Thursday, January 23, 2014


The United States has about 4.5% of the world’s population, but commands 21.8% of the world’s GDP.  The average per capita income in the US is $42,693 (or $20.53/hr for a regular, full-time job).  The poverty line is about $23,050 (or $11.08/hr).  Not a single state has a minimum wage that meets or exceeds this poverty line. Of the states, Washington has the highest minimum wage at $9.19/hr (or so, which means $19,115/yr or about 83% of the poverty line even when working 40 hrs/wk).

1)      Productivity has increased significantly; part of this is technological, but the greater portion of it came directly from employees.

2)      Corporate profits are at an all-time high.

3)      Wealth distribution change leans heavily towards the wealthier people.

4)      These trends appear set to continue.
a)      Real income for employees is much lower than it used to be (adjusted for inflation).

b)      Poverty lines were developed from subsistence-only survival wages, and are not reality-checked to changing living priorities or automatically adjusted for inflation.

c)       The majority of employees on minimum wage are not teenagers or secondary wage-earners; for them (for better or worse) that “menial” job is a career, not just a stepping stone.

d)      The majority of employees on minimum wage are not working full time (32hrs or more per week), and many of them do not have regular schedules that would permit having multiple part-time jobs.
e)      The vast majority of minimum-wage work is not exportable and cannot be automated easily, as it’s manual or service work, leisure and hospitality.
I think:
A)     No employer should receive incentives to reduce hours worked by an employee—such as preferring two part-time employees instead of one full-time employee to avoid paying for benefits.

B)      No person working a full time job should need government assistance, regardless of the low qualifications.

The fact of the matter is that there are some people who simply won’t be able to “negotiate” a better wage based on their importance to the company’s mission, their unique qualifications, or any other criteria.  These employees may be very replaceable, in menial jobs of very little visibility.  This does not justify in any way the employer paying substandard wages that will not support a basic but fairly stable life.  Nobody suggests these people should make wages that support Cadillacs and 85” 3D LED TV’s, but having a minimum wage that is lower than the poverty line when the poverty line was specifically designed merely to cover the minimum calorie intake required for survival and was never meant to be maintained for anything but a very short term, is on the one hand shameful and on the other a terrible business practice.  Suggesting otherwise implies agreement to subsidizing those wages with government assistance to meet basic needs, or rejecting those people to the scrap-heap of humanity where we know they cannot support themselves and we’re ok letting them starve to death.  This is not an exaggeration.

A decision needs to be made one way or the other: support them and suffer the weight of the less educated, less capable and less smart around your neck as you work hard at your job; or let them starve and carry their deaths on your soul.  Only 4.5% of employees make minimum wage, though plenty more still make less than poverty wage though they be over the minimum wage.  Are there alternative solutions that might improve the economy so either effect is minimized?  Sure, plenty, and one day we might move past the petty politics to determine where we want to draw the line.  But, in the end, in its worst possible terms, these are the choices: support them or let them starve.  Maybe there will only be hundreds a year, instead of thousands or tens of thousands, but that’s it.  Some people will always need help.  Just hope it’s never you, waiting for other people to decide.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


Fuiste el sueño
que se tiene
al despertar
y ver
que aún es noche:
Ni sueño, ni memoria,
ni verdad ni ilusión.

Eres la perversión
de una fantasía
que llega en piezas
como promesas
de un gran total
que nunca ensamblas,
y nada más.

Serás, cuando mucho,
falsa memoria de algo
que creí pudo haber sido
sin saber si así lo fue,
como la sombra
que el ojo guarda
por un instante
cuando la luz se va.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

The Good Interred

Bury me not
in a box
to feed the hungrier denizens of time
a wilting
wasted remnant of what was
even in life
a shadow
degraded reflection of what might have been.
Bury me instead among the weeds
to feed the flowers not yet grown
and stare into the sun
till the stars come back.
Feed me to the seeds of fruits I ate
when last we enjoyed a lazy fall weekend.
That is the end that I prefer
that I may leave the evil that I’ve done
and have the good interred beside me.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012


Today, I ran an errand down by the airport. On my way back, I drove as usual, 5 miles over the speed limit, not wanting to get a ticket in my new hometown so soon. Some of the locals drive 70 when the limit is 50 and they don't like me blocking the slow lane of the four-lane freeway--how thoughtless of me. A beat-up blazer, held together by bubblegum, wire hangers donated by Mommy Dearest, and a whole lot of prayer, drove around me in a cloud of smoke while the driver spewed obscenities in my direction.

Then, a land boat made by Cadillac in the mid-80's eased its way around me going about 25 miles over the limit. The driver merged back onto my lane a bit too close, making me think he had intended to cut me off. I uttered the obligatory profanities under my breath, thinking him not merely rude, but dangerously so. Despite his going that fast, I caught up to him at the exit. He was the third car back on the second lane, waiting to turn left. Before I made it to the end of the left lane, he merged in front of me. Again I thought "how rude." But I was surprised by what he did.

It turns out he merged because there was a homeless old man at the corner. Before the light changed, he rolled the window down and handed the old man a bag with what I am assuming was his left-overs from lunch. The old man grabbed the bag, opened it, inspected the contents, put his sign down and started to eat with a big smile on his face. During the thirty seconds that remained before the light changed, I reevaluated my perception of the man in the big car in front of me.

We presume, from the briefest observations, to know the entire character of people we run into in our lives. We call these intuitions, first impressions--all euphemisms to mean assumptions. We do it when we meet a nurse, a priest, a republican, a Mexican. We think we know them because how far can each of them be from the norm we know, anyway?

It is only in the luckiest of cases that God gives us thirty seconds at the stop light to show us how truly stupid we can be--how truly stupid I have been. And I thank Him for it. I will try to do better.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Can you tell me

How to get...

Sunny day...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Life, revisited

Change. It reinvigorates and terrifies. I hope it works. More to come...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Thence Home

These are the only two things I remember: It was a small, dark place. I remember people having to lower their head ever so slightly as they crossed the doorway from the dining room to the living room. Everything was made of a dark, reddish wood with intricate line patterns I used to follow with my fingers. Though I cannot remember why, the name “Santa Clara” or “Santa Rosa” come to mind when I think of this place. Somehow, I never asked my parents about that—and now I fear it might be too late.

Then there was a small, well-lighted place. Made of concrete, with plenty of windows, breezy, it was still a warm, welcoming place, the place that I should still think of as the place I am from, but it did not replace the first. I saw the war through its windows, and then when the war came inside, I saw its roof destroyed and a cloud of dust come from the kitchen as we left.

I was ten.

San Jose, San Francisco, San Bernardino, Redlands, South Gate, Lynwood—these are all places I've lived but none of them home. Home again didn't come until my daughter was born. And that was still not home. I'd made a home there, but too many bad memories came from the end of my marriage and my children and I have made many good memories away from that place.

I travel well because no place new is any less comfortable than the place I live. I've been gone for a month now and the only thing I miss is my pool friends. I like 9-ball better than 8, but it's all good. There's always a bar nearby where I can play.

Now, my sister's told me she rented out her house. They are moving up to Portland, OR. That is my favorite city. I remember the first time I went there, noticing a bumper sticker on a few cars. I asked the taxi-driver about it and he said the city had launched a campaign and was distributing that and a few others. It said “Keep Portland Weird”. That's my kind of town.

There is a little bar just up the street from the living room theater, where I play pool and listen to the karaoke singers. They are good, very good even. The city is mostly cool, sometimes rainy. And every now and then you get a wonderful, blustery day.

I think I will move with them.

But I have been in California most of my life—twice as long as I lived anywhere else, or rather all other places. I may still get lost on my way home. I may still relish the feeling of finding myself in a place I've never been, and keep a mental catalog of all the roads I've driven when I thought “this is a new place”.

Trish keeps telling me to do it afraid, to just do it, to not let the fear of the new get in the way of getting it done, whatever “it” might be. I'll probably have to change jobs, and this is not a time to be giving up a job. I'll have to give up my place, a place where I have lived six years, where I can walk with all the lights off and not run into a wall, where I know all the cracks, and all the neighbors, and all where I walk in the middle of a cold night, when I can't sleep, and smoke a cigarette and still get greeted by name by all the other insomniacs out for a smoke, too. My children still live nearby, and while I don't see them very often, I've gone over at four o'clock in the morning to greet them when they wake up. We've had some crazy adventures that started with no plan at all and now form the fabric of the memories they'll have of me when I am gone.

When I am gone.

Is this that time? Despite all the reasons to stay, I know deep inside I am leaving. I feel guilty they might think I am leaving despite them, because of them, like I have given up on them...

Am I doing this just for me?

I've told the story so many times it seems like something out of Death of a Salesman now. Like a made up story that gained reality just inside my head. My daughter, right out of the hospital, came home and my wife and I got her ready for her first bath. Everything was set so perfectly in place. The little yellow baby-bath my wife had used when she was a baby was on the sink, full of nice warm water. I put the baby on the counter, got her naked and picked her up like a new father picks up his new baby, most carefully, an arm under each end like she would break at the slightest motion. It was maybe two feet away from the little, yellow, baby-bath. By the time I set her down in the bath, she had pooped on my arm. I never knew such a little thing could make so much stinky stuff. It was black and sticky. It smelled to all the world like something that had been decomposing for nine months. Sugar and spice indeed!

When he was three years old, I noticed my son had the perfect skin tone. Perfect, that is, for California. I thought of him as a little surfer, with his honey-colored eyes and skin the color of cafe-con-leche that had just a little too much leche—just the way I liked it. But he had dark hair. It was light brown, dark sandy perhaps, not what I thought surfer hair should be. So my boyfriend and I cut his hair really short and bleached it. We got him a necklace made of shells. The effect was perfect. When his hair started growing again, there was a time he had the darker hair under a little cover of blond, and it was even better. My wife threatened me I'd never see him again if I dyed his hair before he was old enough for it.

Then, there was the time we went to Vegas for two hours, just to take pictures. Or the time we escaped to Tijuana for the weekend, just to have some steak. Or the time we went to see A Chorus Line and my daughter and an elderly lady were giggling like little girls all through Tits and Ass...

But that was when they were little kids. They are almost all grown now, with almost all full lives all for themselves, and often, I feel like I'm intruding when I go—like they have to give up something of theirs to spend some time with me. I know it is still a bit of guilt about having felt that way myself when I went to see them, or when they came to see me. Turn-around and all that.

Perhaps it will be ok. At this point, I think it is inevitable that I move again, giving up all the memories I've made thus far to make new ones in a new place. Perhaps they can come see me and spend more time, when they can, when I can, when we can. Ha ha ha... every new beginning is another beginning's end, right? Maybe we can build a whole new relationship, now as adults, unburdened by all the things that parents and children share when they stay in the same old places. We will draw new maps to new places for new adventures.

Maybe it will not be my last move, my last place—after all, avocado trees don't grow well in Portland.

Maybe, for a change, this will be home. And if it isn't, maybe it will be another dot I mark on the map on the way there.

May be.