after high school, I went to college until I got drafted and sent to Vietnam. I managed to survive that and then I went back to college, met a nice lady, graduated Cal State LA with a BA in Sociology and decided the traffic and the congestion and the smog and the madness of LA was too much for me so I married the lady I met at college and moved to Ventura, CA and worked as a social worker for three years and had a baby.

I wanted to go back to college but there wasn’t a 4 year college in Ventura at the time so we moved up to Chico where I went back to college for 2 more years until my GI Bill ran out.

Next thing I knew was I was going through a divorce and I traveled through Europe and Israel and thought about getting back together with my wife but I guess it’s true when they say, ”you can’t go back home again” so instead I met another lady and had 2 more kids with her. We were together for 7 1/2 years and broke up and I wound up being a single father raising 3 kids half time.

During that time I met my friend “Mike” and we became buddies and went to lunch at least two or three times a week for a couple of years or so and he got remarried and had another baby. Then Mike decided to move again so he left Chico and moved his family up to Seattle, Washington for a few years. I lost touch with him but last I heard he moved to Southern California. I have no idea what he’s doing or if he’s happy with what he’s doing.

Meanwhile, I’m wondering, even if someone does plan the life they want to live, does it ever happen? I mean, most people want to live a ”successful” life whatever that might mean to them personally and some succeed at believing they’re successful – which usually means financially successful.

I can’t help but think of the saying, “People plan and God laughs.” So maybe God’s not laughing at me, I don’t know but when I look at people who most people deem as financially successful, I’m not sure I see happiness in their faces. I see as much, if not more worry in their faces as I do in everybody else’s faces. That’s what I think every time I see Bill Gates on TV. Maybe it’s my imagination but Bill Gates doesn’t look happy to me. He looks worried to me. How can that be when he’s one of the top 2 riches people in the world.

They say money doesn’t buy happiness. Maybe not but I think not having money doesn’t buy happiness either. Not having money more likely buys stress, discomfort and unhappiness. So maybe somewhere in between is a good place to be.

I guess we all have to decide what we believe happiness and success is and personally ask ourselves if we’re happy with the way our lives turned out.

Meanwhile, I’m enjoying the rain and looking out the window.


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Right and Wrong. Good and Bad

I guess some people need to be told what’s right and what’s wrong. I guess we’re not intrinsically born with the knowledge. It seems like it’s something you’re supposed to learn early in life from parents and/or teachers — but evidently not every body learns it very well.

I know a lot of people seem to have to go to church and be told what’s right and what’s wrong and what’s good and what’s bad. Maybe it’s something like telling a young child, “Don’t touch the stove! You’ll get burned!” and then the little child goes ahead and touches the stove anyway and then the child get burned and learns the hard way not to touch the stove again.

When talking to people about crime, I’ve often heard myself say, “Why don’t people play on the freeway?” They look at me wondering why I’m asking them that and then I answer, “Because they know they’re going to get hit by a car or a truck.”

So people know without question that playing on the freeway is bad and wrong and I can’t think of anybody who plays on the freeway.

But stealing and robbing and cheating and lying and other things that most people believe is wrong and or bad, is another thing altogether. Why is that? Mostly because they think they can get away with it or that other people don’t think it’s that bad or that wrong so they go ahead and do it.

But most of the people who are doing the things mentioned above, that people believe are bad or wrong, go to church and nod their heads when the minister who is preaching tells them those things are bad but like the song sung by Patsy Cline, “Dear God” says, “I go to church on a Sunday, the vows that I make I break them on Monday the rest of the week I do as I please and come Sunday morning I pray on my knees.”

Why is that? Because going to church is not like playing on the freeway, people think they’re too smart to get caught and they know if they do get caught, they’re not going to hit by a car or a truck. But they could lose a job or a marriage or their freedom but, as I say, they think they’re too smart to get caught.

So why are there 2 million people locked up in the USA today? And you know very well that that is only a small fraction of the people doing things they know they shouldn’t be doing. So let’s multiply that 2 million by a good 10 making it 20 million people doing things they know they shouldn’t be doing and taking the chance of committing crimes they know if they get caught they may pay dearly but they do it anyway. Because they think they can get away with it, either by not getting caught or by getting a good defense lawyer.

You see it on TV and hear about it on the radio and read about it in the papers every day, people taking crazy chances and cheating and lying and committing crimes and Wall Street insider trading, the Big Bank bailout, many who are still committing crimes and laundering money for terrorists and other illegal activities, and all the gang activity and even committing murder and you also hear and read about politicians doing it and some of them pretty much getting away with it.

I mean we can start right at the top with President Nixon lying and cheating and getting caught but not doing any prison time. Yes he lost his presidency but he chose to resign rather than take the chance of being impeached and sent to prison so that’s a good example of getting away with doing the crime but not doing the time in prison.

So was Nixon right or wrong? Well, I guess you can say he wrong and right. He was wrong in believing he wasn’t going to get caught and right in knowing he wasn’t going to do any time in prison.

And we can go on from there to President Reagan’s Iran-Contra shenanigans with selling arms to our “ally” Iran and giving the money to our “ally”, the Nicaraguan Contras who were fighting the Nicaraguan government. Reagan claims he didn’t know about the scheme but that’s hard to believe and if he didn’t know about it? Who was running the government, the President or his staff? And is that any better?

And we can go on down the line from other government officials all the way down to street thugs and drug dealers who, no doubt, look up at everybody else getting away with much worse than dealing illegal drugs so why not? I mean they can see that more people are dying using legal drugs and by hospital mishaps than they are by using illegal drugs and where’s the outrage about that?

So, I guess what’s right and what’s wrong in the eyes of most people, is what’s the chances of getting caught and what’s the penalty if they do get caught and how bad is getting caught going to be?

Reagan_meets_with_aides_on_Iran-Contra President Ronald Reagan  Nixon resigning
with Caspar Weinberger, George Shultz, Ed Meese, and Don Regan
discussing the President’s remarks on the Iran-Contra affair, Oval

enixresigNixon resigning



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You hear about it everyday all your life, ever since your were born when mothers and fathers say, “Goo goo. Hi there. I love you and kiss and hug you over and over again.”

And all through childhood and in movies and in music and in advertisements. The message is everywhere. Love, love, love. Even the Beatles sang a song called “All You Need is Love.”

But what does love mean?

I guess it means different things to different people.

I remember a lady I was once with saying she didn’t know what love was.

I was shocked. I mean I was with her for quite a while and I guess I should have known what she said was true but I overlooked it and when I tried to explain my definition of love to her as: “It’s when you care about somebody very, very much and want to be with them and please them and do things for them and take care of them and stay together.”

She just looked at me and shook her head and said, “If that’s love, I guess I’ve never felt it.”

Naturally this came as quite a shock to me because we’d been together for a long time and she told me many times how much she loved me and how happy she was that we were together.

I guess I just thought the concept of love was something universal that everybody agreed upon. But evidently it’s not. I mean we should all agree on something, shouldn’t we? Why not love?

But looking back at that relationship, I do see that she was right, she didn’t know what love was. The only time she wanted to do anything I wanted to do or please me was when it pleased her. Otherwise, it was “No.”

No matter want I asked for or wanted or needed, it was always “No!” Unless, of course, she wanted or needed it  herself too, then it was “Okay.”

Naturally this lead to fights. A lot of fighting. Fights that sometimes went on for hours and for days. I’m sure the neighbors heard us fighting all the time because that’s what we were good at. That and makeup sex. We were good at that too. At least until one day when she said, “I’m not as interested in sex as I used to be.”

All I could think was, “Well, what else do we have together?” I mean it was the one thing we had that we were good at together.

This from the lady who used to say, “Doesn’t the air make you want to have sex? Doesn’t the water turn you on? Doesn’t the sun, the wind, the music turn you on?” Naturally I would nod my head and we’d go at it whether I felt like it at the time or not, all I had to hear was that she wanted something and I would do it for her.

Naturally we eventually broke up. And it was a difficult break up because neither one of us really wanted to break up but we did break up and it took a long time but, of course, hearing what she said about me from her friends, was, ”Phil was the problem. It was all his fault and he was the love of my life.”


So, I guess some people don’t know what love is. They must think it means that they want to sleep with someone as in the song, “Lay down. I think I love you.” Or that love means controlling someone else or someone being their possession.

And yet, the concept of love is probably more talked about than just about anything else ever has been. That and sex, and I guess to many people, there’s not much difference, which might explain the reason why so many people cheat on each other and lie to each other and why the divorce rate is so high.

I guess after a couple of years or so of making love with each other, they’ve had enough and it’s time to go on to someone or something else. And do it all over again.

Of course there’s always money and power and obviously a lot of people can’t get enough of that, so that might be love for them.

Meanwhile, there are some people who do know how to love each other and like my definition of love above says, they care about each other and want to be together and stay together and do things to please and be kind and nice and take care of each other.

So, that’s my definition of love. I guess there are also different kinds of love like the love people usually have for their children and their parents and their friends and relative and other things in life but loving someone else who you believe is special and wanting to give to that someone else, that’s very special and it’s something I think that we all want to have and want to give.

That’s what I believe and I’m sticking to it.


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