I took my kids shopping today. Their mother’s (that would be my wife’s) birthday is in two days and they needed to buy a present for her. It’s kind of frustrating; they either don’t remember or don’t care, depending on how things are going, and I’m horrible at remembering these kinds of things. Nevertheless, I did have it together enough to work out a time and date on which to take them.
We sort of snuck out of the house so Linda wouldn’t see us leaving, though I’m pretty sure she has a good idea of what we were doing. We headed over to Target, where I thought for sure they’d be able to find something for her. I found a parking space (it was crowded) and told them I would wait in the car until they had picked something out, then they could text me and I’d come in and pay for the item(s) they’d decided on.
Fifteen minutes later I got a text saying they couldn’t find anything, so I told them to come on out and we’d go somewhere else. Unfortunately, there aren’t very many places to go, what with the Covid restrictions tightening because some of us are too stupid to understand science, and too selfish to care about others. We drove to the Simi Town Center, our local, primarily outdoor, mall that has been struggling ever since it opened. We walked around a bit, but just about everything was closed; many of the storefronts were empty.
We finally ended up at Marshall’s, where we had started and my oldest didn’t want to wait in line to get in (we would have been third in line.) When, after walking around for a while, we returned we were sixth in line. Regardless, it didn’t take long and within about 10 minutes we were inside. I knew Marshall’s had, in addition to clothing, lots of decorative and household items and that’s where we looked. We ended up finding a few nice things we’re hopeful she’ll like. I’m thinking she’ll just be happy they got her something.
I’m also happy I remembered. I’ve always had trouble remembering birthdays; I’ve even forgotten mine. Years ago (10 and a half to be pretty close to exact) I posted my thoughts about Facebook making it easier for people like me (maybe “men like me” would be more correct) to recall birthdays but, as I’ve got enough friends that at least one—sometimes three or four—will be celebrating on any given day, I’ve come to the conclusion I just can’t afford doing it each and every day. Relatives and close friends are different, yet I even forget or pass over wishing them a happy birthday. Maybe it’s right; maybe I’m an asshole. I’m not fit to make that call.
It’s only been a week since the protest and march, which this young woman spearheaded, took place here in Simi Valley. Anyone who’s interested should watch the six minute video in this article, where she explains how the march came about, as well as how City Councilperson and Mayor Pro Tem, Mike Judge, tried to dissuade Mikiiya from doing anything and publicly exposed her to danger. Simi is mos def changing.
Given the reputation Simi Valley has (which is only partly deserved) I’m of the opinion this march marked a watershed moment in the history of our little burgh. Simi Valley is one of the more politically conservative areas in California. It is the home of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Geegaw Emporium, as well as the venue where the police who beat Rodney King were acquitted, sparking some of Los Angeles’s worst riots.
I know many of us have been working to bring about change here in Simi, and it’s been a bit of a slog. There are some really reactionary folk here, and they’re not shy about demonstrating their anger and hatred.
PS – A GoFundMe campaign has been initiated to help Mikiiya get through college. Here’s the link, if you’d care to donate. Any amount would be appreciated, I’m sure. I just donated.
As many of my friends know, I live in Simi Valley, California. Simi is known, perhaps internationally, for two main things: The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and the Rodney King trial. Although only one of the jurors in that trial was actually from Simi, the city has the reputation of being filled with racists, and it’s not without some basis in fact.
Nevertheless, it’s a beautiful part of the world, just northwest of the San Fernando Valley and I’ve lived here for about 25 years. When I heard that a protest was being planned to support BLM and protest racism and, specifically, the murder of George Floyd, I knew I had to be there (at least for the beginning) to lend my support. I expected 40 – 50 people. Imagine my surprise when I arrived a few minutes early to find hundreds, growing to between one and two thousand by the time the actual march started. Here’s a piece from ABC Eyewitness News’s coverage of the protest.
The young woman highlighted in the article, and her friends who helped with and supported this amazing event, did an exceptional job organizing and conducting what could have been a debacle. Going back to that element of racism here in Simi, there was a contingent of residents convinced this march would end in violence and looting; so convinced they were patrolling the streets around their neighborhoods and posting in local FB community groups that they were “locked and loaded.” It was borderline comical, made tragically unfunny by the ignorant sincerity of these mental midgets. They even tried to disrupt the march with bullhorn wielding propagandists fresh from the (here’s an oxymoron) “Republican Values Center.”
The kids are continuing to organize and, happily, I’m going along for the ride. Were it up to me, I would ask they not go back to school until the election is over in November. We’re going to need a GOTV effort like we’ve never seen before. I don’t have the energy or stamina I once had but, for the first time in my sour, long life I feel assured the torch has not only been passed, but it’s been picked up . . . by millions, it would appear.
When I feed the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, They call me a communist.
~ Dom Helder Camara
Most of us would agree charity is important. There are, after all, large numbers of people who need a helping hand at times and who, without help, would fall between the cracks of society and suffer needlessly; perhaps perish as a result.
But we don’t seem to ever ask ourselves why charity is necessary; why there are always millions who haven’t enough to get by comfortably. It’s understandable in the face of natural disasters and unfortunate accidents, but more difficult to accept when it’s merely the “way things are.” I haven’t always done so myself.
Shortly after my retirement from Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, I was asked to join one of my city’s local Rotary clubs. I knew many of the city’s leaders were involved in Rotary and I also knew the club I was asked to join held a yearly Cajun & Blues festival on Memorial Day each year that was wildly successful and raised a lot of money for the community.
I was happy to join and discovered one of Rotary International’s projects was to eradicate Polio—a worthy endeavor in my estimation. I became fairly active in my club, taking on the responsibility of using social media to promote our activities and volunteering for many of the club’s activities, including providing a full Thanksgiving meal at our senior center, assembling bicycles to give to children for Christmas, and spending an entire weekend (sometimes more) during the Cajun & Blues festival.
Nevertheless, I was somewhat uncomfortable with the realization that quite a few of the members of my club were uncomfortably conservative; some of them clearly harboring deeply bigoted concepts of entire groups of people I felt were undeserving of their scorn. After all, I live in Simi Valley, home of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and also known for the acquittal of the police officers who beat the crap out of Rodney King.
I celebrated my fourth anniversary with the club in October of 2016, though I had been attending breakfast meetings for nearly six months prior to becoming an official member (there was some kind of SNAFU that held up my membership.) I had long been uncomfortable with a large segment of the members and, after the election of Donald Trump, I decided I needed to use my limited discretionary funds for something other than rubber chicken circuit breakfasts and a glossy magazine I seldom had time to read.
I tendered my resignation in December and immediately started monthly contributions to five advocacy groups I felt were more aligned with the direction I wished to see society go in. Those organizations included Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, the NAACP Legal & Defense Fund, MALDEF, and the Standing Rock Water Defenders. The last of these stopped accepting donations when they were unceremoniously kicked off the land, and I replaced them with my local Democratic club, of which I had also become a member.
So . . . my point here is that, while charity is important because many are struggling and need a helping hand, it is also an indication (a powerful one, IMO) that something is wrong with our society. Why does such a wealthy nation have such a large population of people living on the razor’s edge of existence? Why are people like Jeff Bezos allowed to amass fortunes in the billions while others are left to starve on the streets? I know it’s the logic of capitalism, but I don’t think it makes much sense from a systems or holistic view of humanity and society . . . even of economics. At twice the national poverty line (~$50K/yr) Bezos’s worth of $110,000,000,000 would bring a reasonably comfortable level of income to 2,200,000 families of four (that’s approximately 8,800,000 people.)
Many are beginning to realize income inequality is deeply hurtful to a society. Large segments of the population can’t possibly contribute as much as they’re capable of when they’re struggling to stay alive and healthy. I’m of the opinion we have a hard time understanding this because we are not conversant in the language of systems; we don’t see the interconnections between all of us and our actions and how such large segments of our population who are under stress is stressful to our society as a whole.
Whether it’s Universal Basic Income or a shift to a more socialistic economic system, I believe something needs to be done to allow as many as possible to reach closer to their full potential as contributing members of our society. Until such time, I don’t see how we can truly call ourselves “the land of the free, and the home of the brave.” The status quo is anything but freedom enhancing, and its acceptance is hardly an act of courage.
In addition to the newsletters I’ve published over the years, I’ve also done some promotional work for various businesses and reasons. This was a flyer I put together for a fundraiser at Simi Hills Golf Course, where I learned to play at 46-years-old. This means I’ve been playing golf for 26 years, which I have a hard time believing. Of course, when I became a first-time, adoptive father at 55, it definitely put a cramp in my style and I’m only now reaching a point where I think I might have time to play and practice a bit more frequently. Not sure I’ll be able to afford it, though.
I serendipitously came across this photo a few days ago and shared it with a group that’s fighting the recall of our very first progressive Latina elected to our City Council. I shared it with them not because of the irony (which is substantial) but because the guy with the Latinos for Trump sign has shown up at our City Council meetings to agitate in favor of recalling her. I’m told he’s from Apple Valley, which is well over 100 miles from Simi Valley. There were at several other “protestors” at these meetings that are from nowhere near Simi Valley.
I only recently learned the Republican Party, recognizing they can’t win control of many Western States via fair elections, have taken up this tactic of recall, which they time to occur when voter turnout is historically likely to be comparatively light. One of the primary organizers of this effort is a contributor to Red State and other right-wing publications and many believe one of her goals to be self-promotion.
Simi Valley suffers from an unfortunately deserved bad reputation for racism, thanks to the Rodney King trial which, if unfamiliar to you, you should Google. When I first retired from Rocketdyne, in 2010, I did some research on Simi. At the time, a Google search turned up essentially three things the city is known for: The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, the worst nuclear reactor meltdown (at SSFL) in U.S. history, and the Rodney King trial. The trial was the most frequently appearing result of the three.
I tried to get some of the city’s leaders to support doing something about it via targeted blogging and social media campaigns, but they didn’t understand what I was getting at, and they weren’t really interested. Now they’re doubling down on their deep animosity for anyone who doesn’t buckle under to the weight of their limited vision.
Simi Valley’s leadership is, for the most part, highly conservative. I would label them reactionary. I’m told they’re corrupt as well, though I haven’t enough knowledge to make a judgment call on that issue. I will, however, be well-educated on it soon. Stay tuned.
I think I wrote the following a couple of weeks ago. Shortly after my oldest participated in her final dance recital at Santa Susana High School, I was hit by the realization my baby is now an emancipated adult. She just got notification of her registration to vote yesterday. I was a little beside myself but, as you can tell, it passed fairly quickly, in large part due to numerous friends who were willing to listen and allow me to vent, which helped me understand what I was feeling.
As many of you know, the impending graduation and emancipation of my
oldest has hit me kind of hard with a case of “empty nest” syndrome. I
know my grief is unwarranted, especially since she’s not leaving the
house for the foreseeable future, and I know I’ll get over it; already
am. Please don’t worry about me. Two things (among many) I’ve learned so
1. My greatest sense of loss involves time and it’s having passed. “Did I do the right things?” “did I help her enough?”; “did I neglect her by paying too much attention to her younger sister, who desperately needed it (still does)?”
2. Merely talking to Aimee helps for two reasons. The first is she
reassures me I have been a good father and she feels no lack of love or
attention. That feels good. The second is related, because talking to
just about any teen with tude is often enough to make you want to cut
yourself. Doesn’t feel as good, but I’m real familiar with it.
really appreciate everyone who has reacted to, or commented on, my cries
of agony. Special thanks to those whose shoulders I cried on, both
figuratively and literally. Y’all are wonderful therapists.
The Simi Valley Democratic Club—of which I am a member, as well as the duly elected Corresponding Secretary and Chair of the Social Media Committee—had its 3rd annual Independence Day picnic this past Saturday. It is held in conjunction with our brothers and sisters in the Moorpark Democratic Club and we alternate between their City’s locations and ours. We’re right next to each other IRL.
As Corresponding Secretary, my duties range from publishing (which means writing, editing, and finding—or creating—graphics for) the club’s monthly newsletter, posting to our Facebook page and group, conducting meetings of the Social Media Committee, and a few other ancillary activities.
One of those ancillary activities is taking pictures at events I attend and, in the case of this picnic, putting together one or more useful posts for our FB page/group. Since I had taken a picture of all the elected officials who had addressed us (save for State Senator Henry Stern, who showed up late enough that I had already taken my 15-year-old, very bored, daughter home and, therefore, couldn’t take a photo) I decided to work on my Photoshop selection and layering skills. This is the result, which I posted to our page/group.
With the exception of the aforementioned State Senator (who I ghosted into the shot), these are the officials who joined us for a meal of hot dogs, chips, macaroni salad, and soft drinks/lemonade/iced tea. From left to right, they are:
My father took up golf late in life and he wanted me to golf with him. I was 15 years old, which means he had to be about 38. He wanted me to golf right-handed, but I was a dominant southpaw and I refused to do it. Reluctantly, he got me a left-handed beginner’s set of clubs. I even took lessons—if memory serves, I took one lesson from Cary “Doc” Middlecoff at what was then called The Joe Kirkwood Jr. Golf Center . It was on Whitsett Ave., just North of Ventura Blvd. It’s now called Weddington Golf & Tennis. Read the second paragraph at their website’s home page for a little history on the site.
My golfing did not last long. At 15 I had started to surf, which seemed so much more challenging at the time. Besides, golf was for old men and surfing was a young person’s sport. I gave up golf, though I hung on to the left-handed beginner’s set of clubs the old man had purchased for me. I even used them once-in-a-while to hit a bucket o’ balls.
Fast forward 31 years. I had been working at Rocketdyne for maybe three years. My first year I was a “job shopper”—a temp—working on the FMEA/CIL* document for the Space Shuttle Main Engine program, in anticipation of a return to flight after the Challenger disaster. I then was hired in as a full-time employee, working in the Fight Ops team. I was fortunate enough to be in the Rocketdyne Operational Support Center (ROSC) when Discovery lifted off from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39 on September 29, 1988.
I had helped design the layout and overall configuration of the ROSC, and being there for that launch was my reward. I didn’t know enough about the operational parameters of our engines at that time to understand exactly what I was looking at that morning, but the room was filled with displays showing engine performance as Discovery lifted off and ascended on its approximately 525 second flight to LEO.
That evening a bunch of us went to celebrate the successful launch and our nation’s return to space flight. We were elated . . . to say the least. We went across Victory Blvd. to a restaurant called Yankee Doodles. Somehow, I got into a conversation with the person who turned out to be the Manager of the SSME’s Program Office and, once he found out what my role had been (and that I had a Juris Doctorate; a Law degree) he offered me a job. After some discussion with my current management, I decided to take it.
It wasn’t long before the team I was now on decided to have a golf tournament, and they of course wanted me to play. Not because they knew anything about my golf game (how could they?) but because they needed warm bodies to show up on the course, as well as pay for the round, prizes, and food. I was reluctant; after all it had been over 30 years since I’d actually played and, in fact, I don’t believe I had ever played on a full-size course.
I decided to give it a try. I don’t remember what I did for clubs because, by then, I had rid myself of that old beginner’s set. I remember going to Simi Hills Golf Course and hitting some balls. Honestly, I can’t quite remember where that first tournament was played, but I know I got hooked . . . bad. I had my uncle’s friend make me a set of golf clubs and I began practicing with a vengeance. I cobbled together a newsletter for the course, filling it with ridiculous and comedic stories. I showed it to the General Manager and told him I could do that for them every month.
He told me to go ahead and, shortly after, I was hitting as many balls as I wanted on the range and, a bit later, going out on the course with the GM and the Head Pro – getting tips and playing lessons for free. I eventually was able to play for free as well, as long as I didn’t try to abuse the privilege by playing during peak hours. Within a fairly short time I had my index (similar to handicap) down to 12. I was well on my way to becoming a single-digit handicapper, but it was not to be.
I started having back and hip pain and, even with going to a Chiropractor and seeing my doctor about it, nothing was helping. Little did I know what was coming. Just before New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1999, I had an attack of sciatica that had my wife calling 911 to have me transported to the nearest hospital. I was on crutches for a month, and a cane for two months after that. I still experience numbness/tenderness in my left foot and don’t expect it will ever entirely heal.
Fortunately, I eventually found Robin McKenzie’s wonderful book, “Treat Your Own Back” and, after religiously doing the stretching he recommends, for weeks, I was back on the course and healing rather nicely.
Now, I don’t remember if it was before or after my back problems, but I became good friends with one of the professional golfers at Simi Hills, and he was involved with a company called Golden Tee. They had opened up a practice facility at Moorpark College and were planning on building a new golf course in the hills just below the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library here in Simi Valley.
As you may surmise from the graphic I’m including in this post, I had a really sweet deal with Golden Tee. Unfortunately, the guy on the left of this picture (his first name was Paul; I don’t remember his last name, and I think he’s moved on to that 19th hole in the sky. Suffice it to say, things got real ugly. I found the record of a court case where Golden Tee sued the Ventura County Community College Board . . . and lost. Actually, I think it was right around this time I experienced my bout of sciatica and, shortly thereafter, decided (along with my wife, of course) to adopt our first child . . . but that’s another story.
* Failure Mode and Effects Analysis/Critical Items List
I had one of those timeless moments this evening. I was on my way to pick up my vehicle, which needed some work due to a safety recall. The Honda dealership was kind enough to provide me with a creature comfort-laden Nissan Pathfinder, which I happily drove to work from the Enterprise office, and was to return to the Honda dealer, where I was headed, on the way home.
I had just exited California 118 (the Ronald Reagan freeway) at 1st Street in Simi, turning south to the dealership about a quarter mile away. As I was crossing over the freeway, the light was red and I was stopped at the apex of the arched overpass. The entire perimeter of the sky was filled with soft pink clouds, and there was a long golden streamer of cloud radiating eastward, driven by the last rays of the setting Sun. As I looked from west to east, the clouds and the edges of the sky faded from a bright to a soft pastel pink.
In the sky to the east hung an almost full Moon, its glow softened by a thin layer of clouds, and to the West a long, steady stream of vehicles moved steadily toward their destinations, their headlights forming a brilliant necklace of light. I wanted to take a picture, but a panorama would have taken time I didn’t think I had. I looked through hundreds of pink sunset pictures I googled, hoping to find something at least evocative, but nothing felt right, so I have nothing but my memory . . . and the experience.
The whole moment lasted about 10 seconds, but it was extraordinarily beautiful and felt timeless. It wasn’t all that different from some other similar experiences; after all, it was just a sunset, the Moon (yawn), and moderate freeway traffic, yet it felt eternal (for a moment 🙂 ). Weird, huh?
Since my retirement from Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne in 2010, I have spent quite a bit of energy on developing work as a social media marketer for small business, a business manager for an AI software development firm, and as an editor/proofreader for a number of business books and a couple of novels, as well as a two-year return engagement at Rocketdyne from 2015 to 2017.
I have decided to stop actively pursuing business in these fields and am now positioning myself to be a writer. I have done quite a bit of writing over the years, but I’ve never really attempted to make any money at it; at least not specifically. I’m starting out with a couple of memoirs and, currently, I’m studying the craft, creating a detailed outline and timeline, and honing my skills as a storyteller. Pretty sure I’ll be writing some fiction as well.
The views expressed herein are those of the author. Any opinions regarding the value or worth of particular business processes, tools, or procedures, whether at his former place of employment, at a current client's enterprise, or in general, are his responsibility alone.