Category Archives: Life in the 253

How The 1% is Killing Us All

 

Income-Inequality

Click on the image for more from Mike Luckovich.

I’m going to tell you a true story* about one man and then I’m going to tell you how I feel this story is basically a micro version of what is happening in the United States to anyone who isn’t a millionaire.

Dave is a handyman in his 60s. He lives in a shop in Kent. It’s pretty much just a garage. It has no running water. It has no electricity. His landlord, Matt charges him $350 a month. He works for landlords fixing up their properties when they need it. He built my front and back porches. He is currently fixing a wall that had some water damage.  He is a likable guy with solid skills. He’s getting old and can’t do as much as he used to, but he’s still working and typically charges about $12 an hour plus material costs. (Charging more has historically resulted in less work.)

One of the landlords he works for happens to be Matt, his own landlord. Dave has been living in his shop for the last four years. In that time he has done dozens of jobs for Matt. One time last year Matt asked him to spray some mold killer and paint over some black mold in an apartment that Matt owned. Dave arrived and found that a family was living there. The room with the black mold was the baby’s room. And the black mold wasn’t isolated to one small spot. It practically covered the ceiling.

Dave called Matt and told him that this was a much bigger job than simply spraying some mold killer and painting over it. This stuff was clearly in the attic as well on the surface of the ceiling. Matt told him that replacing the ceiling and getting into the attic was going to be ‘too expensive’ and demanded that Dave paint over it as requested. Dave refused. Dave then warned the family about the dangers of the mold and how the spores get into the air and cause all sorts of health problems especially for children.

A few months ago Dave was called to that same apartment to fix a leaking toilet. The same family was there. He took a look at the baby’s room and saw that Matt had found someone to paint over the mold and now it was growing through the latest paint job. He again talked to the family but the man he talked to said he was afraid to confront the landlord because he didn’t want to get kicked out and he couldn’t afford to move.

In January Dave did some work for Matt. The work totaled about $1600. When Dave was finished with the work, Matt said that he would pay him soon but that he couldn’t pay him at that time. A month later, Matt had property Tumwater that had been burglarized. He asked Dave if he could stay at the house a few nights until he had it rented out. Dave and his grandson drove from Kent to Tumwater and back for nine days. Shortly after that, Dave’s truck broke down. The transmission had gone out in it.

A week later Matt called him and asked him to do some work on a property in Bremerton. Dave said, “I can’t do it. My truck’s broken down.”

Matt said, “I can drive you there.”

Dave responded, “What you can do is pay me the $1600 you owe me so I can fix my truck.”

“You’ll get your money, but I need this done today. I’ll just pick you up.”

“And where in your Tesla will we put my saw? Where will you put my ladder? How will I get to the hardware store to get supplies?”

By late April he had still not been paid one dime from Matt. Eventually Dave was able to get his truck fixed using money he made from other handyman jobs. (Like the ones my landlord has him do.)

One day just before May 1st, Dave and Matt ran into each other at the grocery store. Dave said, “You owe me rent for the last few months.”

Dave said, “I don’t owe you rent. Rent is $350 a month. That’s $1400 rent for January through April. You still haven’t paid me the $1600 you owe me. By my count you owe me $200.”

Matt got angry and said, “I’m not paying you any money. And your rent just went up to $500 a month which I know you can’t afford so I’ll start eviction proceedings.”

Tomorrow Dave is talking to a lawyer to get this settled. I talked to him today. He said, “I’ll get this sorted out. Until then I’m gonna work. It’s all I’m good for.”

As I said at the beginning, Dave’s story has a lot of things that I believe apply to those of us who aren’t lucky enough to be in the top 1%. He’s paid below a living wage when he gets paid at all. His employer cares only for profits and nothing for the safety or welfare of those who help him make those profits. When someone becomes undesirable, they increase costs to price those people out of the market.

While not everything below applies to Dave’s specific situation, much of it does and the things that don’t apply to many people who are in similar circumstances as Dave. There is a concentrated effort on the part of the 1% to drain whatever power the rest of us have to nothing.

Here is the one and only conspiracy theory I truly believe in because the evidence is everywhere and it requires no collusion or secrecy on anyone’s part. Their attacks are overt. And they do it with impunity because they know we’re as afraid as the guy in the apartment with the black mold who is literally forced to choose between living somewhere unhealthy or not having a place for his family to live at all.

Here are some of the things that get legislated to make sure the poor don’t only stay poor but get poorer.

– Keep cutting funding to public education

– Keep wages low

– Increase cost of living expenses

– Restrict access to health care

– Restrict access to birth control

– Restrict access to abortion services

– Cut public assistance

– Increase taxes on the poor

– Increase college tuition to unaffordable levels

– Replace affordable housing with smaller more expensive ‘luxury housing’

– Give tax breaks to millionaires

– Eliminate restrictions on guns

– Implement mandatory minimum sentencing

– Privatize prisons so they are for-profit
Each of these things has been championed by prominent Republicans across the country over the last thirty years. The result is fairly simple. If you are not rich, you will be working harder and for more hours and less pay in order to simply maintain the lifestyle that previous generations could attain by simply working one full time job. If you fail to work hard enough, there will be no social safety net to save you. One of the few things you can get your hands on is a gun. Two out of three gun deaths are suicides. So maybe you decide to take yourself out after all of society has deemed you a failure for not playing along.

Or maybe you are desperate enough to commit crimes at which point, you end up in prison. Thanks to the for-profit prison system you’ll be able to make corporations money in the same way you would have working a dead-end below-living-wage job. Either way, you’ll be doing your part to make the rich richer. This is the system that is in place at this time and Republicans are only making it worse.

And I haven’t even mentioned the part where if you’re female or not white, your options and advantages are even worse than that. As a woman you’ll make 70% what men make in the same job. As an African American you’ll deal with systemic racism on all levels of society that make getting that job more difficult and authorities more likely to treat you violently.

I don’t have a solution for this. Voting for Democrats might not make things worse, but I don’t think they’re going to necessarily make things better in any real sense regardless of how progressive they claim to be if only because they can’t negotiate with the terrorists the Republican Party has become.

For a long while I wondered what it was going to take before things got violent. Then I realized things have been violent for a while now. It’s just that we aren’t even coming close to being what might be called a Resistance. Instead we’re being slaughtered in the street by militarized police forces and anyone who steps out of line can simply be labeled a terrorist. When someone within the government decided that the government having access to every phone call, email, and cellphone in the country was not okay, he had to go to Russia to avoid prosecution and is labelled a traitor.

I have asked myself what I should do about this and the truth is I can’t do much and neither can most of you because you’re like me just struggling the best you can to pay bills so you can make rent. It’s kind of difficult to make a concentrated effort at resistance when you’re spending all of your energy just trying to make enough money to survive.

As I said, I do not have a solution for you, me, or Dave. My solution for myself has been to enroll in college in the Human Services program. I did this both because I genuinely want to help people and because given all of the things I mentioned, there are going to be millions of people who need professional help. I figure one of the handful of growth industries in this culture is going to be counseling people who are trying to cope with a world so wildly out of balance that the richest country in the world also happens to have some of the highest child poverty in the world. I won’t be able to change the world, but I might make some people’s worlds better. Maybe I’ll find I can do more. Maybe it won’t make a lick of good. But I cannot look at what’s going on and do nothing.

– Jack Cameron

*Names and specific details have been altered to protect identities.

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The Best Thing In My Parenting Plan

For most of the last six years my son and I spent time together every other weekend and on Thursday evenings. Such arrangements are not uncommon for dads who do not live with the mother of their child. When your time with your kid is limited, you tend to pack as much as you can into what time you have, but it’s never really enough. There’s an urge to overcompensate with gifts or other things that aren’t allowed at the other house in an effort to be the favorite parent since you can’t be the parent with the most time. Soon you learn that it’s not a worthy battle and that such things aren’t fair to anyone. But regardless of what you do, you inevitably feel that you are less a part of your child’s life than you want to be.

The one thing that kept me sane through all of this was one simple line in my parenting plan. It was something that even the most contested of custody disputes would be hard pressed to exclude if you put it in. And it’s the thing that made the most difference during those times when I felt a disconnect between my son’s life and my own life:

“The child shall be allowed telephone contact with the parent with whom he is not residing (initiated by the parent with whom he is not residing or the child) at 9:00pm each night.”

This simple line meant that despite my lack of physical contact,  I still got to talk to my son just about every day of his life one way or another. I was still a daily presence in his life.

Fathers have an uphill battle when it comes to getting custody, but even if you don’t win custody, you can still not completely lose. I know these calls mean just as much to my son as they do to me. By putting it in the Parenting Plan you make it so the other parent can’t prohibit the call without violating the Parenting Plan. I never really had to deal with that part, but it’s still a good thing to put in there. A child needs both of his parents. Always. This way even if you’re not there in person, you can still be there.

– Jack Cameron

Chest Pains And A Hospital Visit

Pile of electrode stickers

This is a pile of monitor stickers I peeled off of my body after getting discharged from the hospital.

My grandfather dropped dead of a massive heart attack in his early 60s. I think I was 11 when that happened. I learned from an early age that my father’s side of the family had a bit of a history when it came to heart problems. So this past Tuesday when my chest started hurting, I paid attention. Not a a lot, mind you. I didn’t go to the hospital when it started. I finished out my shift at work and caught the bus home.

That night I called my mom, who has for the majority of my life worked as a nurse at Tacoma General Hospital. She advised me to take an aspirin every six hours and try to take it easy for the next week. She also said to go get seen if I had any other symptoms.

But Wednesday morning, I woke up and felt like I usually do after a very long and strenuous day. And it was the morning. And I had slept well. So it wasn’t sleep deprivation. I told my wife. She said we should go to the Auburn Urgent Care (the nearest Urgent Care to our house.)

We got there and they immediately hooked me up to an EKG and up an oxygen tube up my nose. They said they were calling the ambulance to take me to Auburn Regional. My wife used to work at Auburn Regional. She had told me more than enough stories about the place to keep me away. Not to mention the fact that if there was truly anything wrong with me, my mom would kill me if I wasn’t in her hospital.

We told them we wanted to go to Tacoma General. The doc refused. I said, “Fine. I’ll sign myself out AMA and my wife will drive me to Tacoma General.” The doctor really didn’t like this and tried to scare me by saying, “You may be having a heart attack right now.” But to me that was all the more reason to get to a hospital I trust.

Twenty minutes later we were in the Emergency Department of Tacoma General. The Auburn Urgent Care had at least called ahead to let them know we were coming. I asked if I could use the rest room as soon as I got there. The admitting nurse handed me a cup and told me where the rest room was. TG had entirely rebuilt the Emergency Department since the last time I’d been there. It’s incredible. It really feels like a 21st century hospital. In the rest room I couldn’t help but notice that among the tiles, they had an aquatic theme going. If you counted a starfish as a seashell, then there were three seashells in the in the wall, which I found funny thanks to my love for Demolition Man.

Almost immediately they hooked me up to an EKG, putting stickers and electrodes all over my chest. The large male nurse tried to find a vein for an IV in my right arm and failed, then my left arm and failed, then finally found in in my right arm. (I learned later from my mom that I should have asked for ‘IV Therapy’, a team at the hospital that just does IVs.)

They asked a lot of questions. Did my chest hurt right now? No. Was I more tired than normal? Yes. What did the pain in my chest feel like? Like a rock had been placed on it. Did I have a family history of heart problems? Yes. How much do I drink? How much do I smoke? Do I do any illegal drugs? Did I have any spiritual needs during my stay? This last one surprised me. As an atheist I had no needs and I almost felt like saying, “I believe in medicine and science that’s why I came here rather than some place that would try to heal me with crystals.”

A little later a guy came in and did a chest X-Ray. The chest tray they put behind my back was more than a little cold. A doctor came in maybe an hour later. He had me recount my story of what had brought me there. He said, “We might be able to do a Cardio CT. We only have staff for the day shift and you fit the parameters for it. It’s not a test we often get to do.”

He went on to explain that the test requires that they inject me with something that will slow my heart rate down to under 60 beats per minute. Then they put me in a machine that creates a 3D image of my heart.

I thought that the medication would make me really relaxed. Instead the medication made me just barely conscious. I was half asleep watching my vitals as my heart rate got lower and lower. 65…63..Then I’d move and it’d go up to 68 and then back down. Eventually it was at a steady 55 and occasionally going lower. They wheeled me into another room and had me get on the table. Once I was on the table and in the imaging tube, they injected some contrast dye in me. It made my head and my crotch suddenly feel like someone had placed hot wet rags on them. At the same time, they told me that I needed to hold my breath for 30 seconds, while surrounded by this tube, having had no food for the past 12 hours and on drugs that were slowing my heart down and making my head hot. We did this twice.

The next few hours were spent barely awake. Eventually the doctor came in. I wanted more than anything for the doctor to say, “You have the heart of a twenty-year-old. There is no reason for you to be here.” Instead he said, “We think we may have found some calcifications in your heart. The image is a bit blurry because you apparently moved during the CT. Even a tiny movement can do that. We need to run a stress test on you to be sure, but we can’t do that until tomorrow due to the drugs currently in your system. We’re admitting you to the hospital for the night and we’ll go from there.”
If you’ve lived a life like mine, there’s a part of you that thinks sooner or later all the shit you do and have done is going to catch up with you. There are rules and I’ve spent a fair amount of my life breaking them. I’ve never really been into exercising or dieting. I’ve eaten Baconators and Ultimate Breakfast Sandwiches like they were vitamins. I’ve eaten entire pizzas all by myself just because I wanted to. There have been times when I smoked cigarettes and drank a lot. When you live like that and have a brain in your head, some part of you knows that sooner or later you’ll be in a hospital bed and a doctor is going to tell you, “We’ve found something.”

I told my wife to call my parents. I told her to contact my employer and let them know I wouldn’t be at work tomorrow. I thought about my wife, my son, my children, my writing, my entire life. I wondered how bad this might get. I’m a paranoid guy so it wasn’t long before I was thinking of a world without me.

I didn’t pray. Sure, I’m an atheist and atheist don’t pray but I wasn’t always an atheist and I don’t think anyone would fault me if I did. I trusted in the doctors. I trusted in technology. I trusted in science because even if there were a God, I don’t think he’d be holding any miracles for me.

I updated my Facebook like crazy. This helped pass the time between test results and alert just about everyone I knew as to what was going on. I checked and smiled at the kind comments. In my more paranoid moments I thought how nice it was that if I dropped dead, I would apparently be missed. At least on Facebook.

Around eight they got me into a room on in the Cardiac Ward. I was the youngest person there. The room on the seventh floor had an incredible view.

First food after 12 hours.

They finally brought me food. They warned me ahead of time that the food was ‘heart healthy’. It appeared to be some shredded turkey with potatoes and gravy. I was hungry enough that I didn’t care what it was. As the night wore on, my wife offered to stay the night, but I told her to go home and try to sleep. I knew she probably wouldn’t sleep, but I felt bad enough that I was stuck there. No reason to stick her there as well. She said she’d go home later.

A little after ten my mom showed up. She was working the night shift in an hour but came in to check on me before that. She told me she’d come by in the morning as well. A nurse came in and explained that I’d have the stress test ‘sometime between 8am and 5pm’ the next day. She also said that she’d be checking my vitals every four hours. So I should expect her at midnight and four in the morning. Shortly after that my wife went home.

I watched the Daily Show and fell asleep. The cardiologist came in at some point but I wasn’t really awake and only remember her coming in and nothing of our conversation. I woke up again about three in the morning. Something had startled me awake. I wasn’t sure where I was or why I was there. For a few moments I sort of freaked out. Then the nurse came in and my recent memories came back to me. She checked my vitals and left.

In the morning I woke up to my mom coming in along with a different nurse. It was around seven. I didn’t recognize the nurse. She introduced herself and told me she was there to inject something radioactive in me to prepare for my stress test this morning. This surprised me because I was told the night before it could be any time between 8 am and 5 pm. Maybe I was the only one on the list. Or maybe my mom pulled some strings. Whatever the case, I knew that my wife planned on calling at 8am to find out when I’d be going for the test. So I immediately told my mom to contact my wife and get her here.

Twenty minutes later I was put in a wheelchair and taken to another room with another big machine. I did not feel well. I couldn’t eat anything after midnight for this test so again I was hungry. I got onto the table and watched the screen above me. It had these two squares with static in them that the technician assured me was my heart. She said this would take twenty minutes and that I should just breathe normally. At least I didn’t have to play dead. The machine moved all around me slowly and twenty minutes later I was done and taken upstairs.

They placed more electrodes on my chest and hooked all of these wires from me into a computer. I felt like Iron Man without the armor. She explained that they were going to have me jog on a treadmill and try to get my heart rate up to 160 beats per minute. She took one of the wires off and put it back on. Something was wrong. She tried messing with the wires some more while trying to keep my hospital gown on until I finally just took it off to make things easier for her. Luckily I was still wearing sweat pants though they did not fit and felt like they might fall down at any moment.
I suggested she reboot her computer. Nine times out of ten this fixes all computer problems. She tried that but still nothing. She brought in another guy who tried to make it work. Finally they replaced all the wires with a new set of wires. Still nothing. They made a call in to tech support and told me they’d have to try the machine downstairs in the Emergency Department.

In the Emergency Department they had the same set up and another treadmill. The guy from upstairs took off one of the electrodes and used an abrasive fabric to scrub my skin where the electrode had been. He then put a new electrode on. This worked. It turned out the problem wasn’t the machine. It was that my skin simply wasn’t conducting the way they needed it to. He did this same process with the other electrodes and we were in business.

A new doctor came in. He told me that they would have me walk on the treadmill and progressively make it steeper and faster and that once my heart got up to 160 beats per minute for over a minute, they’d inject me with some more radioactive stuff and make me go just a bit faster for 15 seconds after that.

I got on the treadmill. It was flat and it was a good walking pace. It didn’t seem bad at all. They told me to make my strides longer and get closer to the front of the treadmill. I did as asked. They sped it up and made it steeper. This continued until I was doing just under a job. After a few minutes my heart rate was hovering around 160. They injected the radioactive stuff and asked me if I was up for going much faster for 15 seconds. I wasn’t. I was exhausted. I wanted to eat. But I also knew that if they didn’t get what they wanted out of this test, they’d have to do another one and I didn’t want to do this again. So I said, “Yes.” I ran for 15 seconds after which he asked if I could do 15 more. I said okay. After that they slowed it down. I dropped into my wheelchair ready to pass out.

“Does your chest hurt?” Someone asked.
“No.” I said, somewhat surprised, “But I’m having trouble breathing.” A few minutes later, I was better, but still pouring sweat. They brought me back upstairs to the big machine and I did another twenty minute imaging session. When they got me back to my room I was as worn out as I’ve ever been.

My wife was there and so was food. It was eleven in the morning. Before I could touch the food my wife told the nurse, “This has been sitting here since 8am. Can we get him something warm?” The nurse took it away and instantly replaced it with a warm one.

I talked with my wife. She told me that my dad had called and talked to my mom. I figured I heard her wrong. My parents don’t speak to each other. They haven’t in at least 15 years. I asked her again. She said my dad had called my hospital room. My wife had answered and mentioned my mom was in the room. My dad asked her to put my mom on the phone. This shocked my wife as much as it would shock me. She put my mom on the phone and they talked for about fifteen minutes about my condition.
More than anything else, this made me afraid as to what my condition was. Yes, it made perfect sense that if your son is in a hospital that your ex-wife works in you should talk to her to find out what’s really going on. But my family hasn’t always been known for doing the sensible thing.

I told my wife I was going to rest. She said she’d run some errands and come back later in the afternoon. About an hour later a doctor came in and said that he’d looked at my test results and decided that the calcification they thought they saw on the CT was nowhere to be found on the stress test. He was going to talk with the cardiologist to get his opinion and then they’d likely release me from the hospital.

Now at this point, there was a part of me that said, “Well there you go. Your chest hurt. You were tired. You were stressed. You overreacted and went to the hospital. They tested you and it turns out you’re just FINE. No big deal. Let’s go get a double Baconator and call it a day.” This is the part of me I’ve listened to most of my life. He’s a fun guy. But I wasn’t listening to that.

Instead, I was listening to a part of me that said, “You got lucky, pal. And just because you didn’t have a heart attack doesn’t mean there’s nothing wrong with you. You’re 37 and just maybe there are things in your life you need to change so you don’t end up here again anytime soon. Get better. Get all these drugs they’ve put in you out of your system. Start feeling like you again and then let’s take stock of everything in your life and find what’s working and what’s not. You have another chance and not everyone gets one of those. And even if none of that is true, there’s no reason not to act as if it is. The worst that can happen is you improve your life.”

I have a follow up appointment with my regular doctor next week followed by an appointment with my cardiologist. I don’t know what parts of my life I plan on changing. Some things I know will stay the same. Others like what I eat and how much I exercise are definitely going to change. I promised my Facebook friends I’d write a detailed account of everything that happened. I don’t think they expected a 3,000 word story, but I’m a writer and whenever something major happens I feel like I need to write about it. I don’t know who besides me would be interested in reading all of this. But I figured I’d post it all the same.

The result was that just about all of my friends on Facebook read it. Many encouraged me to post this on my regular website and so I have. A few days after my stay in the hospital last week I got a Thank You card.

My first follow up appointment is tomorrow afternoon. I’ll be posting more about my health and what changes I make in coming weeks. Right now I feel almost back to 100%, but my doctors and everyone else say that I did the exact right thing by getting checked out.

Some of the changes that have already happened include that I’m not even smoking the occasional cigarette now (I’d have one every now then before.) and I’m down to no more than three cans of Coke a day. Today I only drank one can of Coke. It’s the first time I’ve done that in a year. I’m taking stock of other activities and behaviors in my life and I’m sure I’ll be making changes where appropriate.

Thank you to everyone who wished me well, sent me nice comments, made phones calls, and otherwise helped me this past week. It’s been a rough one. One other thing I’ve realized is that I want to write more. So expect more posts on this site and over on my TacomaStories.com site.

Thanks for reading.

– Jack Cameron

Dealing With The Police

I was pulled over by the State Patrol last week. I was driving on a two lane road at around 40mph in my 1965 Galaxie. I was about to turn left. I noticed the police car going the opposite direction just as a BMW passed me in the outside lane doing about 80mph. I turned left and went up the hill and soon found the blue and red police lights behind my car. I pulled over, turned off my car and rolled down my window. The officer asked if I was racing the BMW. I told him I wasn’t and that I thought the BMW was going much faster than me. He said “You were going pretty fast too. At least sixty and it’s forty through there.”

“I don’t think I was going that fast officer. I think the BMW was the one that was speeding.”

“Well, he was gone by the time I turned around.”

“That’s because he was speeding.”

“License, insurance and registration.”

I already  had my license and insurance card pulled from my wallet. Before reaching in the glove box for my registration, I said, “I’m going to take my right hand and grab my registration out of the glove box.” And then I slowly did exactly that.

He walked back to his car with the information and came back with a ticket for $154 for going 15 over the speed limit. He handed me my registration and insurance card back. It would be a few days before I noticed he did not hand my license back.

There was a time in my life where I was dealing with police officers on a weekly basis. There was also a time in my life when I worked for them in police records. I have had friends who are cops and former cops. So I know a few things about how to deal with the police. I even wrote a chapter about it in my book, Ruin Your Life. But there are some new rules since then and there are situations I didn’t cover.

DON’T POKE BEARS WITH STICKS

This is something my grandfather used to say. It can easily be applied to dealing with cops as well. Here’s the thing. A few years ago, it seemed like it was open season on police officers. Locally, a couple of cops were shot and killed. And then the four Lakewood police officers were gunned down while drinking coffee before a shift. The result of these killings has been that police officers are taking their chances with a shooting investigation rather than waiting to see if a suspect is definitely a deadly threat.

Some people think this is wrong. And make no mistake, there have been unnecessary tragedies due to this increase in police violence. But if you’re paying attention at all, you can at least understand why. I’m getting a bit off topic here though. The point here is that police are now more than ever willing to use deadly force if they feel it is necessary. You’re not going to fix that social problem in a confrontation with a cop.

So the thing to do is make yourself as little of a threat as possible. If you have anything in your hand, drop it.  Don’t wait to be asked. If you need to grab something, tell them what you’re going to do before you do it. Do not let them have a chance to guess wrong what you’re doing. Move slowly at all times. And do what they tell you to do.

You may not like what they’re telling you to do. They may not be following the rule of the law. They may be complete dicks about it. They may be absolutely wrong on all levels, but you are dealing with someone who will very likely not see any prison time if they kill you. So it’s best not to do anything that can be construed in any way as threatening. Do not think about what you’re doing. Think about what someone could say you were trying to do.

PEACEFUL PROTESTS

The Occupy Wall Street movement is the latest but far from the only protest that has been forcibly broken up by the police in recent weeks. When this happens, the police tend to not be nice about it. There are reasons for this.

One is that there are members of every police department who joined the police department simply so they could hurt people and get away with it. Believe it or not, they are in the minority. Most cops, believe it or not, simply want to do their jobs and go home at the end of their shift. However, if you happen to run into one of those dicks who just wants to hurt people, you should know that the second you retaliate violently towards one of those dicks, every good and bad cop will be more than happy to beat the living shit out of you.

Another reason is that ‘shock and awe’ tactics tend to scare the shit out of people and when you’re outnumbered, that’s usually the best route to go. It’s not pleasant, but the cops are like any other authority figure. They have bosses and the bosses give them orders. Their job is to follow their orders the best way they can.

Understand this. You will never beat the police on the street. They are going to do what they’re going to do. You can witness it. You can document it with pictures and video. You can post it up on the web for the world to see. And none of it will matter the second you are violent.

The police know how to deal with violent people. They are very good at it. Non-violent people are very difficult to deal with and control. Especially in this age of youtube.

REVOLUTION

The police are there to enforce the law. They aren’t in charge of what the law is. They don’t have to agree with the law. They don’t even have to follow the law themselves. But they aren’t going to change the law or how they enforce it to accommodate you.

If you’re looking to change things. Whether it’s a traffic law or the way the world works, you don’t start with the cops. You can’t. You save them for last. If you eventually find a way to change things, then the cops will be on your side.

Now don’t get me wrong, if a cop is wrong, you should fight the cop, but don’t be so silly as to play his game. A cop will beat you on the street every time because that’s his home. You beat the police in court. You beat them online.

Just understand that regardless of the situation, the second you are violent towards the authorities, they have won.

I didn’t argue too much with the cop that pulled me over. I disagreed with him politely and took the ticket that he gave me. I didn’t admit to any wrongdoing and mailed the ticket in so I can have my day in court.

–          Jack Cameron

King of Methlehem – Book Review

Most novelists, even successful ones have day jobs. This is just an economic fact. If you’re a resident of Western Washington, you’re probably at least remotely familiar with the name Mark Lindquist, but there’s a good chance that you don’t know him from his novels. You know him as a Pierce County Prosecutor. Just last night he was on the local news prosecuting someone who killed three-year-old. While his actions in the court room are admirable, that’s just his day job. When he’s not prosecuting criminals, Mark Lindquist is a novelist and after reading his latest book, ‘King of Methlehem’, I’m happy to report he’s a good one.

As you’ve probably guessed by the title, ‘King of Methlehem’ hangs its plot around the significant problem of meth amphetamine use and the damage it does. This problem is personified in Howard Shultz, a Tweeker with an obsession for cooking up meth subsidized by identity theft scams. The mentality of a hardcore meth user and cook is so well captured in ‘King of Methlehem’ that if Mark Lindquist were anyone else, you’d ask him how long he had been on it.

Pursuing Howard is Tacoma Police Detective Wyatt James. From the beginning, James is almost as addicted to finding Howard as Howard is addicted to meth. The dialog is quick and fun. You can tell that Lindquist used to write screenplays. The whole thing is written in present tense which gives it a feeling of urgency.

Aiding Detective James is his friend and prosecutor, Mike. While Wyatt is the cowboy, Mike is the guy who tries to keep Wyatt grounded. When Mike gets going in the court room, you can really see Lindquist’s day job influencing his writing. You get the feeling Mike’s frustration echoes his own.

If you’re a Tacoma native, you’re going to feel right at home with ‘King of Methlehem’ . Lindquist uses real bars, businesses, streets, people, and history. In fact, there are times when I think he overdoes it. In one chapter where two characters are driving down Tacoma’s 6th Ave., he manages to mention seven businesses on one page.  So while the book is seasoned with local color, I’d have to say sometimes it’s ‘over-seasoned’. This is as close as I can come to a criticism of ‘King of Methlehem’.

Ultimately, if you’re a fan of crime fiction, and definitely if you’re a local, ‘King of Methlehem’ is well worth your time. It’s like a local version of The Wire. And as anyone who knows how I feel about The Wire, that’s high praise indeed. I look forward to his next book and may check out his other books.

– Jack Cameron

Why I Don’t Celebrate Valentine’s Day

I’ve never met someone who liked Valentine’s Day. I don’t think this is due to not knowing anyone romantic. I think it has to do with the fact that Valentine’s Day is one of those things that seems better on paper than it actually is.

When you get down to it, if you’re in a good, rewarding relationship, you don’t really need a holiday to celebrate it. And if you’re not, well, you don’t really need a holiday to remind you of this fact. You might as well have Ferrari Day. The last thing all us non-Ferrari-owning people need is a reminder of the fact that no, we do not have a Ferrari.

One Valentine’s Day I bought twenty-five roses for my girlfriend and had them specially delivered to her during a test. In my entire life, I’ve never had anyone give me a more genuine thank you than her. Two months later we broke up. It turns out, spending $215.23 (yes, I still remember how much I spent,) didn’t guarantee anything at all. Later it occurred to me that I shouldn’t have given her twenty-five roses. I should have given one rose to twenty-five girls.

Buying a Valentine’s Day present doesn’t make you a better significant other. And if you’re the sort that likes to buy gifts, you’ll get a hell of a lot more out of it if you just do it for the hell of it than for Valentine’s Day. And if you’re the sort that absolutely needs a holiday to buy something for the one you love, there’s always their birthday, your anniversary, or Christmas. That’s a minimum of three other chances throughout the year.

I’ve asked friends and coworkers, but I can’t seem to find anyone in support of Valentine’s Day. As far as I can tell it’s just this holiday that retailers have foisted upon us and we’re just supposed to go along with it.

My wife and I have no real plans for Valentine’s Day. And it’s not that we’re not romantic or angry with each other. It’s not even the economy, because it’d be easy enough to set aside some money and get each other something. And despite everything I’m saying here, it’s not some ‘in your face’ to the retail world when it comes to Valentine’s Day. It’s that on Valentine’s Day I don’t love her any more or less than I do on any other day.

If I could, I’d abolish Valentine’s Day, but since I can’t, I thought I’d just throw some thoughts about it out here and see if it resonates with anyone.

-Jack Cameron

The Challenger Disaster 25 Years Later

A bit of a change of pace here. Twenty-five years ago today the space shuttle Challenger exploded. I was eleven years old. And while I could tell my story of that, I thought instead I’d have my father tell the story:

The Rings of Saturn

By John Cameron Sr.

It was 11:38 in the morning Eastern Standard Time on January 28, 1986.  At Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Space Shuttle Challenger lifted off from launch pad 39B, like the fury of a thousand Fourth of Julys.  It was the twenty-fifth shuttle launch and it was Challenger’s tenth.  Seventy-three seconds later at a speed of Mach 1.92 and an altitude of 46,000 feet, the space shuttle Challenger exploded, along with her crew of seven, including the first civilian shuttle passenger, Christa McAuliffe, a school teacher.

On December 5, 1974 at 8:21 A.M. a male child was born to the Cameron clan and his name was given John.  With a shock of reddish-brown hair and big brown eyes, he was the spittin’ image of his father (and his grand-father for that matter). As this precocious young giant grew, so did his fascination with the stars and planets, and he was his father’s constant companion.  When “Star Wars” the movie came out, it was John’s first big-screen adventure. When “Star Wars” the action figures came out his dad almost went broke.  John learned to love books and school and his Teachers.  The world was turning just fine.

My wife and I checked into a nice but affordable motel just outside of Lake Tahoe Nevada. We were comfortable that we had left our son, John, in the good hands of his favorite Aunt, and we were glad to have some time to play. Tomorrow morning was the Challenger launch and John would get up early to see it before he went off to school. I wanted to be sure I was up in time to watch with him, even though he was six hundred miles away. (I allowed myself a brief nostalgia-trip, remembering when he was five and I bought his first telescope. We read books and stared at the stars and found Mars and Jupiter and we saw the rings of Saturn for our first time.)  Now he was eleven and we had watched all the televised shuttle launches together, until now.  I felt somehow disconnected.

On the morning of the 28th I was walking around in my underwear brushing my teeth.  I flipped the T.V. on and was surprised at how close we were to launch. We had all been through this before and were almost nonchalant about firing people into space on top of a rocket. The solid rocket boosters kicked in and the magnificent technological marvel accelerated smoothly away from the shackles of gravity.  Majestic is hardly a good enough word to describe the arc of trajectory, the smoke and the clear crisp air…  It was only 36 degrees.  There were icicles hanging from the scaffolding.  There had never been a launch at such a low temperature. Oh well, they know what there doing…

In an instant everything changed, what I was seeing? This was so wrong!  Then it hit me. What about John? I grabbed the phone and dialed feverishly. I knew my son, and he would be devastated. I should have been there. He was only eleven. I needed to be Dad. One ring, two rings…

“Hi dad, were you watching the launch”? He seemed almost calm.

“Yes son, what a terrible tragedy, all those astronauts gone. I wonder what went wrong?” How could I give him a hug from six hundred miles away?  And then something happened unexpected, something I had not counted on.

“Are you all right?  You sound kind of shook up.”  My son was comforting me!  When did we switch places?

“I’m fine son are you going to handle this O.K.?  Do you want me to come home? ”

“No, I’ve got to get off to school dad, I was just worried about you and Mom…  That sure was a bad explosion.” He was acting as if he had called me.

I managed “I’ll see you when we get home, next Thursday.  I love you.”  I hung up.

I wonder how many lives were changed by the Challenger disaster?  I know my father-son relationship with John started to change that day.  However, the rings of Saturn were not changed.

John has a son of his own now, my grandson Gabriel. Gabe loves the stars.  Events of this world seem to change our perspective, but some things don’t change.  Some things are true.

The light is not affected by the darkness; the darkness is affected by the light, and little boys grow up too soon.