How do you elevate public discourse

Yesterday I wrote some thoughts about #PussyGate.

The topic has infiltrated my brain and I cannot stop thinking about it. I’ve seen that Jerry Falwell Jr. is supportive of trump. Pat Robertson.

These are Christian leaders, and they aren’t giving much more than a frown to Trump. These are the people, the leaders, who should be elevating the public’s standard of morality by criticizing the man. Criticism doesn’t mean that they can’t still support him. But not criticizing him makes me think that they lack any relevance in the morality game. They should hang up their hats.

This is not the leadership that I grew up with.

When I was growing up in an evangelical Christian home, our parents, teachers, Sunday school teachers, and leaders were constantly teaching us about moral behaviors.

One time in High School, I was the president of our academic association. During an induction ceremony, each member of the association tapped new members during the induction part of the hour. Since I was president and to give a speech, I was seated on stage facing the rest of the student body. A teacher had given me a name of a student that I was to tap. We were told to locate that student in the crowd before hand so that we could tap them efficiently.

During an opening prayer, I must have kept my eyes open to search for the guy I would tap.

After the ceremony, one headmaster pulled me aside and said we needed to talk. He told me that he saw that I had my eyes open during the prayer. He explained that leadership means that when other students are watching, especially younger ones, it’s essential to do everything right. That means, closing your eyes because someone watching might misconstrue that behavior.

I felt like shit.

I still close my eyes during prayers, especially when my nieces are in the room. Even though I don’t pray to any god, I find it’s essential to be a good influence on them. I think that doing my best to expose my nieces to positive behavior, to be culturally aware, is positive. Of course if we ever had a discussion, I would gladly explain my position on god. But that’s not on the table when all they know is each meal is opened with a prayer.

We were also taught to respect women, sex, and our speech about both in both private and in public. To this day, I’m not sure I’ve ever participated in so-called locker room talk. I’ve heard some pretty shitty things said. And I’ve even asked guys to stop talking bullshit.

I’ve been on photo sets with women as naked and shaven as the day they were born, and I go out of my way to make sure I don’t do or say creepy shit … why? Because I was taught that leaders, upright men and women, don’t talk in a way that might upset another person.

We treat people the way we want to be treated.

Right, Jesus?

We were taught that was as essential to act above reproach even when no one was watching, because “God” was always watching. He was everywhere. That’s what we were told. That’s what we believed. I couldn’t masturbate without a level of guilt that Jesus was watching.

I still feel guilty when I think some thoughts. It’s residual conditioning from the discipline of my youth.

Our teachers taught us that immoral thoughts were as sinful as actions. In fact, there was no difference in the sin of thought versus action.

How many times was I told that? Let me count the times!

Another time after a basketball game, my coach gave me an earful after I lost my temper on the court. Losing one’s temper was a complete lack of proper public behavior.

But these same coaches, teachers, parents and leaders aren’t so much as criticizing a man so rife with sin, whether or acted upon or thought, that their hypocrisy is absolutely befuddling me.

That makes me wonder about this entire process of raising kids a certain way, but once they’re adults, let certain folks do whatever the fuck they want.

As long as a “law” isn’t broken, all’s fair in love and war and presidential campaigns.

Where are the leaders in the church, where are the teachers and parents who should be pulling Trump to the side and calling him out? Either publicly or privately?

Do you want to know why I was criticized for certain behavior? Because of “love.” The people around me wanted me to succeed. To guide the greater good, having people behave less like animals and more like civilized people makes for a better public discourse. When you’re part of a team, the leaders of the team might look at a weaker player and say, “Hey, you gotta improve this aspect of your play.” It’s not to piss that person off, it’s to help the rest of the team look better. To help the rest of the team win.

So why is it considered poor behavior to criticize Trump?

He’s a part of a team, a team that is getting leveled and battered for being the lousiest losers in the country.

If I could pull the whole of the world aside, I would advise them to behave less like quiet animals quietly enabling people like Trump to raise their standard of public and private behavior to a higher, less, well, um … a less deplorable standard.


It has come to this, the #ComeTrumPence is going to make me vomit #Trump #PussyGate

Like the rest of America, the leaked recording of Trump floored me.

It was like a cataclysmic world event, and I wanted to be first in line to consume the fallout as it rolled out. I scoured websites, FOX News included, looking for information and updates. I half assumed more Republicans would bail on Trump. And I’m not surprised that so many people whom I love are somehow still supporting him, namely through Facebook posts or reposts.

I have not and cannot seem to find any kind of understanding why and how anyone would support Trump, apart from the idea that supporting Hillary would be completely un-acceptable. And I kind of get that. Why? Because I was raised conservative. And there’s not a critical eye that most conservatives can throw onto any situation.

I scratch my head with the rest of the Trump unsupporters wondering how he got this far. I wonder how many books, articles and talking heads will examine this phenomenon for years to come.

For the most part, I’m quietly voting for Hillary. I make no effort to defend her past. If nothing else, I’m very critical of her. It would be a full-time job to completely dig into all the ins and outs of what people criticize her for.

I don’t think of her as the lesser of two evils. Trump should be disqualified from running for such an office. His actions, his demeanor, his track record continue to render him a big buffoon.

Had there been a more identifiable Republican in the race, I could have given them a fair shake at possibly winning my vote in November. Trump lost my vote forever when he made the comment about McCain and how disgraceful it was that he was fucking captured.

Really? A war veteran. A POW. A fucking patriot and a hero?

In whose mind is this kind of talk defensible, let alone coming from a “republican” the party that stands so proudly on the more-patriotic-than thou platform.

This election season has been nothing but a nightmare for me.

When a family member expresses support via social media for Trump or even for Hillary, I first wonder, “Why do you have to do this publicly?” We all know that this election is causing more and more division within this country. It makes me think people want to piss off half of their friends for nothing other than the thrill of pressing “Post” and seeing a couple awkward “likes.”

And now there’s this reprehensible #PussyGate bullshit.

I just looked at Facebook and saw how many Christian grandfathers with grandchildren, Christian fathers of little girls and boys, who find it okay to support a man identifying himself as the candidate to lead this country to “greatness” and at fifty fucking nine years old he is on a recording saying that he tried to fuck a married woman and that it’s okay to grab women by their pussies.

What the fuck.

And then the number of women who support the culture that allows this?


And women supporting Trump? How is this possible?

Republicans, especially evangelical “conservatives,” the self-declared masters of morality with their incessant insistence that they alone hold the key to pleasing the unseen god of the universe by embracing and holding Holy Bibles above their heads is supporting a disgrace of a man who has done more to violate Biblical values than any man I’ve ever met, and they have the gaul to support  a man who has mocked women, Americans with disabilities, veterans, judges, immigrants (like my own father), the working poor, 400 lb computer geeks, Muslims, Jews, refugees, and the list grows and bloats every day of every week as we near November.

Yes, we’ve watched Hillary, a career politician get caught in lies. Her email server is terrible. She’s probably done some horrendous things in support of her husband’s indiscretions. I happen to know women quite closely who have done the same thing.

We all know how to tell if a politician is lying, don’t we? When their mouths are open?

Are we all this stupid?

I’m appalled that we are okay with anything politicians get away with. But we live in a country overwrought with concepts of forgiveness for everyone except our enemies despite what Jesus ostensibly said about 70 times 7. Or rich people and camels. Or feeding the poor. Helping the sick and the destitute.

For almost twenty years, I’ve lived with a lot of anger regarding how men, namely Christian men, Christian business men, married Christian business men who go on trips in America and abroad, and they fuck and rape young, often very underage women who were sold into slavery and prostitution by their own fathers.

This is the type of man Trump is. A business man who has shown no remorse about not paying taxes, about sexual immoralities, about cheating, lying and deceiving to make a buck. And maybe that’s why so many men with such disgusting proclivities and abhorrent fantasies support him. They want to be him, a man who does what he wants and gets away with it.

What a leader.

What a con-artist, misogynistic, load of bullshit loser, mother fucking asshole.

Only a supporter of Trump could look at him and misconstrue “winning” with such a loser mentality.

The Republicans can’t claim they’ve cornered the market on moral superiority when their candidate for leadership can’t find his way out of a paper bag labeled “right & wrong.”

I’m a bit nauseous right now from hashing all this out. I think I might go throw up now.

I turn to you

rosie mae _0175-

“I ask you to turn to each other, not against each other as we move forward. Let us support one another. Let us help heal one another.”

– Loretta Lynch, July 8, 2016

Agoraphobia is getting more and more attractive.

I’m starting to have nightmares on a regular basis about murders. Not to self diagnose and to diagnose America … but I think we’re all suffering from PTSD.

I’m hoping that I wake up and this was all a bad dream.

Last night, a sniper took out five cops and injured more. This week, two more black men die with phone video to show the world. Just this week, a friend of mine — a person whom I only know through social media —  was murdered in her home in North Carolina. I refer to her in this old vLog I did back in 2009. Her name was Wendy Rae. See this article here for information. It’s fucking awful.

Fuck, man, I’m still trying to get over that attack last August when Bryce Williams shot and killed those two reporters while working. I’m still trying to get over the Charleston massacre, let alone the Pulse Nightclub bullshit and November 13 in Paris.

When I ride down the street on my bike with Tina, I look at people in cars and wonder if they’re going to execute a random act of violence against us. It plays out in my head. It scares me.

Shit, a lot of stuff plays out in my head.

I hate it.

Social media makes it worse. You have friends ranting and raving from their stereotypical points of view. You have the shitheads that no matter what happens, they’ll side with the NRA and rant against the president. Then you have the folks that scream, “Do something about the gun problem!”

Who the fuck knows what the problem is.

We’re living in a goddamn powder keg. While I am fond of this president and the last eight years, I know so many who aren’t. And that building tension is about to explode no matter who wins the chair in November.

If Hillary gets it, the rednecks and racists will scream bloody murder. They’ll collectively say, “We’ve already had eight years of a black man. Now we gotta deal with this white-y fucking bitch who broke the law and shit. That’s what FOX told me!”

And if Trump gets it, the rest of us will eloquently bitch and moan for four years using reasonably decent grammar and educated words.

I doubt I’m alone when I say that I would love to win the lottery, move out of the country and hide away from all this chaos for a while. I need a goddamn break from violence and negativity.

When I was in France a few weeks ago, there was one night that Tina and our travel partners went to dinner while in Marseille. The place we chose was a bad choice. And we got stuck with tourist level food at not so great prices. The night’s conversation was loaded with negative comments, and everyone was damn sure not to leave even the smallest tip.

So I went to the bathroom after we were leaving, and I told everyone I’d meet them outside. When I came back down from the toilets, I gave our waiter, who was very patient with us and not a bad waiter for sure, a tip. He did, after all, deal with our table’s lack of French. We were a bit loud. And he hooked us up with another table’s unfinished bottle of white wine.

Instead of going back with everyone, I told them politely I needed to take a walk for a minute. So I walked around the Old Port and got my bearings. This was my trip to celebrate my birthday. I also think that traveling abroad means embracing the negative experiences and doing one’s best to stay positive.

You know that old idea that you can give someone a swell of compliments, but one negative word can or might carry ten times more weight than all those positive words?

I feel the same way about how negativity affects every day life.

And boy are we affected.

I took the above photo last week, and I find it particularly apropos given all the events over the last year, or more … Racism, violence, bigotry …

Whether we know about it more because of social media or we’re living in an exceptionally violent time, I fucking need to take a walk and get away from it for a while. But I can’t seem to get far enough away from it all.

Man, I’m spent.

I’ve decided I need to be a force for positivity in my world. So when Loretta Lynch gave her speech today, I took notes. And that quote up there meant everything to me at this particular time … when I want to be on the blame team. I want to be negative. But my brain can’t take it anymore. My heart either.

I turn to you. And not against you. 


Oh la la … AirBnB slammed a big, unhappy dent into the side of my birthday celebration

Last September I turned 40.

For Tina’s 40th birthday, we did a big trip to Bali.

For mine, I wanted one more trip to France.

Several years ago, Tina and I decided to only stay in AirBnBs when we travel. We found that the “living like a local” experience is far more valuable than living like a tourist out of hotels. When you can buy local fare and cook for yourself, it enriches experiences.  We’ve AirBnB’d in the states and abroad, including New York, California, France, Turkey and Italy.

We’ve stayed in homes with art on the walls that probably cost more than our condo. Splurging a bit on better AirBnBs is partly on purpose. Not only do we want to live like locals, we want to experience living in a place that is better than the our life.

Tina’s attention to leaving the apartments tidy and clean has landed us reviews from all the owners we’ve rented from about how clean we are.

This trip may change our view of AirBnB, of their philosophy of placing people in people’s lovely homes, and also of their greediness to raise their annual revenue rather than work with their customers in an honest and well-intentioned manner.

During this last trip, we traveled with my oldest and dearest friend Aaron and his wife Jackie. We started the trip in an amazing apartment in Paris’s 16th arrondissement for three nights. At that apartment, the owner couldn’t meet us to check us in, so her good friend Robin met us. He showed us the apartment. Gave us not on the keys to the space, but to the area. He recommended a variety of restaurants, expensive to not. He recommended where to find markets and stores. He was incredibly thorough and kind.

Three days later, we drove to Normandy and stayed two nights in Caen. Our AirBnB owner met us with smiles and gusto. She gave us the keys, gave us an extensive tour of the apartment, the lights, the nuances, etc. She gave us advice on Mt. St. Michel. Where to go off the beaten path. She was incredibly kind and thorough. It felt like all AirBnB experiences to date.

Marseille is where the AirBnB train derailed

For the Marseillaise AirBnB, we chose lower price option and excellent location en lieu of appearance and a well-reviewed apartment. The apartment was situated right off of Marseille’s Vieux Port with amazing views of the area. Traveling is expensive, and this place was just a little lower on the scale of pricing.

When we booked the apartment, we noticed it no reviews yet on AirBnB. We assumed that the price reflected the owner’s need to build up some steam within the AirBnB community. Tina checked the listing frequently after booking, and she noticed some positive reviews trickling in, which seemed to set her (and our) mind(s) at ease.

As the dates approached, the owner sent Tina correspondence explaining that he could hook us up with a driver to pick us up at the airport for $80 each direction. We found that the rate was  a little high, but we thought that maybe we would accept a one-way ride and then decide later if we needed to book the return trip.

Despite Tina’s insistence to the owner that we only wanted to pay for one way, he kept sending her a payment request for $160. Frustrated, she almost gave up. Then he finally sent a bill for $80 less than 24 hours before we were to arrive in Marseille. The owner told us that the driver would be waiting for us upon our arrival, holding a sign and all that cool stuff.

When we arrived in Marseille, the driver called us to say he was running late, due to a fuel strike in the country. We waited about 10 minutes for him.

The driver apologized and we all loaded into his van to head into the city. He was friendly and gave us a history as we drove, showing us where Zinedine Zidane grew up, and other information about the area.

When we arrived at the apartment, he pulled up on to a curb and we unloaded all our luggage. He went into a local restaurant at the base of the building and later came out explaining that the keys weren’t there and we would have to wait for them to be delivered by someone. He had no idea when the guy would arrive, but he said we could find something to eat at the restaurant we were in front of. We were concerned about all our luggage, and he said we could leave our bags in the restaurant. Since this was the case, we ended up staying and eating at the restaurant whose specialty was sardines.

About the time that our food was coming out, the representative with the keys walked up. He was about 40 minutes late. Tina and I left Jackie and Aaron and we walked upstairs to check in. While I was getting my luggage, Tina had a difficult time communicating with him. When I walked up, Tina was telling the representative that I spoke French so maybe that would be better than her trying to talk to him in English. But when I tried to speak to him, I couldn’t seem to communicate in French either.

So he didn’t speak French or English? 

Inside the building, we crammed into a small elevator and rode to the 6th floor. The elevator stopped on the middle of the landing between the 5th and 6th floors. So you had to walk up or down a few stairs depending on your floor. We went up to six and he let us in to the main room. The guy kind of pointed at the kitchen and the views in the main room. One of our first questions everywhere is: “What’s the WiFi password?” In very broken French, he told me. I finally found a pen and made him right it down on a paper towel that we had brought in our luggage from the last apartment. He struggled with writing as well. I wondered if the was a bit special.

Within a minute or two, we were on our way out the door again without a proper tour of the space. We assumed we’d have to get our bearings when we came back up with Aaron and Jackie. I mean, what is there to know? There were doors to two rooms and it appeared to look like it did in the photos. I looked in one of the bedrooms from the threshold, but didn’t go inside.

If anything, we felt very uncomfortable with the guy showing us around, and figured it’d be better to let him go, finish our lunch and get back upstairs with the rest of our luggage.

Big mistakes are elephant shit-sized blunders

Once back in the apartment we got to see how flawed it was. We laughed with Jackie and Aaron that this rental was definitely going to be considered a location to sleep, and that we did NOT rent it for its appearance. The apartment felt more like dorm rather than a home.

There was an orange leather couch in the main room with a base that was covered in black duct tape. When I bumped the base with my suitcase, orange powder fell to the floor from underneath.

There was a light dangling from wires on the terrace. No fixture.

The hot water heater was left with water in it and a thick layer of residue had grown on the sides of the container. I had to scrub it out, and tried not to share that information with Jackie and Aaron, because they probably wouldn’t want to drink the coffee made from the water it heated to put in the French Press.

In the bedroom we slept in, there were two random red stains on the wall opposite of the bed that looked like someone spilled something and tried to wipe it down.

Had we had more foresight, we would have photographed the stains and the water heater and sent them to the owner, as well as documentation for the light, more complaints regarding the guy who let us in.

The day before we checked out, we decided to contact the original driver to take us back to the airport, because Uber rides were coming up at 40 euros and there wasn’t an Uber Black option, only Uber X, which may or may not hold all four of us and our luggage.

We contacted our owner, and he sent us an apology for the keys guy and offered us a ride at 40 euros, half the cost of the trip to the apartment.

We took him up on it.

In our communication, we failed to ask what to do with the keys. So at 7:15 a.m., we decided it was best to leave the keys in the door of the apartment. On the inside of course. It was something I did all the time when I lived in Montpellier, France back in college.

The straw that broke this trip’s back. 

There was no going back on the decision to leave the keys, and once landed in Paris, Tina’s phone blew up with texts, messages and voicemails from the owner. At first he claimed we needed to pay the fee to have a locksmith come out, because he had no other keys.

Then he found that the key was in the door so we needed to pay over 1200 euros to pay for an entire new door and lock system.

Then he sent us another message to say that “Good news, the cost is only 110 euros” only to respond minutes later to say that the person found red stains on the wall that had not yet been noticed, and that we needed to pay to repaint the walls.

To shorten the long story, we dealt with the owner on several phone calls and in messages. To me, his calls felt like harassment. Instead of discovering the information, and figuring out how to deal with it, he impetuously called us and immediately sent money requests.

He also sent over what appeared to me to be newly manufactured documents explaining that the guy who met us (40 minutes late) at the apartment to check us in, would meet us at the apartment to check us out. I’m not sure if the owner realized how stupid that made him look, though, because he made no mention of it in any of his correspondence when discussing check out at 7:15 a.m. He only sent us a message that a driver would pick us up at 7:15.

Finally after arguing with the impassioned owner, we involved AirBnB and they started mediating the issue. I never got the feeling that AirBnB really read our side of the argument and I was shocked that their resolve included asking us to pay half of the door cost. When I read through the company’s policies and about their inordinately high revenue, I felt that this issue, arising solely by miscommunication from the owner, deserved nothing from us. This issue belonged to him, his insurance and maybe with AirBnB’s host guarantee. The issue was cut and dry a failure on the part of the owner to designate a place to leave the keys.

This conversation is easily one of the first subjects that comes up at checkin. It usually goes: 1: “What’s the WiFi password?” 2: “Where’s the bathroom?” and 3) “What do you want us to do with the keys when we leave?”

When the owner sends an idiot to meet you almost an hour after your agreed checkin, the failures point only at the owner. The owner’s ambassador didn’t show us the apartment. He simply gave the keys and dashed.

I do think that if it weren’t for his discovery of the red on the walls, that AirBnB would likely have better sided with us, but with the accusation of the walls, plus the lock, AirBnB’s pathetic customer service placaters department thought it was impressive to require us to pay half the door bill.

Blazing accusations and impetuous, exorbitant bill requests

Imagine if you were on vacation, and the owner of a hotel or place you were staying kept calling you, claiming you owed him $1500 for something you honestly didn’t do on purpose and then kept calling with irritated and erratic claims that you did things you didn’t do? In fact, he was blaming you for his own inferiorities, his own mistakes, his own failures.

$1500. Wouldn’t that make you sick?

$1500. For something you didn’t do.

It would derail your world. Put you in a tailspin. Stress you to the nines.

This demand for $1500, dear reader, was harassment.

Fortunately, time and reality set in, and the price dropped to 110 euros. But I believe that this issue always only pertained to the owner and to AirBnB.

The loss of time, the stress, the attention to clearing your name would occupy your life, thoughts, ideas, perspective. No matter how hard we tried, we were occupied with this experience and spent valuable vacation time dealing with incomplete information, redundant requests for inflated sums of money, and an owner who is nearly as incompetent as he is a failure.

The whole reason we choose AirBnB is because we have consistently felt that all the places we’ve stayed felt like a home. In the last place we stayed in Paris, the owner described the apartment as her “baby.” She was proud of it, and that pride transfers onto us, her guests, just like it does with every apartment, except the one in Marseille.

This wasn’t someone’s home. That piece of shit was someone’s rental property. And instead of living up to the philosophy and standards that we’ve grown to love about AirBnB, it represented everything that’s wrong with commercialism and growing popularity. The Marseille property is the sellout, and I imagine it’s signifying the fall of a company like AirBnB, who is greedier for cash revenue rather than honoring their own legacy of placing weary travelers into honest to goodness people’s homes that they take care of like they are their own children.



Embarking into my forties never felt so good

Forty years ago today, I was born in Charlotte, North Carolina in them United States of America.

Flowers were blooming. Choirs were singing. Swarms of bees were buzzing. Beautiful women were leaping for joy. Babies were hiccuping. Dogs were barking.

Cats were meowing. Children were scribbling in coloring books. Mothers were shopping in Sears catalogs. Fathers were dreaming of a way to contact women to have affairs without their wives knowing about it.

Trash was being collected. Beers were being drunk. A pair of lips tugged on a cigarette. LSD trips were took. Pot was smoked.

Wars were waging. Daughters were being sold into the sex trade. Animals were going extinct.

It was another day the earth was swirling around the sun. One star of zillions in this great big universe.

The pale blue dot gained a Puerto Rican, who would later be adopted into a family of Dutch heritage. He’d grow up, become a photographer, marry a beautiful woman and have to pinch himself every day for the good fortune of landing on two feet.

Forty years is a landmark. We measure life in lots of ways. We measure in meals, in naps, in time between meals and naps. We measure in snacks, in weight, in fat and distance. We measure life in seconds at times, others in minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years and and in times like this … decades.

In my first decade, my mind was getting packed with information, stimulation, and socialization. It was a decade of playtime, schoolwork, homework, Sunday school, friends, family, and wonder. My body developed from baby to pre-teen. The years were laden with discipline, pain, thrill, excitement and love.

I didn’t have one iota of an original thought that influenced anyone else. I believe that I had creative, original thoughts but I didn’t have the wherewithal to write anything down. Children are, quite possibly, the most creative people around us. I felt creative in those years. Sometimes I approach work with the idea that I must harness my first decade self in my approach to current projects.

In my first decade, I held a camera or two in my hands during that time. My second decade was filled with more play time, more homework, more Sunday School, church, religion, faith, friends. It was marked by wonder and creativity. I found a written voice and a visual one. I loved and lost a first love. I wrote, photo’d, video’d. I traveled.

I explored original thought, all of which were tainted and steered by religious thought, traditions, pangs of guilt and adolescent craze.

In my third decade, I was playing, traveling, trading faith for nonbelief, finding new friends, removing old ones, and wondering about what was next. I was succeeding and failing. I was both a rebel and not one. I was perpetually scared of letting others down. Individuality was an internship turning into a mediocre part-time job.

In my forth decade, I still played, I traveled more. I retired faith completely. Found more new friends and lost other ones. People my age were dying. I got married. And all the while, I constantly kept wonder in the mix. I tried making individuality a full-time job, but found it to be a disappointment to others.

And now I start the fifth decade. Today. Labor Day Twenty Fifteen. And wonder remains. Individuality still remains a mystery to me.

I’m inspired by all that’s behind me to create all that’s in front of me.

With another decadal notch comes a tinge more concern/thought about mortality. It inspires a sense of determination to create more. To seize the day’s seconds, minutes, and hours in a white knuckled grip and give everything, family, friends, creativity and love more of a crying chance.  To love more. To hate less.

Yesterday is an investment into tomorrow.

Without the promise of afterlife of any kind, it casts a different shade of urgency. Without an afterlife, there’s no casual dilly dallying like our dog Talulah when she’s in the yard smelling every stump, tree, patch of grass and pole. When you’re blessed with a creative spirit, there is a constant insistence on making new, then moving on to the next project.

My dad tells me often that I am part of a bigger plan. A divine one. And I understand where he’s coming from. And it pains me when I disagree, tacitly or directly. I don’t want to disagree with anyone. Not even a movie or music that someone else likes and I don’t.

But if a divine being had influence over how well things worked out for me, that same divine being ignored/hurt/maimed the thousands upon thousands upon millions who wished for the same, similar or safety, and came up short. Way short.

When I revel in a creative photo, I remember a child dying of leukemia.

When I bask in the success of a big paycheck, I think of the child sold into slavery.

When I hold the woman of my dreams, I can’t help but consider all who have loved, lost, and lost again.

This so-called divinity that watched over my life, stood by with crossed arms and a nose in the air when so many … so so fucking many — who probably even attempted to love this being — he ignored them, their prayers, their wishes.

Why would a being like that care about me? A guy who gives no mention, no thought to its existence or involvement. No thanks?

I guess — from some standpoints — you could call that the definition of faith.

But that would be mental gymnastics.

The way I see it, I got here by inexplicable luck. Maybe not inexplicable. I worked my ass off. I’ve worked my ass off. Over the weekend, I gave my photographer expertise away to a friend. The results were BEAUTIFUL. My pay is results. Money helps me keep a roof over my wife’s head, food in my dog’s bowl and litter in my cat’s box. It keeps gas in my tank so I can visit my family, whom I love and cherish dearly.

Art, love, life … they are my passions.

I love the process of the creative spirit. I love to create and be creative.

It’s the process, not always the outcome, that drives that spirit.

Without children of my own, the only legacy I have to create an afterlife is creating things that outlive me. Whether they are thoughts, ideas, images, motion pictures, or other art.

I feel good about my position. I feel good about my marriage, my life, my friends, my professional network.

I feel good about the art I’ve been creating, and the reception to it.

I feel good about my health.

I’m inspired by my friends and family. I’m reminded too often by the passing of my loved ones around me. And I’m goddamn determined to do everything I do as well as I possibly fucking can.

Hey, Forty! Let’s do this thing.


Spark Energy might not be a scam, but their business practices are suspect … a review, a recorded customer service call, and you

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Like many Americans, we get door-to-door salesman from time to time. Last fall, we actually welcomed a roaming door-to-door sales guy in from Spark Energy. Why? Because the sales guy was a friend named Mike. I worked with his girlfriend on a photoshoot and I used to see him every once in a while at my local watering hole. I tend to put trust in friends, basically because I want the same in return.

Spark Energy is a company that claims to work with your energy utilities to provide a cheaper rate than actual utility can, by selling you gas or electricity at reduced costs.

The sales meeting was suspicious to both Tina and me, but in the end, we accepted what this guy Mike was saying was truthful, because who lies to their friends?

By the way, the funniest thing was that the sales guy was not allowed to step inside our apartment. He did the entire transaction from the threshold of our place. “But we’re friends,” I told him. “Come on in.”

“Nope. I can’t,” He explained. “I could get into trouble.”

After he explained what seemed to be a good deal,  we signed up last September. We didn’t see much of a difference in our bills. We were contracted to use them for a year, so I was fine with sticking it out till the end. We weren’t losing money after all either.

Status quo is fine with me.

And the early termination of the contract would be $50.

But then we received our gas bill this month for over double last month’s bill. Further examination showed that it was an adjustment fee from Spark Energy. Tina called People’s Gas first, and they said it was Spark’s charge. She called Spark, and a robotic customer service rep kept explaining that the charges were an accumulation of three month’s of Spark Energy charges. He explained that when Spark sent invoices to People’s Gas, PG rejected the invoices.

The charge after three months of rejection was for $112.63.

So if you divide $112 by 3 and add that to our monthly bill, that’s almost $40 more each month.

So Tina was on the line talking circles with the customer service rep trying to understand where this charge came from and how to avoid it in the future. While she was on the phone, I googled Spark Energy and found a lot of websites like this or this from BBB with lots of negative reviews. On a Consumer Affairs site, Spark Energy representatives responded to each complaint and made some resolution statement.

The Better Business Bureau has not accredited them.

So I should have done my homework, but — like I said — I want to trust my “friends.”

What ended up being the kicker was Spark Energy’s own website. Get this.

On their front page, they claim to have a 5.0 customer service approval rating. I’m not statistician, but I read that to mean that no one, not one person, has given a negative review.

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But if you go into their comments and ratings, there are many ratings lower ratings than a 5. They apparently only keep about 22 comments at a time, because I can’t imagine a company has only 22 comments in all its 10 years of business.

Below is in fact what their ratings are based on 22 responses at the time of this writing.

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So their site isn’t exactly a very ethically sound one, don’t you think?

The guy that Tina spoke to finally agreed to give her to a supervisor. And I took the phone from Tina. I learned a trick recently that helped with a dispute with our bank over a $50 charge: I record my phone call.

My hope was to get to the bottom of the charge. And when the guy told me what he told Tina, I would cancel my subscription to Spark Energy and also ask them to waive the $50 early termination fee.

Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t get that shit waived. If you keep these guys on the line until you’re blue in the face, you will get what you want.

So … if you can stand hearing me stumble and bumble over my words … I’m posting our conversation below. I feel a little badly about calling him a liar, but it was a moment of weakness. I needed more leverage, and I thought I had a better argument going into the “lie” statement.

You gotta give the guy props, though. He never lost his cool with me.

All in all, we got what we wanted: to get out of the contract and to get the fee waived.

This is certainly a lesson learned. Don’t trust door-to-door without doing my homework.

Do yours as well. If one of these guys comes to your door, just do a quick google of their company before signing on the dotted line.

I couldn’t edit the clip for this posting, but I’ll revise it soon and upload it. Edwin, the customer service supervisor doesn’t pickup until about 0:30.