Monday, December 12, 2016

Oh, Tijuana… Tijuana…

On a recent trip to Tijuana, my first trip ever to Mexico, I was followed by the Mexican police, stopped by the Mexican police, and accused by the Mexican police of smuggling pills.

Let me tell you what happened…

My heart was overflowing with excitement to visit Tijuana. Sure, I was warned by some people about the downside of Tijuana but, not being one to listen to other people’s opinions, I decided to see Tijuana for myself.

Two friends and I drove from Los Angeles to San Diego to catch the train to the Mexican border. While waiting for the train we befriended a man from Vancouver who was also making the journey into Tijuana. He joined us and spent the day with us.

We spent the afternoon wandering, talking to people, eating a nice meal, enjoying Mexican coffee, listening to live music, and as evening descended upon us, we went shopping for coffee beans (Veracruz coffee…. Delicious!), and then jumped into a taxi for the ride to the border. What we didn’t know is that the police were following us.

Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

We hadn’t driven more than half a mile when we were stopped by the police. I assumed the taxi driver was getting a speeding ticket. He stepped out the taxi and talked to one of the officers.

Seconds later there was a tap at the window. I rolled it down. The other officer asked me if I spoke Spanish and I said no. I rolled up my window. I thought nothing of it…

The officer tapped on the other window and my friend who speaks Spanish spoke with him. Because I was in the front seat and my friend behind me, the officer positioned himself so his hip was in my window where I could prominently see his gun.

Then I heard my friend telling the officer what we all did for a living. Then I heard the word “farmacia” which I knew meant pharmacy. This was followed by questions about what we bought and where we went. 

About 20 minutes later, the driver got in the taxi and we sped away.  He drove us directly to the border and walked us to the gate. I said, “muchas gracias.”

It wasn’t until we were at the gate that my friend said the cops accused us of embezzling pills from the farmacia and said they had video to prove it. What?!?

It was a shakedown for money, but somehow, and we don’t know why, the police let us go. No bribes were paid.

I can only imagine what would have happened if the police pursued their false claim… Would they have planted pills in my backpack? In my coffee beans? Would we have been sent to jail? Prison? Would I have become the bitch of Cell Block 7?

It was quite the (scary) adventure and one that I will remember forever.

And yes, I still love Tijuana.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Fox Eyes and a Whale Heart

I love all types music and because of social media I’m able to discover new artists I would never have discovered otherwise. 

As 2016 comes to a close, I keep thinking about some of my favorite music this year and the one CD I keep coming back to for repeated listens. It’s Fox Eyes, Whale Heart from indie singer/songwriter Bobby Jo Valentine.

I first came across Valentine through social media. A link to one of his videos popped up and I clicked on it. It was the song “Fly” and it hooked me with its powerful message.

I ended up buying his first few CDs.

From the CD Home came the delightful “A Hand to Hold” and my favorite “Come Back to Bed” which is pop music at its very best, and should have been a radio hit.

His latest CD Fox Eyes, Whale Heart is chock full of beautifully crafted songs.

I could go on and on about my favorite ones… the title track, Carry Me Away, Lion in the Summer, Sing Along, but I won’t. Instead, I’m posting videos for you to see and listen to for yourself.

It’s fun to watch new favorite artists continue on their musical journey. They become “ours” and we watch them develop and grow and we listen to them and we share their music for everyone to hear…

Keep your fox eyes focused on the beauty underneath
Keep your whale heart open
That is all you really need
To love life…
To love life…  

It’s one of my favorite CDs of the year.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Dog Squatting on the Boulevard

Sometimes I wish I was being followed by an overhead camera so I could share my experiences while I roam the neighborhood.  

As I walked along the boulevard today, I noticed a rather stately woman walking towards me with her little leashed dog trotting beside her. They looked so happy together that it made me fantasize about having a dog of my own. (Mine would be a corgi named Evelyn.) 

The closer we got the stronger the I-want-a-dog pang… my heart was swollen with doggie joy…

When we were less than ten feet apart I readied myself to squat down and pet her little pooch and compliment her on its cuteness.

And just as I was about to squat, so did the dog… and so did the woman….

The dog was squatting to take a shit.

The woman was squatting behind the dog with an opened plastic bag ready to catch the shit before it hit the ground.

I, in the first phase squatting, quickly stood. I wanted to laugh at the absurdity and at the woman concentrating on catching the shit in her plastic bag, but the poor dog noticed me and, by the look on his face, I knew he was mortified.

How would that woman like someone holding a bag under her ass to catch her shit?

I wanted to tell the dog to wiggle its ass so the shit would miss the bag and hit the woman’s hand, but I didn’t.

My doggie joy moment was dumped on. All I could do was walk away, though I kept looking back to see if she got it all…

And she did…

I’ve decided my dog fantasy was a fleeting fantasy. I just know I could never walk the boulevard holding a plastic bag of dog shit.

Instead, I’ll just get one of those 2017 calendars that features cute dogs in cute poses.


Monday, November 28, 2016

Juror 21

Last week I had jury duty. I had to report to the courthouse Monday at 7:45 AM.

I allotted plenty of time to maneuver downtown Los Angeles to get to the right parking structure, park the car, buy coffee and a donut, and make it to the courthouse in time, and I did. The only problem was forty-five minutes into Jury orientation I realized I was at the wrong courthouse.

I don’t know what made me look at my summons, but I’m sure glad I did. I jumped up like my ass was on fire and yelled “wrong courthouse! wrong courthouse!”

Luckily, the two courthouses were only a few blocks apart, and I ran all the way to the criminal courthouse. Out of breath and dizzy from an adrenaline high, I made it to the new juror room. Phew!

No sooner did I get acclimated in the new room, the first set of jurors were called for a case, and that included me. We all headed to Courtroom 129.

Once inside the courtroom, I noticed the defendants sitting with their lawyers. I immediately imagined what crime they might have committed. I thought murder, rape, terrorism, shoplifting, jaywalking, pickpocketing, and urinating in public. I was wrong on all counts.

The defendants were being charged with eight criminal counts including abduction, torture, assault, robbery, and car stealing. Wow.

I was no longer Michael. My courthouse identity was now Juror 21.

The District Attorney and lawyers asked us all sorts of questions. When my turn came, I decided I would only tell the truth, my truth, and if the God-of-Jurors deemed it necessary for me to be on the jury then so be it.

I confess that I became completely fascinated by the process and wanted to be part of it. I fantasized being the Jury Foreman (of course).

I convinced myself I had “aced” the Q&A portion of jury selection and would be on the final jury. I mean, who wouldn’t want me on their jury, right?

After our lunch break, the Judge announced decisions were made. He faced us, the potential jurors… ooh the excitement… then he dismissed Juror 5… then he dismissed Juror 12… then he looked at me… we made juror to judge eye contact… I felt a special legal connection… and then he said Juror 21 was dismissed.


I politely gathered my backpack and left Courtroom 129. While the other dismissed jurors did the “happy dance” in the hallway I thought, wait a damn minute, why didn’t they want me?

Did they think I wasn’t “jury quality” or “jury-able”?

How dare they judge me when all I wanted to do was judge them and decide a criminal’s fate.

My jury foreman fantasy was convicted without a trial.

Now they’ll never know if I would I have voted guilty or not guilty.

And I’ll never tell… untiI I get a book deal.

I’ll call my book Juror 21: The True Courtroom Story.


Friday, November 11, 2016

Chewing Gum and the Urinal

I rarely chew gum, but when I do, I find that after the first burst of flavor the joy-of-chewing quickly disappears and all that’s left is a wad of rubbery substance to chomp on until its either swallowed or thrown in the trash.

People who noisily chew gum irritate me.  I find it unattractive, especially when their mouths are flapping in constant motion. But hey, if someone wants to chew that’s their right, they just need to follow good-gum-manners when they’re done chewing.

My most recent altercation with chewing gum involves a urinal. Yes, a urinal. And it wasn’t pleasant.

Picture this… me at the gym… in the locker room… in the bathroom… at the last urinal on the left… and there on the splash guard of the “non-flushing” urinal was a wad of chewed gum…

I could only imagine that someone had spit the gum into the urinal while peeing.

That wad of gum was staring up at me as I peed, taunting me, daring me to pee on it. I lost all concentration, and almost lost my aim too. I was pissed.

Because it’s a “non-flushing” urinal, the gum doesn’t go with the flow and flush away. It stays there… and stays there… and stays there… until someone… most likely a bathroom janitor takes it out.  

The next day I used a different urinal (the second one from the right) and in that one there was a huge wad of chewed gum. This one looked like pink bubble gum, and it had a set of distinct teeth marks on it.

Spitting chewed gum into urinals is not good-gum-chewing behavior.

Today when I used the gym urinal there was no gum… thank goodness… but then I went to the sink to wash my hands and there in the bottom of the sink was a wad of chewed gum.

Why, why, why, why, WHY?!?  

Whoever this person is, he needs to be caught and taught lessons in gum-chewing-manners.

I think DNA samples should be taken from the chewed gum, and then the person’s face posted all over the gym so everyone will know he’s got BAD GUM-CHEWING MANNERS.

If he can’t chew it and dispose of it properly, then he shouldn’t be allowed to chew it at all.