Posts Tagged 'California'

I’m feeling better, thank you.

I had a crappy day Tuesday. The culmination of two weeks of depressing events.

It started with the murder of eleven Jews at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. A week later the mayhem at the synagogue was topped by an ex-Marine who slaughtered twelve innocents who were out for a good time.

The election, complete with its own tensions, was but a pit-stop in the course of events. Deadly fires took center stage by burning down Paradise and sending movie stars to evacuation centers in Malibu. Neither gunmen nor Mother Nature was rationally selective in their choice of victims.

In a reversal of fortune, daughter Nancy was forced to seek shelter elsewhere as drought fed flames threatened her Calabasas home. Last December, it was I who was the victim of the month as I escaped the Thomas Fire in Ojai and took refuge in Calabasas. Now it was her turn in the box. None of us are immune to what has become a state ready for burning regardless of season.

My friend lost his son to a drug overdose. A young life snuffed out in his prime. I attended a sad memorial service of remembrance.

When I could have used some warm hugs, my sweetheart Jackie was in Hawaii visiting her daughter. Friends, no matter how attentive or compassionate, are no substitute for a lover’s bright eyes, warm hands and soft words.

My sleep patterns were disturbed. I usually fall asleep quickly, wake around 3am, take a pee break and then fall asleep again for a couple of hours. But the last few weeks have found me unable to resume sleeping once awake. Instead, I’d toss and turn in a two-hour half-sleep filled with muddled thoughts. Unable to think clearly, my thoughts would crescendo into unshakable, pessimistic fantasies. Ones that would seem stupid in the light of day but quite real in the darkness of my bedroom.

I’d meet people at the gym, the grocery, the coffee shop and the library. “Good morning. How are you?” they’d ask. Fearful of ruining their day or causing them to retreat from me as though I had leprosy, I’d force a smile and falsely respond “Fine, how are you?” Knowing full well that they were probably as disturbed as I was, they would lie “Great. Thanks for asking.” And we’d move on separately to our next victim.

Tuesday is the day my bereavement group meets at the Help of Ojai west campus. I’ve been going to these meetings ever since my sweet Ila died. Most of the seven or eight attendees are women who have lost spouses or children. Faces change but many keep coming back. Men show up occasionally. Urged by Jackie to stick with it, I consider myself a regular.

There is no set agenda. No one is forced to speak, yet the ninety minutes fly by without a break. We usually begin by offering a brief glimpse into our own emotional state, events that may have impacted our lives or just a phrase that may say much with but a few words. It’s not necessary to mince words or hold back since those in attendance understand that what’s shared in that small room stays in that small room.

“I am having a crappy day” I heard myself say. I briefly rattled off a list of the contributing offenders and sat back waiting for something to happen. I half expected Dr. Phil or Dr. Ruth to appear with happiness in a bag. Nothing happened. On to the next person. Left in the ashes, I sulked.

Getting through the holidays was on the mind of many at the table. I’ve never found that Thanksgiving had any impact on my mood. Being Jewish leaves me fairly neutral about Christmas. Suddenly, Phyllis, our group leader turned to me and asked “Fred, when is Hanukkah?” I turned to her and without thinking said “Is this a test? How the hell would I know?” And added “When I find out, I’ll set fire to myself…like a beacon.”

It all seemed so outrageously funny that I started laughing. As did everyone else who, a moment before, had been consoling themselves about being alone for the holidays. We laughed loudly for what seemed like an hour. I hadn’t roared like that in two weeks. I felt wonderful. I forgot about being crappy, leaned back in my chair and smiled. And so did everyone else.

Jackie came home last night.

Brother, can you spare a dime?

Carin sent me an e-mail this morning asking that I write my state legislators and tell them that we should keep the parks open.  The Governator has proposed shutting most of them down to keep California finances from falling into the Pacific.

Now I like trees as much as the next guy.  But I have so many requests to contact my legislators that I don’t know where to start.  Food for the home-bound, health care for the indigent, school class sizes smaller than the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, help for single mothers with a dozen or more kids housed at Motel Six, prison guards who won’t be able to spend their normal two weeks on the French Riviera, and my own local library that may have to burn its books.  What’s a guy to do?

Budget cuts are rampant.  The Democrats, held hostage by minority Republicans who are the beneficiaries of the super-majority requirement bestowed on them by us, are catatonic and incapable of doing anything but closing down the state.

As the NY Times reported

The Democratic-controlled Legislature has been uncharacteristically silent on most of the cuts, most likely because lawmakers know that tax increases are not politically palatable, that huge cuts in some form are in the offing no matter what, and that any program they wish to spare will quite likely have advocates among their ranks.

Letters to the editor abound.  “About time someone took an axe to the state budget.  The voters have spoken.  No tax increase.  Cut out the waste.  A pox on their houses.”  Many cite the evidence of the overwhelming defeat of the recent unintelligible ballot propositions as clear evidence that tax increases are unacceptable.  Maybe.  Maybe not.

Less than a third of California registered voters participated in the election.  Last week American Idol polled about 100 million votes.  I’m proud to say that I voted in the election.  I’m also proud to say I’ve never seen American Idol.

I voted against all of the propositions, even the one that passed.  The one that punishes the legislature if we run a deficit.  I’m not sure why the legislature should be punished.  We’re the ones who’ve hamstrung them.  Maybe we should get a pay cut too.

I thought a long time about the propositions.  Maybe ten minutes which, at my age, is a significant commitment.  I realized that passage would be a band-aid on the real problem only to be followed by more ballot propositions.  And we would continue our role as the state’s budget experts and chief financial planners.  A dubious honor, the silliness of which is supported by any discussion overheard at Ojai Coffee Roasting.

No, I voted against the propositions in the hope that the Rapture would begin.  A wholesale slaughter.  The coming of the Messiah.  A cataclysmic event that would move the electorate.  An event so overwhelming and distasteful that we would admit to our wickedness.  And beg for change.  Beg that we change the way this state is run.  Beg that the legislature take over from us, the incompetent.  Beg that, unless we are trampling on individual rights, that a majority of our legislature enact the law.

So, please don’t ask me to tell my elected representatives to keep the parks open.  Don’t ask me to make donations to keep the schools open.  Don’t ask me to take over the legitimate responsibilities of our elected representatives.  Do ask me to vote for a change to the way this state is run.  Do ask me to support legitimate public services by paying my fair share.

Meanwhile, brother, I can’t spare a dime.


We were robbed!

Irv and Jeri are here, experiencing  below average temperatures and above average rainfall.  But if you come from the old country (Chicago), you take whatever you can get.

I’ve tried to ignore the political landscape while they’re here but find it a herculean task given the state we’re in.   The state of California, I mean.  The budget process goes on and on, we get frustrated, our bile rises, and we look around to see who’s to blame.  If you really want to know, just look in the mirror.

Proposition 13, the need for a two-thirds vote to increase taxes, and a similarly foolish rule about passing  budgets are requirements designed by us, the voters.  In a gleeful spree we happily made it so difficult to run this state that we are now enjoying the fruits of our labors.  So, dear fellow Californians, read ’em and weep.

But since you won’t take responsibility for the mess, let’s see who else we can blame.  The Governor?  No, I think he’s been an honest broker and keeps trying to be a mediator.  The Democrats?  Sure, they’re at fault for slashing expenditures, negotiating regressive tax increases and believing that those concessions would make the other guys come to their senses.

Three days ago after some nail biting negotiating between leaders of both parties, Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, a Democrat, said “I’m very confident the governor will have this budget on his desk tomorrow morning.”  It’s Tuesday evening and the Eagle hasn’t landed.  Republicans, with their 1/3 minority are holding out for Armageddon.  It isn’t enough that the Democrats with their 2/3 majority have agreed to…

—$8.6 billion dollars of reductions to education while California is already the 49th lowest spender per pupil in the country.

—$1.3 billion in reductions to human services including cuts to monthly checks for the aged, blind and disabled.

—$880 million in cuts to higher education including a 10% reduction for the UC systems.

—$208 million in reductions to health-care funding, including the elimination of dental coverage for Medi-Cal recipients.

As if the dollar cuts weren’t enough, the Republicans also got…

—A $770 million reduction to the taxes paid by multi-state corporations.

—Environmental concessions, including a delay in the implementation of new air pollution requirements on diesel engines (cough, choke.)

—A spate of tax increases that impact those least able to pay.

Not good enough, they said.  We don’t care what our leadership negotiated for in good faith.  We signed a pre-election pledge not to support tax increases…and you know how important our pledge is.  No, we want more cuts to balance the budget.  Screw the tax increases.  Take it from the school kids or the blind guys.  Close the DMV…who needs a driver’s license anyway.  And if that doesn’t balance the budget, take away our cars, our per diems and cut our salary by two-thirds (I thought of this final idea.)

In reality, the Republicans are afraid of losing their jobs.  Their constituents would surely vote them out of office…and elect other dedicated Republicans who think more of  their job security than what the people of this state need.  But next time let’s make their replacements wear masks.  No sense having to guess who’s trying to rob us.




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