Sex and Revolution, Why The Left Needs to Talk About Sex

Many like to think that we have overcome our prudish cultural fear of sex. It would seem like we have come a long way if one thinks about the constant use of sex in advertising, the existence of thirst trap instagram feeds, and the new public acceptance of kink culture. While we have come a long way in the sexual dialectic, we still have very far to go.

The left must make sex and sexuality integral to our rhetoric and platform. Forsaking sex when talking about our society leads to a continuation of our insecurities and perpetuates the erasure of large groups of people.

Sex Sells

Sexually repressive cultural constructs in our society are still rampant. Our fear of sexual nuance leads to a lack of dialogue on the subject of sexuality. This lack of a dialogue leads to numerous social problems and leads to people developing sexual insecurities. These insecurities are extorted by the capitalists who work in advertising and marketing in order to drive unnecessary consumption for the sake of generating profit.

The use of sex to sell is rampant most in online culture. On instagram we see body building men and women, or “fitstagram models,” selling us snake oil powders and teas that are supposed to make us stronger and sexier. More often than not these models and the commercials they perform in are not only extorting our insecurities, they are selling us the idea of what sex should look like.

The same can be said of the commercials on tv and videos that use sex to sell. Remember when you see an Axe body spray commercial or a Just For Men hair care ad and it ends with a man and a woman sensuously caressing each other, the advertisers aren’t just telling you “Buy this so you’ll have more sex,” they are also telling you “Remember, this is the only kind of sex!”

So long as the sexual dialogue is lacking then there will continue to be erasure of people outside of the heteronormative and gender binary spectrum. While we have made progress in the acceptance of gay people, we are seeing the erasure of trans people and those who identify as queer, as well as gender fluid people, non binary people, and asexuals thanks to the use of sex in advertising. The use of sex in advertising more often than not normalizes only one kind of sex, heterosexual sex.

The fact that we almost never even talk about asexual people leads to both erasure and perpetuation of further insecurities. (Am I not normal because I’m not sexual enough? Maybe if I buy this stuff I will be!). Erasure of sexuality hurts and holds people back on multiple levels.

We Can’t Talk About Sex Without Talking about Consent!

Our lack of a genuine and all-encompassing discussion of sex also holds back the growing #MeToo movement. One of the reasons we exist in rape culture is because we do not teach enough about consent. You cannot teach what consensual sex is if you can’t even talk about sex itself. This lack of understanding of consent is one of the reasons why victims of sexual violence are held back and afraid to speak up. It is a direct cause of the belittling and even life threatening attacks against victims who come forward. We have often heard these toxic, and infuriating arguments made when a victim of a sexual predator comes forward, “If she didn’t want it why did she dress like that?” Or “Are you sure you didn’t lead him on?” Etc. If we do not talk about sex, how can we properly talk about consent!?

Porn as a Public Service

Our lack of a sexual dialogue is evident in the thriving industry of pornography. Consider how the number of genres of pornography has gone up exponentially over the last decade, why has this happened? Because for literally millions of people internet pornography is the only avenue to explore their sexuality because capitalism isolates us from one another, keeping us from having the sexual dialogue we need.

The porn that a society consumes is reflection of that society, and the fact that porn genres seem to be increasing in numbers by the day demonstrates how people become isolated from talking about sexuality with each other and are desperate for outlets of expression. As a pro sex individual, I am glad that porn performers are giving people this place to explore. Porn performers and other consenting sex workers are the sexual vanguard because they are willing to express and explore their sexuality to the point it becomes their living. The services they provide allow the sexually repressed masses an avenue to explore their sexuality. Just a side note, the least we could all do is pay for our porn every once in awhile.

What Will Happen If We Don’t Talk About Sex

So long as we do not discuss sexuality in an open, public, and universal way there will be capitalist extortion of our sexual insecurities. We can fight this extortion by making a discussion of sexuality central to a leftist platform.

One of the best ways to do this is to support sex work decriminalization and to elevate the voices of sexwork organizers. We should particularly elevate the voices of organizers who identify as LGBTQA+ in order to fight back against their erasure. It also makes the most sense to elevate the people who make their living off sex as the vanguard for discussing the need for sexual liberation.

We can counter the capitalist isolation and its extortion of our sexualities. Talk about sex and talk about sexwork. Talk about consent and make sure that you do not shy away from the word sex.

Acknowledge that our social perceptions of sex are still heteronormative. Acknowledge that many still think of gender being a biological binary.

Let us fight the erasure of sexual preferences and of gender and sexual identities so that we may overcome the insecurities that the capitalists use to extort our consumption.

Let us elevate sex workers and fight for decriminalization and unionization of sexwork. Let sexworkers and LGBTQA organizers take the platform and follow their lead.

Let’s make the revolution sexy!

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How Do We Make Bernie Better About Sexwork?

I am a strong Sanders supporter, and I am more than willing to concede that Bernie needs to do better regarding certain issues. Sex work is definitely one of them.

We in the pro-Sanders camp need to acknowledge that his votes in favor of FOFSTA and SESTA hurt sexworkers and we must acknowledge that Bernie needs to be pushed more on the issue of sex work.

Not only did Bernie vote for both of these harmful bills but when talking about media coverage of Stormy Daniels, Bernie has maintained a tone that writes off sexwork in a way that is damaging to his progressive image.

While at SXSW last year, he remarked that while the Stormy Daniels story is “legitimate news… the media is too obsessed with it,” which is actually a valid point. However, his reasoning was grossly flawed.

In this country, we have a lot of people who are in pain — single mothers, people who can’t afford college — they want to see something that reflects their reality.” And obviously, a president suing an adult film star isn’t that.

This reasoning ignores some very important realities, one being that porn performers and sex workers often are single mothers or parents. It also forsakes the reality that many turn to sex work because of the economic oppressions that he mentioned. In other words, it reflects the idea that porn stars and the issues effecting them are not to be taken seriously because porn stars themselves are not to be taken seriously as people.

This has been a difficult dance for me. I strongly support sex workers and want our culture to abandon the negative cultural constructs that we have attached to sex and sexuality. I also need the strong social welfare and environmental programs that Bernie Sanders is running on to come to fruition, we all do, or we are all going to die. So, as a Sanders supporter I think it is our job to hold him to scrutiny when he falls short.

Here is what I make of the whole Bernie Fofsta/Sesta/Sexwork situation: Bernie does not hate sexworkers, however because he is a product of his time and place he has preconceived notions about sex and sexuality that are the by products of our sex negative cultural constructs. Bernie and his sexwork policies are a good reflection of how even if you lean hard to the left, you will still have ingrained notions and prejudices if you are raised in an oppressive society, and inevitably some of that will lead to a perpetuation of the same oppressions we as leftists desire to overthrow.

All is not lost though, the key to overcoming ingrained prejudices and cultural constructs is to recognize them, and then take active steps to correct them. If Bernie has proven one thing about himself it is that when the public cries fowl on him, he listens and takes the steps to do better. The good news is that Bernie has already expressed a willingness to decriminalize sex work! However, more still needs to be done. We, his supporters, need to raise our voices and elevate sexworkers who are organizing. If enough of us do this, then Bernie, as well as all of the politicians in power, will have to take notice.

So, how do we get Bernie to be better about sexwork?

1. Elevate Sex Worker’s Voices, Support Sex Worker Unions

First and foremost, to stand in true solidarity with sexworkers we must avoid the savior complex.

As long as strippers, escorts, and porn performers are generating wealth with their labor then we must acknowledge that sex work is work.

We also must recognize that there are already those in the sex industry that are working to organize their own, such as Antonia Crane, Siousixie Q, Sex Worker Outreach Project, and the “soldiers of pole” stripper union. We don’t need to invade the spaces where sex workers are trying to organize, what we must do is elevate those who are already organizing and fighting and stand behind them in solidarity when they step up to lead. Sex workers do not need saving, they need solidarity.

It should also be remembered that these workers do not need our’s nor Bernie’s validation, they do not need to beg for Bernie’s approval or his audience, what they need from him and all of us is our solidarity. The more that we support the efforts of people like strippers to unionize, the more Bernie’s hand will be forced to recognize that sexwork is indeed a form of labor. For better or worse, Bernie listens when unions are involved.

2. Fight Our Sex Negative Cultural Constructs

It is okay to talk about sex. You would think that we’d have accepted that as a culture because sex is shoved into our faces in almost every form of advertisement or entertainment. Yet the fact that we are only now having this conversation about sexwork, the fact that our government’s response to the human trafficking problem has been to go after the sex work industry as a whole, and the fact that people still have not grasped the nuances of trans rights or gender fluidity, all demonstrate how far we have to go when it comes to sex as a culture. We can’t accept the idea that sex work is work if we can’t accept our own ideas about sex. If we want to make Bernie better about the issue of sex work, then we ourselves need make ourselves better and more enlightened on the topic of sexuality.

3. Make It Clear That Sex Workers Benefit From Social Welfare Programs

The benefits that sexworkers would receive from Bernie’s social welfare programs needs to be made more explicit and central to the left’s platform. We should make it clear that Medicare for all covers sexual wellness such as fertility and STD testing.

Not only that but both Medicare for all and college for all reduce the need for people to resort to sex work out of desperation. While many resort to sexwork willingly (even enthusiastically) some in the industry get into it because they cannot find other work. Also, more often than not you will find that several sex workers are trapped under crippling student loan debt or medical debt like the rest of us.

Bernie’s programs would also benefit those who engage in sexwork willingly because if we free our minds from sex negative thinking while we also free ourselves from these financial restraints, then those who have been sexually repressed will be free to explore the aspects of their sexuality like never before. They will be free perform and indulge without judgement, as they should have the freedom to do.

4. Decriminalize all sexwork

This is probably the most important thing to push for. Those who do sex work consensually should have the freedom to do so without fear. Because we live in a punitive system, the laws that police claim will protect trafficked sex workers usually leads to them being prosecuted more than rescued. Prostitutes are also statistically more likely to get arrested than pimps or traffickers. All socialists and leftists must explicitly support the decriminalization of sex work, period.

Now that Bernie has expressed a willingness to decriminalize sex work, it is on us as his supporters to assure that sex work decriminalization becomes a part of his platform.

If enough of a movement is started, especially among his core base of supporters, then Bernie will have to take notice of how he has misstepped on the issue of sex work in the past. While it is fantastic news that he has said he is willing to decriminalize sex work, we cannot ignore where he has fallen short on this issue. His FOFSTA and SESTA votes are a glaring black mark on his progressive resume. I assure you, I say this as someone who loves Bernie Sanders, I want to see him win.

Bernie needs to be better about sexwork, and it looks like he is on the right track. But we, the public, need to be attentive and see to it that sex workers receive the attention and solidarity they need.

Tony Robbins; Sexist, Quack, and Enemy of the Working Class

This morning videos from Now This went viral on twitter showing Tony Robbins belittling the Me Too Movement. In the video he rants against living under a sense of “victimhood” and says women are using the movement to foster “anger” and make themselves “significant by destroying others.”

In the video we also see a woman named Nannie McCool confront him about his belittlement of the movement, during which he actively intimidates her in-front of a large crowd in San Jose by pushing her back and walking against her. McCool, a survivor of sexual abuse, stood her ground.

“You are doing a disservice to the Me Too movement.” McCool maintained, with McCool confidence I might add and to applause from women in the crowd.

Robbins, in his ever so bizarre straw-man fashion, told the crowd of a story about a client who would not hire a woman because of looks as if it would help his case.

Much has already been written about how full of shit Tony Robbins is. George Carlin has one of the best comedy routines in the world about how there is no such thing as “Self help.”

“If you buy a book that tells you how to do something, that’s not self help, THAT’S HELP. Plus if you do something yourself, then you didn’t need any help.” – RIP George.

But what bothers me the most about Tony Robbins and his capitalization on the anachronistic “by your bootstraps” American dialect, well actually that’s it completely. Tony Robbins and his industry of self help books and seminars are part of what I call the “industry of alienation,” the capitalization of alienation directly. We are already alienated from the products of our labor and we are consistently sold this lie that work and resources are a scarcity so we must be in competition with each other, and therefore must help the “self” before we help a comrade and fellow worker. What Tony Robbins does is perpetuate this myth of competition and cashes in on it directly by selling his books and putting the delusion in his followers minds that they will one day be millionaires.

This outing of Robbins as a sexist shows how inherent patriarchy is to the capitalist structure. The Me Too Movement is liberating women from silence about abuse in the work place and their immediate environment, and in the process powerful white men are facing public scrutiny in ways they never had before. Tony Robbins can now be added to this list thanks to McCool and the retweeting thumbs of twitter users. Yet what is most important to remember is that this liberation from abuse and belittlement will help women and therefore the whole working class unite. Never forget that most of the population is women and therefore the labor force in this world both domestic and industrial is that of women. I am unaware of McCool’s politics and doubt she identifies as a radical, leftism is still marginal especially for people who would attend a Tony Robbins seminar in the first place. However this action did oust this man as the patriarchal douche and therefore class enemy that he is.

Much has already been written about the intersectionality of capitalism and patriarchy and much more eloquently so, but the recent Tony Robbins fiasco is a perfect example of how people like Robbins perpetuate the divide amongst workers and prevent us from uniting against our capitalist oligarchs.

Much has also already been written about how Tony Robbins is a quack and a fraud. I remember two years ago people were rushed from his seminar to treat severe burns on their feet from walking on hot coals. Yet I decided to do a little research myself on Tony Robbins.

First of all, the man did not go to college. Now this is not a defense of academia inherently nor is it criticism of those who chose not to attend college for whatever reason. Yet my point is that with no qualifications besides his anecdotal experience, painful though parts of it clearly are, anecdotes are not training. His stories about a sad home life or his celebrity clients or constant name drops, these things are not degrees in sociology, economics, nor psychology. He has no basic training in anything.

The companies he has founded or has stake in also generate a combined income of $6 billion a year. Forbes put Robbins net worth at $480 million in 2015.

Robbins is not a friend of the worker, and as such he perpetuates sexism and the structures of capitalism which therefore chain us all. Self help is capitalist propaganda meant to perpetuate alienation. We must practice SELF CARE, not self help. We must rest, watch our health, drink water, and meditate or at least self reflect in order to restore ourselves and function at our best. What we must not do is delude ourselves with the constantly disprovable capitalist lie that good old American gumption is enough to over come creepy gropers at work and a racist imperialist super structure that robs us all of the wealth we generate. Self help is a lie, Tony Robbins is sexist danger to working class solidarity, and I just spent over 1,000 words stating the fucking obvious.

The Truth About Charter Schools

Intro

I have not pissed myself in years. The only time I ever came close to pissing myself as an adult was not from a night of binge drinking, nor from a moment of shock or terror. No, it just happened on a really bad day at work.

I had been stuck in the same room all day where I was only granted one piss break at lunch. By this time my bladder had reached critical mass and I was also being bombarded with threats against my family and insinuations about my sexuality from all angles. The most quotable threat of the day was when a 6’1″ mountain of an 18 year old girl screamed, “It aint over until I drop a bomb on your whole family and your faggot ass.” Was it not for my sense of professionalism, I would have spat in the girl’s face, but teachers rarely get away with something like that. Plus a white teacher spitting on a black student is problematic on so many levels, not to mention just bad press for teachers.

Had the security guard not been present at the time I am not certain how the event would have transpired, although I do not think I was in any real danger. No, anyone who is really out to kill you won’t shout they are going to do it in front of a classroom full of witnesses. No, I believe there is a saying amongst soldiers, “You never hear the one with your name on it.” All this with a bladder ready to burst. This was not every day at my job, but it was a common thing to expect at my job. Rowdy dispositioned youth, armed guards, and minimal bathroom access are common motifs of charter schools. I endured and witnessed more than I had ever wanted to or planned to, and I did it all for $20 an hour.

What I did

Being a teacher is a hard job. Being a substitute teacher is a weird job. Being a substitute teacher for charter schools is a weird, hard, and very real job in in our era of capitalism, test scores, and Betsy Devos.

Let’s begin our dialogue with a few details and stories about how I got the job and what it actually required of me. Before I begin I would like to mention that some names have been changed. For example the name of the company I worked for, a sub pool for charters and private schools, for the sake of legality let us just call it “Sub Pool.”

A sub “pool” for those who do not know is a reference to the list of people a school has on call for when they need a substitute teacher. Most schools and districts are required to account for their own subs but Sub Pool saw an opening in the market and took advantage. Charters and private schools contract out their pools to Sub Pool and the company then acts as a sort of teacher agency, where dispatch agents get calls from schools and then call the teachers in order to assign us to schools. Some assignments could last 4 hours, others 4 weeks. Some assignments you would get three weeks in advance, others you would have twenty minutes after your call to be out the door.

I ended up with this job when I moved to LA in 2014. I was following the old California cliche of going to Hollywood and making it in the film industry. Needless to say I was going to need some supplemental income, so after some tips from friends and family I was granted an interview with the current owner of Sub Pool. After a 45 minute Skype interview where I wore a nice purple button up with no pants, unknown to my interviewer, I got the job. I was then subject to the hell we all endure in the on boarding process, the long winded monotone over advising training video.

In this video I was taught what my dress code expectancy was and got tips and tricks on how to handle a class. They also told me what was expected of me when I arrived at a school. Here is the short version of what I thought was expected of me by the end of “training” : 1) Although every school has a different dress code, I was always supposed to dress in business or business casual attire, 2) I needed to have ready transportation at all times and, 3) if I did not have an assignment scheduled the day before I was to be on call from 6-9 am, which was unpaid time I may add. The minute I got a call I was expected to get ready and be out the door asap, if i got no call that meant there was no work for me that day.

There were other little things, don’t be late, fill in your time cards, etc. The things they were most adamant about though were don’t be a creep and answer your damn phone or you’re fired. It all seemed simple enough. From the lack of personal warmth during this whole on boarding process one gets the feeling that all you need to do to be a qualified sub is breath from both nostrils. “Is your heart beating? Good then get in there our regular teacher has the flu and we are desperate.” This was my first job out of college. I had no interest in being a regular teacher, I was simply trying to eat and pay rent, like all other post college millennials, I just wanted to stay afloat.

After I was hired, “trained,” finger printed, and background checked, I was initiated into the world of charter schools. My first assignment was a two week stunt not as a teacher but rather as a test proctor, there is a lot of temp work in the educational industry these days. Make no mistake by the way, capitalism has made education an industry.

The assignment seemed simple enough. I was to go to the school every day the next two weeks to be a proctor for what is know as the CELDT the California English Learner development test. It is a test where immigrant children or any child who is learning English as a second language have their English skills ranked by a professional, a professional like my stoned jaded self. This rank will be used later when it is decided which English class they are to be placed in. My assignment was to proctor with 3 other Sub Pool employees at a school in South Central. I arrived promptly for the job, dressed to impress as I thought was expected of me per the training videos. I figured slacks, a button up, and a nice Van Hausen tie would show everyone I was a professional, I may have just been trying to eat, but I was definitely a pro.

The school itself looked less like a school and more like a professional mall. One of those office suite buildings that just happened to be equipped with a tasteful central courtyard. It looked a bit a out of place amongst the rest of its neighboring buildings on MLK blvd. The decaying and aging two or single story bungalows bordering this four story, sleek steel and plane glass model of modernity were in stark contrast to one another. Were it not for all of the parents and children filing in and out of the main entryway there would be no sign at all that this was a school.

I had thought the assignment was simple enough, but it was a front row seat to many lessons I needed to learn about my new job, about the world, about life. It sounds like one of those cliches that The Kinks or Simon and Garfunkel should be playing over as Dustin Hoffman wanders the post grad world and Wes Anderson tracks him with high, isolating angles. Put in a backdrop of South Central Los Angeles and you would have my life at the time. In a way this sort of was my first lesson about the reality of capitalism. For here was a stoney white boy, 22, out of school, and entitled? If you mean to healthcare and a living wage? You are damn right. Yet again here you have an entitled, bearded, white (very important to mention) hipster dropped into the capital of Facebook poverty tragedy porn, and I was deemed responsible for using my listening skills to help file and rank these kids English careers.

First hand I saw the reality of all those pro immigrant Facebook posts I had been sharing, here in front of me were children, new to this country, new to this world filled with corporate Machiavellians, political denial, and blatant racism, and these kids can’t tell me which picture is an apple or a carrot.

Most of the kids I had in my group were teens, 13-17. There is nothing more sobering than talking to a perfectly capable and cognitive boy or girl, and yet they can’t use words you have used for what feels like forever, and you have to stay patient with them because it is no way shape or form their own fault for not speaking the language of a land you probably were not always planning on moving to. When I was three I made my objections to moving to a new house quite clear to my parents, yet in truth since I was so young I had very little to say and very little to argue with. Imagine being 14 and living in a country where you have very little to argue with, save for your own native language.

Nonetheless, the Spanish language seems to be a way to bond, a way to unite in solidarity in this white world for these kids, for when people at this school could not communicate with the likes of me or teachers, they definitely could communicate amongst each other. Where we were not providing solace, they were finding it in each other.

Another thing I learned from this assignment was that the dress code warnings in my training video were bullshit. Out of all my fellow proctors I was the only one in slacks, the only one in a tie, the only one who followed the company standard for what they defined as “business casual.” It was then that I learned from the more experienced fellow subs, all of whom loved reminding me I was the rookie, that no school reports you for dress code, unless you show up in “FUCK YOU” or “FRANKIE SAYs RELAX” t shirts. I’m paraphrasing but my point is clear. I did not have to wear a tie, but I would later learn ties actually made the job easier. Kids just listen to you more when you wear a tie, they make you look like you know what you are talking about.

That was all I learned just from the first two weeks. Once my tenure was done at this school I was ready and willing to go to the classroom. I waited by my phone from 6-9 on a Monday, not receiving word I was to work until 8 a.m. The call was for what was to be my first job in the classroom as an actual sub, and it required me to brave the LA traffic at its peak only to arrive at a gentrified as fuck charter just a few streets down from FOX studios in the northern regions of LA. This normally would be no problem, save for the fact I lived in Gardena and was looking at 40 minutes on or off the highway and was faced with the World of War that is LA traffic. When I arrived I was given bizarre and frustrating parking instructions, apparently this was one of those yuppie neighborhoods where they all got together and voted on requiring a pass to park. If only the left were as organized as homeowner associations. I digress.

Referring back to my 1st classroom assignment and second job for Sub Pool, I arrived late for a day of work as a 7th – 8th grade English sub in a yuppie as hell neighborhood. I was then subject to the perks and drawbacks of these charters that are exploding on the CA job market. This was a school that offered perks for their employees in the lounge, like free coffee and an espresso machine, donuts and free oatmeal breakfasts, but I would not be surprised if they were being tossed that over any kind of union benefits they could be getting. The campus was top of the line and my classroom was equipped with two smart boards, a projector, and a Blu-ray player. All the books the kids were using looked new or newish, and there was no shortage of school supplies. This is the truth of the suburban white collar white privilege capitalism class of charter. This school, which later would ban me I might add for smelling like beer on a later assignment, would prove to be a stark contrast to my following school.

My second teaching assignment, like my first, came the next day near the very end of my unpaid on call shift. I was told it would be a short 4 hour day of teaching PE. It sounded like the easiest goddamn day of work in the world. It turned out to be one of the most bizarre, painful, and revealing days of my life.

After I received the call, I was ecstatic when dispatch told me I could wear gym clothes to the job so long as I wore my company badge. I arrived for a job and was immediately confused. The address for my previous assignments had brought me to campuses that were clearly marked, and because of their size and the style of their neon storefront signs they were clearly charter schools. This time however I was brought to the campus of an immense public school. Those who have not seen LA public schools should know they look less like schools and more like compound fortresses equipped with huge fences and barbed wire, taking up at least a whole city block. I saw no signs indicating the school I was looking for which was Pathway Community School, but I figured the charter had been contracted out to run the school. I had read that was a commonplace thing and was prepared for it at the time. What I was not prepared for was two little old black church ladies to be sitting out in front of this school in the middle of Watts with a sign in sheet. When I told them I was hear to sub I heard what to this day I consider one of the weirdest, yet all too real, questions I ever heard.

“Which school,” the one in her purple Sunday best said. “We have three schools on this campus”

“What the fuck?” I thought, hopefully not showing it on my face. “One campus, one school.” That was how I understood the world at the time. But I was not about to let any ignorance show. Not any where on this stretch of San Pedro Street at least. So I faked it that I knew what they were talking about and said I was for “Pathway.” They then spattered something into a walkie talky and I was told to wait while someone from the school would come get me.

A quick digression, I would just like to quickly note that this was my introduction to a concept called “colocation.” Colocation is the term used for when a traditional public school shares a campus with a charter, usually because the charter is paying rent to the campus or school district. I spent a bit of time on Google looking up how two schools could exist on one campus as I waited by the front entrance, the act of staring at my phone was a great excuse for not making eye contact with any of the students, and sometimes even the faculty, gawking at me as they went by.

Something that happened to me frequently was being gawked at when I was in schools where white people were the minority. I became a sort of side show attraction at these schools. Here as students were filing in and out of the entrance where I waited, I was glared at and gawked at. I knew the predominant question was most likely, “Who is the white boy with the hipster beard?” At the proctor job I cannot tell you how many comments and questions I got about my eyes. I knew that the whispers I saw during the glares wear along the same lines. Blue eyes are hard to come by in places like Watts, I learned that first hand.

Eventually after enough students had gotten their five cents worth of the ring side white guy, I was escorted to the school by a young Mexican American woman who was about my age and about as tall as Bilbo Baggins. She was dressed professionally but not so professionally you would think she was the principal. She wore fitted capris, tasteful makeup, and hair pulled back and clipped to a bun. It was the look of someone who has to move around too much to be a principal. This woman was taking me to meet the principal in her office, which was the same room as the counselor’s office, the tutoring room, the student lounge, and the computer lab of this quote, unquote school. Essentially the whole school was one floor in the back corner building of the campus, which I think was otherwise unused by the school. Five classrooms, and this one makeshift center of operations at the end of the hall way. The computer lab corner was using Mac computers I had not seen since 2006, and the lounge where students sat had what were clearly donated couches and bean bag chairs, cracked vinyl and all, with copies of books like Goosebumps that looked so worn it was as if they had survived a trip to rural Honduras. I was instructed to sit at one of the tables and wait, where I was again gawked at by the students coming in and out.

I was then given a walky talky and some instructions by the young woman. I was to take the kids out to the track, which was on the other side of the campus, and follow the lesson plan left for me. One thing that complicated the day was that there was no lesson plan, and the walky talky did not work, and no one told me that these kids were at Pathways because they could not handle being within the regular school system. In other words, these are the kids who are so damaged that districts just don’t know what to do with them, so they shove them into the back corner where this charter is, and they let potheads like me handle them.

I’ll give you the short version. I was stuck on a tarmac track & field in the middle of a 100 degree heat wave with no shade, in charge of a group of emotionally damaged teens with histories of behavioral issues. I was heckled, I was disrespected, I yelled, I had no backup since my walky talky did not work, and out of a moment of anger and poor judgement, I told two students as they were storming off to the office that, “You have no future!” So it is needless to say I am not proud of myself or my work on this day.

This was my whole job though. It was two and a half years of this. One day at gentrified as fuck Santa Monica schools, the next I’m in the heart of Watts, Compton, South Central, or even as far as East LA. I have subbed at small, liberal charters that were inclined to the arts and were pinnacles of educational efficiency and I have subbed at underfunded ghetto hovels where between the poor lighting, the armed security forces, and the two story fences, it feels less like a school and more like a prison day camp for black and brown kids. I have subbed at well known charters such as Aspire, which is one of the largest charter chains in California. I have subbed at Alliance schools, which were in the headlines in 2015 when one of their teachers was arrested for handing out pro union pamphlets in the parking lot. I subbed at Green Dot schools, one largest networks of schools that is happily endorsed by Netflix founder Reed Hastings, an avid charter advocate and notoriously anti- board of education patron of pro charter causes. The founder of Green Dot by the way is Steve Barr, a man who is ran for Mayor of LA and wants to expand his charter more into LA unified district, already one of the largest charter school districts in the country.

I subbed at private catholic schools and private yuppie schools. Yet more than anything I have been to charters all across the LA area. From Downtown Los Angeles where the campuses tend to be compact and usually rented out spots that previously were thriving catholic schools. That is another group cashing in on charter school’s needs for campuses, the Vatican. Since charters are essentially independent schools they are responsible for using their own funds for maintenance and operation of their grounds, meaning they are a very popular prey to land developers, landlords, and property owners such as the Catholic church. The corporations are not the only ones cashing in on our kids.

The schools in places like Mar Vista or Culver City where much more avant garde. Sleek with modern architecture, which makes most buildings look like a Panera’s or Chipotle in my opinion but again I digress, and they are almost always well equipped with the latest technologies in the classrooms. The schools downtown would be lucky if they had things like fields for the students to play on. The schools in the yuppie neighborhoods would be lucky if they had any contact with a world outside of money, which they really don’t. The schools in the hood would be lucky to have just a taste of what those yuppie schools get.

Another thing I have yet to mention is the personal chaos that comes from dealing with a different school on different days. Some schools treated me as if I was a gift, a much needed and appreciated cog in the wheel to keep things efficient. Others treated me as if I was just a warm body there to send attendance sheets, they spat at my orders, then rushed me out of the office, because they had more important things to deal with than the subs.

There were other things about the job that made it difficult. One was the faceless interaction with Sub Pool, getting all my jobs over the phone and never coming face to face with dispatch or management save for my one Skype interview made everything feel so impersonal. I learned that subbing is actually a very impersonal job. They didn’t seem to care how far you were from any assignment, just so long as it got filled before 9. One day I would be sent to work just around the corner from my house, the next I could expect 40 minutes and three highway changes to get to and from my assignment. Despite being a California company, they seemed to know or care very little about the realities of driving through LA traffic.

I subbed for 2.5 years, and everyday on the road did I had a road rage incident. I have punched and stabbed the inside of my front door so many times there is a gaping hole next to my door handle. I cannot tell you how many times I was cut off, how many people I had to cut off to get to my exits, how many near misses I endured, how much wear I had on my brakes, how many flats I had, and how many self entitled Lexus, BMW, and Mercedes owners seem to be religiously opposed to using turn signals.

Combine this with the fact not a day went by when I was not high. After every call, once I was dressed and ready, it was time for at least five or six sativa bong hits then I was out the door. The coffee I was drinking probably added a little tension but any teacher will vouch that Coffee is life. Coffee is the gasoline that keeps teachers going. If you think you can handle 30-120 kids a day without either caffeine to start the day or alcohol to end it, you are either an idiot or a Mormon. Not only do I digress but now I repeat myself…

Between the coffee, the THC, and the lingering tension left from daily road rage, I was always in a, shall we say, interesting headspace every time I arrived for work, no mater what kind of school it was. Yet what I remember most, and this is true of any school, and I’m sure any teacher can vouch for this to, was how much I always had to pee.

Word of advice Dear Reader, if you have ever had issues with continence, don’t teach. Some schools provide ample breaks and bathroom access to their teachers, others expect you to stay in a classroom 5-6 hours at a time before you even think about resting. It was just another one of those things that made the day to day of this job so chaotic. Yet even when the access was ample, between the water I was drinking to clear my throat and the coffee I was drinking to stay at a pace with the students, I feel like I was always keeping an eye on my bladder.

This was what being a sub entailed, at least as far as what was required of me on the job. Being a sub, or teacher of any kind, also entails a front row seat into the reality of our youth of today.

What I Saw

When I was an 18 year old high school senior I had a foul mouth. Every other sentence off of my tongue was about weed, and sex was also a common topic for me. I used to think my teen years were the universal experience, but this job taught me otherwise. There is no universal experience except for birth and death, but there are commonalities between teens as there always seems to be commonalities between us all in this umbrella term overgeneralizing culture of ours.

One thing I saw at every school was a blatant addiction to screens. Anyone born post 1998 seems to be glued to either a phone, a computer, or both. May god help them if their parents have a TV at home too, which let’s face it they all probably do, those of them that had homes I mean. I often think about how each generation since the birth of cinema has been addicted to staring at screens. The silver screen of the early 1900s, the tv screen after the 60s, then came the computer in the 90s, and then the iPhones of today. We are a world glued to our screens, and at the rate I see our boys and girls leaping to Instagram and Snapchat it is almost a wonder those apps don’t crash 24/7.

I will also be honest, it seems to be the ones the most addicted to Snapchat filters are young girls. I never confiscated phones, yet if I ever say the words “Please put your phone away,” again I will develop callouses on those muscles in my tongue. I admire the level of self love in these girls, for while some scoff at the selfie obsession, I applaud those who can love themselves enough to share genuine pictures of themselves for the sake of sharing pictures. That is not a vindication of the Instagram narcissist who puts 5 hours into one photo, but I digress. What I can also say is that this sense of self love does drive a greater sense of tolerance in these girls. I do not know how to explain it, but it seems to me that because these girls are so ready to accept themselves as they are, they in turn are ready to accept others. I wish I could say the same of our boys.

I have always considered myself a feminist, but I did not realize how alive and well sexism and patriarchy is in this horse-hell society of ours until I was forced to sit in classrooms for eight hours at a time. The old enabling cliche of “boys will be boys” is alive and well. I remember one school where the boys were like a New York City construction crew, hooting and hollering at what was on there phones for an entire class period. I was at another school acting as a teachers aid in Compton, and apparently my way of being an aide was to sit there as an extra adult to keep the kids on task. Literally just sit in a desk all day by the teacher and look like a professional, that was the job, and on this job I was able to hear Mrs. Clearly goes Clubbing too Much on the Weekends say to almost everyone of her non gender conforming students, “act like a lady.” A 14 year old stands up for themselves against a room of boys, and what did I keep hearing from the responsible adult in charge? “Act like a lady.” Please excuse me while I vomit.

If the blatant sexism was not enough to drive me mad, the blatant classism was going to be what pushed me over the edge. I have mentioned before how the gap between rich and poor showed itself from school to school, and no where would the differences be more noticeable than in the schools grounds. Something you may not know is that school districts are funded via property taxes from the surrounding area, the more expensive the houses the more money for the nearby schools, so you can imagine how well funded schools in Watts or Compton are compared to that of Westchester or Santa Monica. I have subbed at schools that were just fixed up abandoned churches, schools that were in office suites next door to insurance agencies, pristine monuments to classic academia, and behemoths of LAUSD public schools now taken over by charters. Another school was your standard CA public school campus equipped with a central community garden, it was run so efficiently by the students it was better than any co-op I have ever seen. Yet still the nicer campuses were always reserved for the nicer neighborhoods, and for the whiter neighborhoods to.

Combine all that with daily being a witness to the modern drama’s of teen life, which in case you are wondering have not seemed to change much or ever if they do actually change. Your daughter is still struggling with her break up, your son is still under the pressure of proving himself to his comrades, everyone is curious about who likes who, who is dating who, did they go all the way, will they go all the way? Yet what has changed is that trans men and women are thrown into the mix, and so many young men and women have a more dominant sense of who they are than I ever did at that age. I have met several bi or even poly teens, when I was a kid I did not even know the word “polyamorous” existed. So if anything has changed since my time, it is that we are actually talking about the gender confusion of our classmates now, which is a very good thing. Not to reiterate an earlier point, but I also notice the most tolerant of the trans population are our girls and young women. This is not to to knock boys down, it is just a statement of something I observed when I was sitting behind the teacher’s desk tapping my thumbs on my phone and making sure teens were not texting too much or over sharing memes they made. That is something else I learned, the meme is supreme.

Yes I saw much from this job, and from what I saw and heard I learned more than when I was a student myself.

What I Learned

The list of things I learned as a substitute teacher is almost endless, but I will try to list the important things here;

C.R.E.A.M. – For those of you reading not familiar with the way of WU, that stands for Cash Rules Everything Around Me, and no one knows how true that is until they are forced into the front-lines of post college adulthood, but it is an even worse experience when you work in the classroom. I have seen it in all dimensions of the job. From the corporatization of education to the wealth gap between schools in South Central versus schools in Westchester. Within the difference between the classes and schools you see the differences among race and schools as well I have seen the predominant effects of capitalism. My need to get paid out weighing my need to pee is another verification that wealth comes before health in modern America. The list of public services at the hands of capitalist mercy when a school goes charter are endless. The contracts for providing the schools lunches are in a competitive market. Property owners ranging from venture capitalist privateers to the Los Angeles School District to the goddamned catholic church are all cashing in on the charter school explosion. I even cashed in myself when I was working for Sub Pool. Like I said before, I needed to eat and pay rent.

Do not come to work hungover, especially without tenure! – I learned this lesson the hard way. I remember at one school, who shall remain nameless to cover my legal ass, I arrived twenty minutes late, for the third time. The same one outside of FOX studios as I mentioned earlier. The night before was one of debauchery with friends and family. I was out like a tequila filled oil lamp by 3am and had become a hungover, drudging monster by the next morning smelling of night sweat and beer. The whole day consisted of me leaning my body against the white board in order to give my instructions at the start of each class, followed by uncomfortable eye contact with students as I tried to keep my slinking tequila heavy headaches from making me pass out, and just sitting behind the teacher’s desk fighting the nausea. I was asked to leave early by the front office. A week letter I got a letter from Sub Pool that said the school found me unprofessional, that multiple students had complained, about what I do not know, and I was never to sub there again. I was not fired but that gentrified school on the white side of LA will never see me again. In a way I should be grateful. There would be other schools were I would be banned for trivial disputes with administration, however this is the one school where I will cop to wrongdoing. If you are responsible for more than a hundred kids a day, it is okay to have a few at the end of the work day, just make sure you know your limits. Also for the love of god, fight for tenure! Fight for yours and the tenure of others! Without it a school can decide just how expendable you are.

I’m Racist – Don’t worry, so are you to. I have seen the racism that is rampant in all of our society. I have seen the self perpetuated racism of those living within racist structures, I have seen the legitimized structures of classism intellectualized. I have seen first hand the difference in treatment between white, black, and latino immigrant heavy schools. There is not a single school with a high white population I have taught at lacking any true resources. Latino and immigrant schools can either be state of the art or a pure shit stained dog house, it depends on how good the school’s organizers are at fighting for funds. You don’t want to know what the black schools are like. But more to the point, I noticed my own behavior was different at these schools. Yes there was a more positive attitude from students in white or rich schools and as such I had less issues dealing or managing classroom behavior than I did at black schools. For the longest time I chalked this up to the attitudes black students had about their education. Then I realized I could not blame anyone for the attitude they had. I realized one day that there was a difference in how I treated my poor black students versus my rich ones of any race, though most were white needless to say. I do not know what made me realize it but I soon did realize that I was quicker to send a black girl to the office at schools in the hood with heavy security than I was a kid of any other race at schools with more equitable resources. Was it the school, my own veiled racism, the subtle prejudice that is ingrained in us all whether we are conscious of it or not? Who knows? The point is this job made me realize I was both doing racist shit, and that it was making me do that racist shit. All those FB posts and tweets that I had used to validate my leftist ego for years were now faced with the reality of their content. It is one thing to post something about racism and classism, it is a whole other thing to face it for the first time. It makes you realize just how much white skin and a white penis can get you without asking.

Sexism is rampant to!- The worst part is that it’s everywhere. Whether it is at a school in Compton where the teacher is telling her non gender conforming students to “act like a lady’ or if it is a group of rich white trust fund bros telling someone to “be a man.” Or if it is Mexican teens still using “that’s gay!” as a derogative, the wounds and realities of our fragile masculinity and sexist infrastructures run so deep that even teachers, the agents of change and new thoughts in youth, are perpetuating it. Whether they realize it or not, they are sexist, and they are keeping our sexist structures alive.

Stop Ignoring Charters – I know we are living in the age of “alternative facts” but why do we still pretend that all our kids are going to schools like we did. Some of these charter kids are grown up and in college now, but we still act like all our children are just off to another day at a quaint brick house with a multipurpose gymnasium and cafeteria. In reality they are going to office buildings, old churches, and any place else they can get squeezed in. I do not know what it will take, leftist articles and a John Oliver video have elaborated on charters to the point where almost no new info can be shared about them. Yet the public, especially establishment liberals and conservatives, act as if we are still running on the model of education espoused from President Johnson, something that is no longer true with the explosion of the charter market. These charter schools have been around long enough that they are now turning out graduates into the ranks of college students. Very soon a large body of the population of college students will have had a primary education mostly from charter schools. If we are going to keep sending our kids to charters, it is time to start talking about unions and regulations.

Warm Bodies Are All Some Schools Want – Hell maybe if I had been a careless corpse some of my days would have gone much easier. This ties into what I was saying before about regulations, in actuality I feel I was very under-qualified to work with kids when I got this job, but as I said I thought it would be like babysitting and I needed the money. I have lost count of all the schools where the kids were on the verge of a lifetime of criminalization, no teacher wanted to deal with such wounds and scars, not even one day at a time, so they bring in me. They bring in a pot smoking pro sex socialist punk rock fan with no previous experience working with children to attend to your kids.

Kids are commodities (school to prison) – We criminalize our kids to promise a consistent work force that we cash in on throughout their whole life. I know because I caught myself doing it. I cashed in on the charter explosion to pocket my $20 an hour, all at the price of your child’s humanity. There is little room for humanity in a capitalistic education system. Cash is king, and if a kid’s test scores are low he won’t yield much cash. Charters have leeway in who they let in and who they kick out, and test scores are one of the ways they keep their profit margins up. California is also one of the states that allows EMOs to operate charter schools. EMO stands for Educational Management Organization, and while charters are required to be nonprofits, EMOs which can be contracted to operate charters do not have to be. EMOS see their stockholders as the first priority, the quality of a child’s education is second only to the fact that it says they get one on the paper work. If the paperwork says they pass the tests and graduate, then business is good so who cares about anything else. Our self perpetuating prejudice, or the declining quality of education, or the exploitation of teachers, the EMO will still see a healthy margin despite any of that. And when the kid is no longer profitable after graduation it is either because they were lucky enough to make it to college or because they have finally been initiated into a life of criminalization thanks to all the armed guards they went to school with.

Teachers Need To Pee – I’m honestly amazed I never got kidney stones or an infection. My temper would often become short as I had to clench my inner groin muscles more and more with hour upon hour on some days. Between being in some classrooms 3 hours or 5 hours at a time with no breaks until lunch, I was often only given a single 20 minute window to pee on 8 hour days. This was not at every school, but it was at every school that only had one bathroom for all the teachers and did not provide subs with keys. Yes, some of these schools actually refuse to give us keys to restrooms and require you to ask the other teachers, who are also short on their allotted time to go pee. There options are usually during lunch or their prep period. May god help any teacher that does not have a prep period. Something I also learned is the less you pee the more you sweat. I remember in my youth always wondering why, especially my male teachers, always had sweaty pits. Then I became a sub. So if you ever wonder why your teacher is irritable, sweaty, or on edge for seemingly no reason, odds are they just really need to pee. So be nice to your teachers, they really need to piss.

Some listen to you, some learn from you, some laugh at you – It’s the worst when it’s a fellow adult who did it. Several students took me seriously, and most adults were professionals and grateful I was there to help keep the lesson plans moving and the peace in the classroom. But there were some who treated me as that “just a sub they thought I was. Either with passive aggression or rude enabling of dangerous students. In any case however I survived at times, dare I say it, I made a difference in a student’s life.

They Privatized Our Kids -There is no realm of education that has not been reworked to enable profiting of some kind. The standardized tests? They contract for the supplies and scoring goes to private companies. The need for campuses? Property owners and developers. The need to operate charters? EMOs step in. Teacher’s want benefits? Boom, how about a private insurance mandate instead? Oh the kids are hungry? How much is the contract for breakfast and lunch with your charter chain? There is virtually nothing that has not been left for capitalists to cash in on in the world of education, and our kids are the driving force in this market. They do not see them as citizens to be molded, but as agents of profit. They are commodities in their operation for gain. They have indeed privatized our children.

Conclusion

So there you have it, the short version anyway. I’m currently working on a novel about this, which will go way more in detail, be way funnier, and way more honest about my experience. Yet everything in here is the truth of my experience. From the armed security guards to my own racist bullshit, every word about what you just read is 100% true and every single off hand remark about charters cashing in on kids whether it be property owners or EMOS can all be verified by simple google searches. I opened this article with a brief yet true story that I think personifies the worst of what I both witnessed and enabled. I confessed that I acted as a cog in this capitalist wheel because I needed to eat and survive and that $20 an hour was to kushy for any millennial to pass up, especially post college. So in summary, charters are exploding, for better or worse it is happening, and I now live life knowing that I was a front row witness to the first death throes of American education.

Ecstasy’s Wind

Error in Judgement,

Judgment and decay

no more,

but an ecstasy wind.

What limited realm is 

the i.d. of our 

very realm itself?

Does not your realm breathe 

of the ecstasy wind 

and of ecstasy’s wind.

What Apollo gods rule 

this earth to maker her

so cruel?

Why Athena

have you forsaken us?

6/9/14

The Burden of Empathy : Chapter 10

Chapter 10

I didn’t awake until 9:40, well after my parents had awaken.  I’m sure my substance consumption from the night before played a part.  I still had no problem repeating it.  I popped and snorted the last of the pills and smoked at least a gram of the dope and a bit of hash.  I was still high not only on dope, but joy and hope.  I felt invincible, like I could do almost anything, like anything was possible.  I felt I could run any course, fight any foe, and over come any obstacle.  Hell, the feeling doubled when I packed my Rolling Stone, just the sight of Obama on that paper filled my hopes to wondrous ends.  Maybe the country has hope, if we can finally overcome our invisible racial barriers and elect a president based on policy rather that rumor, then almost anything was possible.  If it was possible for me to commit assault and battery, and not only get away with it but find out I was giving a bastard his medicine, I knew just about anything else was possible.  If I could get away with being high on opium at a Christian summer camp, I could do anything.  Hell, I could even talk to her.  I wasn’t expecting her to just come running into my arms, but I was finally ready to at least have a conversation with her outside the class room.  

After I was done packing inspiration struck and I wrote this essay. 

 

 

Life is cruel and confusing, especially when you’re a teenager.  And it’s even more difficult when your one of an entire generation with no identity, no empathy, or sense of understanding.  This is the ultimate burden of our generation.  We are completely and totally blank, and we have every right to be that way.

 

What could warp an entire generation to such record extent? You might ask.  Well, letslook at the facts, we are a generation that grew up with a corrupt mush mouth as president, and we live with an economy that hasn’t seen such hell since the 1930’s.  Plus we witnessed the turn of the millennium, yet we are not what the future was supposed to be.  By now we were promised space station hotels, flying cars, and free energy, but we are the generation of drivers paying four dollars a gallon for gas.  That’s extortion compared to the prices our parents paid when they started driving.  Plus our country hasn’t been in so much turmoil since Vietnam.  The point is very simple, our generation got screwed over and now we are completely warped.   The bar was set to high for us, so we simply stopped caring.  

 

But who wouldn’t?  If you hate your president and can’t even get a part time job it would make sense if you become apathetic.  Though it is true some of our generation is still loyal to our ex president, the majority has made it clear that he did not do a very good job.  When you grow up with a president like Bush, you just grow up to believe all politicians are evil.  The economy shattered, and he gave the jerks that made the mess a bailout with our money. It was the rich helping the rich.  We couldn’t believe it, the rich would help each other but no one would help us.  We understood how this country worked, and we had learned from history that there really isn’t any point to fighting back.  What can you do when your president is stealing your country and culture while the War humiliates it, and the economy destroys it?  What could possibly relieve such pain?  Only one thing, party.  

We have nothing left to do; the evangelists are always saying the apocalypse is around the corner, so we might as well have a good time on our way out.  We don’t need to label our generation anything.   We are just a big group of party animals who really understand the end of the world isn’t coming, but it’s already happened.  So there is nothing left to do but roll a blunt, and open a tall can.  But then, a miracle happened, something got us to care.

Is our generation still blank and desperate for identity? Yes.  Do we still hesitate to trust politicians?  Yes.  And do we still feel our time would be better spent whooping it up with a joint and a beer bong by the river?  Of course, but every generation feels that way.  But ours is different.  We don’t just sit and complain any more.  We are on the verge of something huge, something different.  WE made change happen in this country.  The youth are taking a position of power not seen since the sixties.  We are on the verge of total take over by the youth that would make Woodstock blush.  We deliver on our promises, and when we say we moved beyond race we actually mean it.

You could call us anything, the new hippies, or beatniks, or any other unnecessary label.  We don’t need one; we are a generation of movers, thinkers, lovers and partiers.  No click dominates the decade or the school yard any more.  We are the most collective generation ever, and we are so close to going over the edge of the cliff into a wild, amazing abyss, that all we need to get started is for one person to jump.  

 

 

 I went to the bathroom to get the shower I didn’t get yesterday, if I was going to be in a car with my parents for eight hours or more I didn’t want to be the one that smelled, not so much as to not offend my parents but so that I wouldn’t be the butt of their jokes.  So I bathed, and sang while doing it.

I then dressed and was almost set to go.  While my parents where finishing off their pre road rituals, I smoked more hash and drank three mickeys.  I then snorted the final line of Vicodin and had only the weed and hash left to bring back to Sacramento.  

We then began to load the car.  While helping my dad with the cooler down the stairs, I noticed a cop car parked in the hotel lot.  I became paranoid for two seconds but saw he was taking to a woman in her hotel room doorway while I a man leaned on the other side of the car waiting to give the cop his side of the story.  

When I saw it was a domestic issue, I was relieved and a little proud of myself.  Here I was, the wanted attacker just APBed on the local news, less than twenty feet from the law, and they didn’t have a clue it was me.  I felt like John Dillinger teasing the FBI by walking into their own building in that scene from Public Enemies.  Now I truly felt everything was possible.  My mood had changed completely, I came to Humboldt a depressed lonely angsty teen, I was leaving an experienced, happy, young man.  As we backed out and passed the police car, I smiled and held my middle finger against the window.

 

It was all over now, here I was In the back seat of my parent’s Sienna again, speeding 80 miles an hour down hill towards my lame hometown, returning victorious.  I felt like I had conquered Humboldt after it tried to conquer me.  I was a totally new person.  I needed a victory anthem, I could just copy Fear and Loathing and play “Jumping Jack Flash, which I did, but I needed my own anthem, something for my story and not just a bit from someone else’s work.  My own anthem had to be my own, yes “Jumping Jack Flash” is a good song to play to celebrate my victory but I still needed my own anthem.  I settled on My Morning Jacket’s “Highly suspicious,” “Get Back” by Ludacris, and “Handlebars” by the Flobots.  So I sat there listening my victory anthems and contemplating my remaining years of high school.  It was still like a prison sentence to me, but a prison sentence that would mean total freedom upon my approaching release.  

And if that’s not enough of a sappy happy ending for you.  Just as we were leaving, I got a very unexpected text from Her, “Hi, Its me, Just wanted to say hi.  I got ur # from a friend, hope that’s okay?”

I wanted to tell Her it was the best thing that ever happened to me, but all I said was, “Its fine, How r u?”  Then I closed my phone awaiting the next message.

So that’s the tale.  That was the journey that changed my life.  A simple family getaway that turned into a run in with the stony law, a potential homicide, and a moment of redemption all in one.  I had become enlightened, empowered, and loved, and it was all thanks to the fact my sister got a job as a cook in Humboldt.

 

Now as I sat there returning to Sacramento,   speeding down hill at 80 miles per hour, high as a kite and listening to my I pod, I just leaned my head back, looked out the window, and smiled a smug victorious smile.  

That’s when a drunk driver hit us head first going 90 down the wrong side of the street.  My mother and father were killed instantly, and a metal shard got lodged into my knee.  After the accident I went into a two day coma, and when I woke up I was lucky enough to find her, holding my hand.

So what’s the lesson here?  What’s the point of going through all that shit just to lose the two most important people in my life, why even bother trying to be happy when shit like this happens, what the fuck was the point of the whole story?  Well it’s this, lives come and go, so appreciate what you got when it’s there, and don’t compare or compete.  Just love, forgive and forget, and do what you think is right, because no matter how much you demand of yourself, that’s really all you can do to be really truly happy.