Sunday, May 26, 2013

Tracy Delgado cousin of William Garcia 1946-1966

This Memorial Day weekend I was thinking of a high school friend who was killed in Vietnam.  I think of him often, but somehow he was on my mind more than usual.  Maybe it was the recent sexual abuse and harassment that's come to light in the media.  There were plenty of women in the service during the Vietnam years, but not anything like today.  That's why the recent revelations about rape and assault, and the resultant cover-ups are so damning and so disappointing.
The dilemma for pacifists like myself, of course, is to retain our beliefs while still "supporting the troops."  It's a non issue in my view.  I say that because anyone who is a humanist will always support others.  If I disagree with the death penalty that doesn't mean I condone the acts of the criminal.
So here I am thinking aout my friend Bill Garcia, and I happened to remember the time, about 20 years ago now when I went in search of his name on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C.
     Wondering if any photos of the wall were online I chanced to find some information about him and his military career.  I remembered that he was only 20 when he was killed in 1966.  He remains 20 in my mind always.
This post was written by a second cousin who never met him.  She took the time to honor his memory and mentioned some tings her mother told her about the person she considers a hero.  The post ends with some contact information, but it didn't work.  I tried to contact her because I wanted to fill in some gaps.  the email address must be obsolete; it kept bouncing back with the message that it was an incomplete address.  Didn't look incomplete, but maybe a letter or number or some other figue was missing.  I een tried to add something to the post, but that link just said the site was being changed or re-worked.  I would really have loved to describe her cousin Bill's blue eyes, his golden frizzy hair, and an impish grin he was never without.  I wanted to tell her about his '59 Ford convertible, the trips to the So. California beaches on Fridays after summer school, and how he loved to dance with the girls at the local Catholic Youth Organization.
So Tracy Delgado, cousin of William Garcia, maybe you'll find this blog if I make you two the title.  Hope so.  Do let me know.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Middle of May and in the top of the news:  Tornados, government scandal(s), terrorist attacks and terrorist investigations, floods, firestorms, drought, and uncommonly wet weather.  One sensational trial ends and four more are waiting in the wings.  No Triple Crown winner, No legislation to impact gun ownership, marriage to the one you love, or how we spend our money.  Congress is broken.  Politicians can't see beyond the next election.  Our national "stew" is pretty thin these days.  As Woody Guthrie noted in his famous "Talkin' Dust Bowl Blues," ...."Maybe if it had been a just little bit thinner some of these here politicians coulda seen through it."  They can't comprehend the millions they impact.

There is definitely something wrong with the climate.  It's easy to have this discussion in the aftermath of a record-breaking tornado that leveled about 40 square miles in the state of Oklahoma.  And still they rebuild.

What does it take to set this latest event in perspective given Hurricanes like Sandy and Katrina?  Out West here we have fire seasons that come on the heels of drought.  We talk about and plan for earthquakes often.  In other parts of the Midwest we watch as people who make their homes in a flood plain try to hold back rivers.  And still they rebuild.
Today, as I await the official start of summer (post Memorial Day) I see that snow is falling in the national forest where I would like to go fly fishing.  Something is definitely going on with the climate.
I've followed the Jody Arias trial, probably a bit too much, but this trial, the defendant, and the media's role continue to fascinate.  Now that she's been found guilty of first degree murder by her peers, the hungry public awaits the verdict in the penalty phase.   Most of the general public and media commentators can't seem to get their heads around the concept of a sociopath.  That Ms. Arias is a sociopath, that is to say, she has no conscience, is difficult to fathom for most.  They continue to vent their anger at her.  I get that, but it's useless.  She is one of the 4 in every 100 that is incapable of moral emotions.  1 in 25.  They manipulate, they seduce.  They are not burdened in the least by remorse or guilt, or that most important emotion shame.  Save your breath.  They don't have a conscience.  You can pity them; they really love and desire that.  You can question their behavior and motivation, but the best thing you can do is to avoid them at all costs.  As one definition of sociopathy says, "...even unarmed, they are dangerous."

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Take It With You

Occasionally I still hear someone speak of a "depression mentality."  What they mean, of course, is a Great Depression mentality.    What passes for stingy behavior could well have its roots in surviving the Great Depression of the 1930s.  Certainly my parents, who were married in 1932, displayed a bit of this behavior.  My father would come unhinged if someone left a light burning in an empty room.  My mother, always giving and thoughtful, was fairly good at stretching a meal or making due with less.
     These days, even in tough economic times, people seem less inclined to hoard.  In my town, restaurants are usually full and even though prices have doubled and tripled on some things in the last 10 years or so, you wouldn't know we';re still in the throes of a deep malaise.  Younger folks seem to be willing to share, care, and otherwise help those less fortunate.  There is a coffee wagon in my town that has a chalkboard menu outside that overlooks the street.  If an item has a mark or two (I III IV) that means someone has paid for an extra and if you want/need a latte or cup of coffee it's already been paid for.  Pretty cool, no?  This allows those to help and be helped without it being a big deal.  There is a bakery where people pay what they can.  Sometimes, people of means will just lay $20. worth out there for the taking.

     I wonder, though, how those who are really well off relate to these ventures.  Certainly there are some inspirational wealthy folks who spread their wealth around.  Bill Gates has given many an underprivileged scholar a free ride to the college of their choice.  But he's outrageously wealthy.  What about others?  I recall people coming to garage sales in a Mercedes and quibbling about weather to pay 15 or 25 cents for some insignificant item.  The old adage that the reason they are well off is because they are miserly seems sufficiently proven on occasion.
     The only really wealthy person I know is quite about 92...but suffers from a full blown Depression mentality.  This person is estimated to be worth upwards of 15 million.  A long professional career, good investments, weathering a few economic storms have led to this.  But one time, a few years ago, I was driving said person and a few friends to a dinner engagement.  On a busy freeway I noticed a car with personalized license plate.  It read: GIV BAC.  I remarked to my fellow passengers that I thought it was a most interesting plate.  The person was driving a very nice car, probably a Lexus, but felt the need to take a stand for all to see.  As my carload of fellow travelers noticed the license plate  they all nodded in recognition.  All except one.  You know who.  The multi-millionaire had no idea what the significance of that plate could be.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day

We don't really need a Mother's Day to officially recognize our moms, do we?  They are with us always.  I recall a wonderful presentation given by a noted psychologist/therapist about the mother child relationship.  After soft music, cloudy pastel photos of smiling children with their mothers, and lulling her audience into nostalgic stupor, the narrator abruptly stopped and pronounced the mother'child relationship as one of complete power and control...forever.
     Maybe.  Maybe not, but there is some truth to that notion.  Considering how vulnerable a newborn is and how vulnerable we remain until puberty, it's easy to understand how love can migrate somewhere else.
     I was only becoming an adult when I lost my mom at the rather early age of 54.  To have had an adult relationship with her is something I miss and can only speculate about from time to time.  But she is with me always and sometimes rather surprisingly so.  A favorite story of mine concerns one of her favorite expressions.  Whenever a friend was over to visit and stayed for lunch or another meal, this one liner would usually pop out of her mouth.  If I or my guest ever said, "I'll take..." (insert any sandwich, drink, or request here) She'd snap back, "You'll take what I give ya..."  he was working class to the core.

     The picture here was taken when my sister was about four and I was three.  Our grandfather (her father) was visiting from New York City.  The year is 1950.  The photo was taken shortly after the family moved into the house in the San Fernando Valley that would be our home for the next 25 years or so.  the backyard fence is new; the yard is just beginning to take shape and the fruit trees recently planted not even visible.  Grandpa would soon plant a Chinese Elm tree that gives shade to this day.  I vaguely recall these cordory overalls I'm wearing.  They were blue.  My sister and I are trying to stand still with our hands at our sides.  In this photo I can see how much I resemble my mother in looks.  What isn't visible in the photo is her wonderful New York accent and my Grandpa's equally enchanting old country accent.
About a decade after this picture was taken, my grandfather would visit again.  At 14, I really had an opportunity to bond with him and the couple of weeks we spent together as "roommates" were unforgettable.  My love of thoroughbred horses definitely comes from him. Two decades later they would both be gone.  But n this day, 60 years or so ago, life was full of promise, the weather was clear and warm, and my family's roots were firmly planted.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Oh What a NIght

It's quite a picture.  The angelic face singing "O Holy Night" in her black and white striped prison uniform.  The A capella rendition won the institution's talent competition.  Jody Arias, sociopath, singing about the night "when Christ was born."  Yes, it's quite a picture.
But so is the way the Jody Arias murder trial has captured media attention.  Something about this particular case has the media and those with way too much time on their hands hot, bothered, and blathering for hours, days, weeks, and I'm afraid, months.  That one cable channel can devote it's entire programming to one trial is in itself a wonder.  I guess the ratings are there, and then some.
The public fascination with this woman probably has a lot to do with the fact that she is a pathological liar.  Coupled with her blind arrogance and  lack of a conscience, she's money in the bank.
Even though the Prosecution did an adequate job of presenting evidence that the correct diagnosis of this mentally ill woman is Borderline Personality Disorder, the public will have none of that.  They want blood.  They want to be right.  They want vindication, and they want it now.  That's why the scene at the courthouse was all too reminiscent of a lynching, with cheers, smiles, and the look of a picnic.  I know, it was Arizona; it's warm there, people are casual.  Still...

Coincidentally, the day the verdict came down I was just finishing a book called The Sociopath Next Door, an excellent, if not clinical at times, guide to everything you would ever want to know about Anti-Social Personality Disorder.  It would have made a handy scorecard for the Arias trial now that I think of it.  This very readable book by Martha Stout (ph.d.) repeatedly reminds the reader that about 1 in every 100 of the population in this country is a sociopath.  That means 1 in 25.  She has chapters dealing with social and cultural as well as biological factors that influence this condition, and even notes that geographically, Asian countries have fewer sociopaths, probably do to the fact that religious traditions like Buddhism and Shintoism lead to a very different cognitive structure of the brain.
Stout's figures got me wondering about sociopathic personalities I may have come in contact with during my lifetime.  I can definitely think of a few folks who found it easier to lie than tell the truth.  But what about most people?  That got me thinking about a couple of other stories in the top of the news this week.  How about the Cleveland man who abducted three young women and held them captive while continuing to abuse them for 10 years.  Not even his brothers were aware of his behavior.  A former school bus driver, his neighbors only knew him as a "nice guy" who liked to barbecue with them now and then.  There are others.  If the definition of this disorder involves characteristics like no remorse, no conscience, lack of moral emotions, where might some of the others that comprise this demographic be?
     They are certainly not all murderers.  Sometimes they take the form of authority figures.  Just because somebody has a degree, title, uniform on or has risen to a position of tremendous responsibility doesn't mean they should be excluded.  In many ways, they fit the profile perfectly.  If anything comes from all the tabloid frenzy and media regurgitation of the Arias trial, maybe some knowledge and recognition of the Sociopath in the neighborhood will result.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

We Will Bury You

Ever walk through a cemetery?  That's right, a graveyard.  It can be most enlightening.  Some years ago, I lived fairly close to one of the largest and oldest cemeteries in Oakland, California.  It was a great place for a stroll.  I used to see folks walking and even picnicking there all the time.  Part of the intrigue is that you never know who you find there.  I don't mean the visitors, I mean the people interred there.  Some of the most famous Bay Area names would adorn the tombstones at this cemetery.  I recall a Stanford or two.
Cemeteries are great history lessons too.  I once took an American Field Studies course on Louisiana and Cajun country.  We traveled by bus through towns like Lafayette, Abbeyville, Breau Bridge and St. Martinville Louisiana.  One one occasion we stopped to do an assignment at a cemetery.  We were to note the last names on tombstones as a way of documenting the both immigration patterns and the ethnic make-up of the community.  Looking for French names, I recall the first large family plot I found had a large marker with the name Fernandez.  Their roots went deep.  I knew the accordion was an important feature of Zydeco and Cajun music, so I wasn't surprised by German names, but the variety of sur-names and accompanying family histories was surprising.

     Cemeteries hold the good and the evil.  As a wise elder recently called them, "the saints and the sinners."  In New Orleans' famous St. Louis cemetery you can find everyone from Marie Laveau, the voodoo queen (she has a couple of verified tombs) to a real cross section of local history.  I recall seeing the grave of Homer Plessy, the famous name from the landmark civil rights case Plessy v. Ferguson.  (separate is equal)   I'm sure within this French Quarter graveyard reside some of the finest minds, the most creative visionaries, and the most talented musicians of their generation.  So too, no doubt, do sociopaths and fools, the remorseless and the despicable.  An accurate accounting of the population.
     Recently the news media has been reporting that no cemetery will take the body of Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev.  The uncle, who first called his nephews "losers," still has been unable to bury his family's infamous sinner.  I'm a bit surprised by the reaction of his fellow Americans.  The person who the media calls "the dead Boston bomber" was born here, raised and schooled here.  He's as much an American terrorist as anything; isn't he?   Don't human beings have an obligation to care for other human beings, even the cruelest, most misguided ones?