Letter To My Son

(10 days ago – after 18 wonderful years – we dropped our son off at college; it is still too raw for me to write about the day itself, but I wanted to share with you the letter I stuck in his hand as I hugged him goodbye and tried not to let him see the tears welling in my eyes)

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(above: on the drive over….below: 18 years before the drive over…)

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My dearest Rafael,

I’m sitting in the London apartment we rented, and am just beginning a letter which I will give you when you leave home for college.

This will be a random laundry list of thoughts – but you are not allowed to throw them away!  (I WILL check!)

Around The Horn: Stop That Thief!

Today I’d like to address a sensitive subject: childhood thievery. 

Not kids being stolen off the street or depressing crap like that, but the stuff you stole as a child (and please, do not tell me you never took a five-finger discount when you were a kid).

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Let’s use a cut-off age of ten years old. 

I remember stealing two things: packs of gum (various, but especially Bubble Yum) and the fancy metal caps off car tire valves.  They were the “hip” thing to have for your bicycle tires, and I didn’t have the money for them.   Soooooo….I cruised the parking lot of Sears until I found a car with shiny silver valve caps, crouched down, and stole a pair for my bike.

Letter To A Douchebag

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There are many ways to identify douchebags: their open shirts, their indoor sunglasses, their liberal use of hair product, but what about their parking habits?

I hate people who park in other people’s reserved spaces.  That whole sense of entitlement, of thinking the rules don’t apply to you.  Ugh.  And then there are those people who straddle the yellow dividing lines, hogging up two spots.  And don’t get me started on the goons who park illegally in handicapped spots – in my book, you’ve just booked a seat on the karmic express to hell.

So why on earth did I receive this charming letter the other day?

Meeting Jello Biafra

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He was standing against the wall, beer in hand, talking to a much younger blonde woman.  But it was getting late, and I was tired – if I wanted that autograph, I had to make my move.

Jello Biafra (former front man for the Dead Kennedys, political prankster and activist, founder of Alternative Tentacles Records, and all around punk rock royalty) was DJ-ing at my little dive bar, The Ruby Room, and I had vowed I would get the man to sign a couple of records.  I felt okay about this: after all, I had restrained myself from bringing ALL six of the LP’s I own, not to mention the handful of 45’s.

Jello’s work mattered to me.  Still does.

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Kicking Out The Homeless: Why I’m Kinda Okay With This

In the city where I live, there is a spit of land by the shoreline where people take their dogs on walks, let their children get their feet wet, and where an estimated 30 homeless people are living.

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Just this week, the city reached a settlement with the homeless, agreeing to pay each of them $3000 in return for a promise that they leave and not return to the property, which is owned by the city.

The legal issue is federal and state disability laws and Fourth Amendment property protections (which include shopping carts filled with stuff), versus the city’s “anti-camping” ordinance, the city’s way to prevent the homeless from squatting.

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Is It Art?

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Hmm.  Okay.  A dorm room fridge with a Black Flag sticker on it.

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Well, let’s see….

…it’s in a museum.

…it’s in a nice plexiglass box.

…a label describes the piece (Kaz Oshiro, “Small Fridge #5 (Black Flag)”, acrylic, bondo, canvas, 2005)

So, yes, it must be art…right?

Abstinence Totally Works – If You Want To Get Pregnant

Question: what’s the connection between “abstinence only” sex education programs in high school and normal human behavior?

Answer: super high teen pregnancy rates, yay!

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In Tunica, Mississippi (hey, it’s not my fault if Mississippi keeps walking into stereotypes), the sex ed lesson plan goes like this:

Should Crazy Cat Ladies Go To Jail?

The woman in this photo is being re-tried on animal abuse charges.  Her name is Jan Van Dusen.

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Just around the corner from our house there is a “crazy cat lady house.”  It’s tucked behind wild, unmanaged shrubs, the paint on the modest bungalow is peeling, and there are usually three or four cats – no collars – wandering through the front yard. I’ve never seen the owner of the house, but we have good reason to suspect that our cat, Spunky, who we found abandoned in our backyard with part of the umbilical cord still attached and her eyes still shut, looking like a rat or tiny ewok, might be the offspring of one of the cat lady’s cats.

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So: should crazy cat ladies with too many cats be arrested for animal abuse?

A “Super Awesome” Surprise

I went for the vinyl, I stayed for the awesomeness.

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The Oakland Museum of California is having an exhibit on vinyl records, so naturally I had to go and compare my collection to theirs.  That show turned out to be a bit of a bust for me, but right next to it, ten steps away in another wing of the building, was a show I hadn’t heard of:

Super Awesome: The Art of Giant Robot.

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Life’s Curveballs

Here’s why I’m never allowed to complain again – even silently, even just in my head – when Starbuck’s has run out of my customary multi-grain bagel, and perhaps even served the substitute plain bagel with cream cheese instead of the butter I requested.

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In fact, here’s why I’m not allowed to complain about anything ever again.  As I was chomping listlessly on that plain bagel, I glanced through the paper and read the story of a 17 year old boy named Rufus Wollo.

Rufus Wollo, 17, , 17,  James Logan High School Union City