Second Thoughts

I Helped to Create a Monster

In 2016, I voted YES on California Proposition 64 which legalized the sale of marijuana. When I was a young man, I used marijuana perhaps a total of a dozen times.

At some point in the 1970s, I had a bunch of hash brownies in the freezer. When my mother came to visit, she decided to defrost the freezer. In the process she ate all my brownies. She called me at work telling me not to worry about her getting wet in the rain, because she wasn’t planning on going outside. This didn’t sound much like Mom, so I asked about what she was doing. She mentioned that she defrosted the fridge, found some brownies and ate them. They were, she said, delicious. When I told her what was in those brownies, she just laughed.

My experience with cannabis has been benign and intermittent over a long period, so I thought that younger generations should have a similar experience without having to worry about spending time in the clink.

What I didn’t take into account was that some people were going to be smoking weed at all hours, such as the millennial who lives in the apartment below mine. (And this in a city which outlaws any smoking in public places.) Many a time, the smell of weed wafts up through the ceiling and invests us with second-hand smoke. Today, as I walked around Pershing Square downtown I smelled grass for several hundred feet coming from a group of bums lying on the lawn.

I seem to have forgotten that Americans are not very good about rationing their vices. It’s like driving: If you see someone crash a red light or cut off a motorist in one block, you will see similar transgressions from the same motorist a few hundred feet ahead.



Serendipity: “Nonparticipation in Humanity”

An Incident at a Coffee Shop

San Francisco writer/publisher/bookstore owner Lawrence Ferlinghetti puts the whole Millennial/Generation Z digital revolution in its place:

AND a young stud at the next table typing on his laptop, both ears stopped with earphones…. I’m just five feet from the guy. Finally I say in a friendly voice, “You from around here? Haven’t seen you before in the neighborhood.” No answer. He continues typing, staring at the laptop. He heard nothing? Is this body alive? I’m alarmed. I call 911. After some time a cop car arrives and he’s arrested for “nonparticipation in humanity.’ They haul the corpse away.


On the Bus

The MTA Santa Monica Blvd, #704 Express

Since I am now on a fixed income, I avoid expensive parking lot charges. For some of the places I hang out, I take the bus: It only costs 35¢ a ride rather than, say, the $25.00 or more it would cost to park downtown or $10.00 it would cost at the Fairfax Farmers Market. Today, I had to endure the abusive chatter of a Tourette’s Syndrome bum who was serially abusing all the passengers on the bus. Fortunately, he disembarked in Beverly Hills, where—no doubt—he started abusing the tourists who congregate there.

The Many Aspects of Tourette’s Syndrome, On the Surface and Below

I have found that Los Angeles has a fair number of angry African-American homeless persons who are angry and verbally abusive. Several months ago, on the same bus line, a bum started shouting at me. Angrily, in Hungarian, I told him I hoped he would be f*cked in the ass by a horse. Not hearing me right, he thought I was using the N-word at him, which is something I would never do. That ended with the police being called by the driver and the bum being evicted from the bus.

This time, I saw this bum approaching from a hundred feet away, enraged at the world and various unspecified rednecks. I knew he was going to be trouble. Fortunately, this particular bozo did not pick on me in particular; so I was able to maintain a neutral pose.

When I read the papers about the growing number of homeless in Los Angeles, I rarely see anything about mental illness and drug abuse. And yet those are the dominant characteristics of most homeless. It is not shelters they want (that would impinge on their freedom, such as it is), but either mental healthcare or drug treatment—that is, if they would submit to treatment at all.


Serendipity: Dépaysement

Lebanese Restaurant in Paris

The term dépaysement is a French concept which refers to that feeling of disorientation that specifically arises when you are not in your home country nor identify exclusively with it. It’s the way that I, a Hungarian-American who loves to travel in places like Latin America and Iceland, feel as the United States slides down the drain of Trumpism. Juan Goytisolo (1931-2017), a Catalan writer of Basque extraction who lived most of his life in Marrakech, felt that way about Spain, particularly after the Franco régime’s depredations. The following is from his essay “Why I Have Chosen to Live in Paris” from his essay collection Space in Motion:

Q: If I understand you rightly, French cosmopolitanism ….

A: There is no such thing as French cosmopolitanism; there is interculturalism, plurality, osmosis: a universe in miniature. If a person so desires, he can eat in a Cambodian restaurant, drink mint tea in a Moorish café, see a Hindu or Turkish movie in the afternoon—Yilmaz Güney’s The Sheepflock in my opinion is one of the best films of the year—and in the evening, with a bit of luck, attend a concert of the Noss el Ghiwán or Izanzaren. Society is linked to the idea of space, but culture—like the individual—is mobile, drifting like the wind. Culture today cannot be French or Spanish, or even European, but rather mestizo, bastard, fecundated by civilizations that have been victims of our self-castrating, aberrant ethnocentrism. For up until now we have exported the Occidental model with all its props—from its ideology to its drugs and gadgets—we are at present witnessing an inverse process that personally fascinates and delights me: the gradual dissolution of “white” culture by all the peoples who, having been forcibly subjected to it, have assimilated the tricks, the techniques necessary to contaminate it.

Q: So then, Paris for you …

A: Insofar as it abandons its pretensions of being a beacon and accepts its status as a motley, bastard, heterogeneous metropolis that belongs to no country, I will always feel better in it than in any other exclusively “national” city that is uniform, chaste, compact, rid of its angels.



Gladiatorial Television

Who Needs Lions vs. Christians When There’s the News?

When you have ten million people in a large, spread-out county like Los Angeles, you get to watch a lot of gladiatorial events on the evening news. Most of these are car chases, whenever some chicken-necked loser decides to steal a car and lead the police on a freeway chase. In almost all cases, the perpetrators are spread-eagled on the tarmac while being cuffed by a legion of angry police on their best behavior.

Today, there was a special event. An allegedly homeless man wearing an LA Dodgers hat and no shirt caused a ruckus in the 2000 Block of Brighton Avenue in San Gabriel. Around 1:30 in the afternoon, his girlfriend or acquaintance reported him to the police. The Sheriff’s Department showed up in force. When the man in question began firing at the police, the SWAT team was called in. But that was only the beginning. He set fire to two houses, continued shooting at the police, throwing lit firecrackers at them (?!), and running back and forth from house to car and boat and back again.

Houses Burning in San Gabriel

Of course, the fire department was unable to save the first house that was set afire, because the gunman kept threatening the first responders for upwards of five hours. Eventually, someone decided that enough was enough. First they hit the suspect with a rubber bullet, then they filled his hiding place with tear gas, then moved in and killed him proper using the real stuff.

In the meantime, they had to close down both lanes of the nearby San Bernardino Freeway (I-10) because the house was right up against the freeway, and the gunman kept firing in all directions. Tens of thousands of motorists trying to get home after work were affected.

If this is the kind of entertainment you crave, come to Los Angeles. But if you’re a chicken-necked loser or a shirtless bum, go elsewhere. Like Texas.


Talking About Homelessness

Most Discussions About Homelessness Are Too Vague

As an independent (no party) voter, I am dismayed by the way most liberals view the homeless. For one thing, I refuse to take a bleeding heart view of the hobo encampments that are spreading across American cities, particularly in the West. When I think of the homeless, I have three populations in mind, with a lot of overlap among the categories:

  1. People who, for various reasons, are homeless
  2. People who are addicted to various drugs such as alcohol, heroine, cocaine, and crystal meth.
  3. People who are mentally ill.

The Venn Diagram above shows that there are many overlaps. Some of the homeless have some hope and expectation of finding a place to live. These are mostly homeless who are not addicted to drugs or mentally ill. These constitute the majority of homeless who are living in organized shelters.

Wherever drug addiction and mental illness are involved, it is much more difficult to find shelter. These shelters have rules regarding drugs, alcohol, theft, and violence. Many of the bums in Los Angeles would not be likely to live in a shelter, if only because they have no intention of following the rules.

If you have about an hour to spare, I recommend you watch this video by news station KOMO entitled “Seattle is Dying,” which takes a no-holds-barred view of the dire homeless situation in Seattle:


This Is Indeed Poway

Why the Synagogue Shooting Happened There

The mayor of Poway, California, Steve Vaus by name, went on the air to say that the synagogue shooting on the last day of Passover was not representative of Poway. “This is not Poway,” he said. I beg to differ from him.

My own personal experience of Poway was a negative one. When I worked for Urban Decision Systems in the 1990s, we had to let our secretary go: She was getting too old. Her family had her move to Poway, and I went to visit her there. My impression of the town north of San Diego was that it was a sterile racially homogeneous suburban upper class slum. I hated the place and could hardly wait to leave. And that was over twenty years ago!

Now this type of place is a natural for a racist, bigoted shooter. It is easy to develop a hatred for Jews or Muslims or immigrants or African-Americans—if everyone around you is lily white and drinks the same Kool Aid as you do. They’re all in the same bubble.

I’ve read an interesting article in The New Yorker about what the Chinese are doing to keep dissidents from embarrassing the government at inopportune times:

While Presidemt Xi Jinping played host to African dignitaries in the Great Hall of the People, the police played host to [dissident Zha Jianguo] at various scenic spots in the province of Hubei, about a thousand kilometers away. A number of other Beijing activists and civil-rights lawyers … were treated to similar trips….

This practice is known as bei lüyou, “to be touristed.”

I begin to think the Chinese have the right idea. White racists should “be touristed” for several weeks at a time, perhaps to South Africa or Honduras or Afghanistan or even Israel. The idea is that no white person should be so ensconced in his bubble that he does not understand how people who are different need not be conceived of as being threatening.

On my vacations, I have visited a number of what our Presidente would call “shithole countries.” I have come to admire the Latin-American peoples to the south of us. They have been excellent hosts during my travels and more knowledgeable about us than we typically are of them.