Poetry: “Photosynthesis”

Photosynthesis
by Ashley M. Jones 

When I was young, my father taught us
how dirt made way for food,
how to turn over soil so it would hold a seed,
an infant bud, how the dark could nurse it
until it broke its green arms out to touch the sun.
In every backyard we’ve ever had, he made a little garden plot
with room for heirloom tomatoes, corn, carrots,
peppers: jalapeno, bell, and poblano—
okra, eggplant, lemons, collards, broccoli, pole beans,
watermelon, squash, trees filled with fruit and nuts,
brussels sprouts, herbs: basil, mint, parsley, rosemary—
onions, sweet potatoes, cucumber, cantaloupe, cabbage,
oranges, swiss chard and peaches,
sunflowers tall and straightbacked as soldiers,
lantana, amaryllis, echinacea,
pansies and roses and bushes bubbling with hydrangeas.
Every plant with its purpose,
flowers to bring worms and wasps. How their work matters here.

This is the work we have always known,
pulling food and flowers from a pile of earth.
The difference, now: my father is not a slave,
not a sharecropper. This land is his and so is this garden,
so is this work. The difference is that he owns this labor.
The work of his own hands for his own belly,
for his own children’s bellies. We eat because he works.

This is the legacy of his grandmother, my great-granny—
Ollie Mae Harris and her untouchable flower garden.
Just like her hats, her flowerbeds sprouted something special,
plants and colors the neighbors could only dream of. 
He was young when he learned that this beauty is built on work—
the cows and the factories in their stomachs,
the fertilizer they spewed out—
the stink that brought such fragrance. What you call waste,
I call power. What you call work I make beautiful again.

In his garden, even problems become energy, beauty—
my father has ended many work days in the backyard, 
worries of the firehouse dropping like grain, my father wrist-deep
in soil. I am convinced the earth speaks back to him
as he feeds it—it is a conversational labor, gardening.
The seeds tell him what they will be, the soil tells seeds how to grow,
my father speaks sun and water into the earth,
we hear him, each harvest, his heartbeat sweet, like fruit.

from REPARATIONS NOW! copyright © 2021 Ashley M. Jones. Used by permission of Hub City Press. From The SlowDown.
Mahalo, Pat, for sharing this poem.

Thought for the Day: Making Money

“Americans, like human beings everywhere, believe many things that are obviously untrue. . . .

Their most destructive untruth is that it is very easy for any American to make money. They will not acknowledge how in fact hard money is to come by, and, therefore, those who have no money blame and blame and blame themselves. This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have had to do less for their poor, publicly and privately, than any other ruling class since, say, Napoleonic times.”

– Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five in Sunbeams, The Sun, Nov. 2022, p. 48.

Too true.

I hear some people say, “People just don’t want to work nowadays.” However, what I see are young people (and some older people) working two jobs so they can pay for rent, food, car . . . And many have to work the two jobs because if their main job is even just under 30 hours a week, the employer doesn’t have to offer health insurance.

And some people want bargains in the form of people doing things for what they might have paid ten years ago – or for free!

They say, “Can Joe come weed wack my yard for me?”

I hear that request as, “He should be grateful. I’ll tip him something and he (and I) won’t have to pay taxes. I don’t want to hire the landscaping company that pays a livable wage and offers medical insurance.”

The United States should have Universal Health Care – and jobs that offer livable wages. Those who have money and power should share. Also let’s welcome immigrants; we need them.

Be well. Be fair. Aloha, Renée

Thought for the Day: Our Brains

How can a three-pound mass of jelly that you can hold in your palm imagine angels, contemplate the meaning of infinity, and even question its own place in the cosmos? Especially awe-inspiring is the fact that any single brain, including yours, is made up of atoms that were forged in the hearts of countless, far-flung stars billions of years ago . . . These atoms now form a conglomerate — your brain — that can not only ponder the very stars that gave it birth but can also think about its own ability to think and wonder about its own ability to wonder.” –V.S. Ramachandran

Hoping we are all making good use of our brains – and being thankful we have them. Aloha, Renée

From “Sunbeams” The Sun December 2022, p. 48

Banner photo: from Wikipedia

World Sprints 2022, Dorney Lake, England – Persistence

You never know where persistence will take you – especially if luck is involved. Keep showing up and you’ll be amazed where you might go or what you may become.

Because of persistence – and luck – friends and I got to compete in the 2022 International Va’a Federation Outrigger Canoe World Sprints! Usually about 35 countries and 2,000 people participate. This year about 300 racers from Hawaii qualified to compete in England,

Dorney Lake, England – the site of the 2012 Summer Olympics – and the race course for the 2022 International Outrigger Canoe World Sprints
OC-6: Six-person outrigger canoes racing at Dorney Lake
Headed for the finish line – Dorney Lake, England
Race watchers – Dorney Lake, England
We could watch the races while we ate lunch in the Club House
Lining up to receive medals
We cheered for Diane Wetzel, who steered for the Kihei Master’s Team (the A team) and raced by herself in a V-1 (rudderless outrigger canoe – not easy). Diane won four medals at World Sprints 2022!
Kihei Masters – 75 – 1st place – from left: Maxine, Wanda, Marcie, Donna, & Diane (Mary is missing)
Diane Wetzel – our hero. Don’t tell anyone, but Diane is 79!!
The 80s Men’s Division – 1st Place – Hawaii
Celebratory chant
Our 75-women’s double-hull – paired with the Kihei Masters (A) team – came in second
Lanika’s time: 3.03.28 – our time: 3.03.92 — a difference of .64 of a second.

One clueless guy said that because we came in second that we were losers – haha. But no, we are all at least 75 years old (the oldest paddler on our Super Bees is 80 – and she is the strongest) and we had jumped many hurdles to be able to compete. I’m proud of all of us. Getting to World Sprints is a great achievement that took much persistence – and luck.

Being awarded our medals. The Hawaiian flag is in front – from left: Diane, Donna, Wanda, Marcie, Maxine, Mary, Joy, Kekoa, me, Audrey, & Gloria. Where’s Victoria?
Our silver medal – that to me represents friendship, fighting great odds, hard work, persistence – and some luck
The World Sprints isn’t just about racing, it’s about making friends. I love the T-shirt exchanges. This cute Brazilian guy traded his shirt that he got in a 75-mile race with my Australia 2016 shirt – for his daughter

So how did I get to World Sprints 2022? There have been hurdles.

I’m from the Midwest where there are no outrigger canoes; I don’t like to swim, and I was born way before Title IX made equality of access to sports for girls even an idea. I’ve never been an athlete. As often the youngest and scrawniest in my Decatur, IL elementary school classes, I was usually picked last to play “Red Rover, Red Rover” – a game long ago outlawed likely because of lawsuits from hurt kids. In a St. Louis area high school, we Missouri girls in the early 1960s P.E. classes were allowed to run only half the basketball court (because – we were girls – delicate, you know). Although I got to play my flute in the marching band, I was never a part of an athletic team. In college in SE Missouri, I joined the spelunking club and crawled around limestone caves on weekends and even had a few dates to go target practicing; I don’t know what possessed me to do either of those activities, but that was the limit of my physical activities outside P.E. classes. Then I graduated and moved to Chicago.

I ran along the Chicago lakefront and played tennis badly each summer; I rode my bicycle and had a wonderful adventure with that one summer. My DePaul classmate Marie and I even ran a 1/2 marathon – although we didn’t enter the race officially and felt like fraudulent Rosie Ruizes as we crossed the finish line looking relatively “fresh” since we had run “only” 13 miles and everyone else had done 26! So I’m not really an athlete although I used to love to hike and bike and even run a lot.

I’d been on Maui several years when my friend Denise invited me to come paddle with Kihei Canoe Club. I was 59. I again stood in line as paddlers 20 or 30 years or more younger were chosen first to fill the outrigger canoes. The first morning I was there, a local guy said, “What, another haole (white/non-islander)?” His haole girlfriend said, “Don’t pay any attention to him.” John Whitford was my first steersman; his wife, Victoria, is on our Super Bee’s crew now. That first paddle, I didn’t even feel tired after the hour workout. I discovered later that I hadn’t really been paddling, more dipping the paddle in the water. But it was beautiful out there on the ocean in the early mornings. During the winter when it was still dark at 5a.m., I could see the stars – even for a couple of months the Southern Cross near the horizon. By the time our morning paddle practices were over, the sun was up. I learned, although I couldn’t do it at first since I was still working and every moment was filled, an important part of the paddling is to go across the street to the ABC Store and buy a cup of their 99 cent coffee and sit and talk. I was hooked and kept coming back.

One big hurdle was actually to get on a team that was going to World Sprints.

Over the years, I’ve been in many regattas, the summer competitions among the Maui island clubs. Some years, I was even lucky enough to get to go to the Hawaii State Competitions in August. Mainly my ability to make a team had more to do with my persistence than my skill or power — and with the number of other women my age competing. We practiced three or four days a week; usually needed to be on the beach by 5 AM; and worked hard with the other Kihei Canoe Club members. In 2016, I qualified for the first time to compete in the World Sprints, held that year in Australia. We Kihei Canoe Club women’s 70-year-old division earned a silver medal there. See my report on that experience at Australia 2016 World Sprints. World Sprints are held every two years.

Although I kept coming out and paddling, I didn’t qualified for the 2018 World Sprints held that year in Tahiti. And when it didn’t look like I’d be asked for the 2020 competition, I went looking for a steersman. We found Kekoa and quickly filled our canoe with other willing paddlers. See my report on the more than exciting time trials in Hilo at the end of February 2020. In March, the state started to take the rising COVID-19 deaths seriously. The 2020 World Sprints were cancelled. 😦

But I kept paddling – with a great group of women; we called ourselves the Super Bees. We were the B team: mainly older, not as strong, and less experienced than the A team. But we showed up, worked hard, and didn’t give up. Paddling kept us sane during the pandemic. We could exercise and socialize in our own little bubble; we wore masks, of course, and got vaccines as soon as they were available. However, only six crews per state advance in each category to qualify for the World Sprints, this year held in England. Of course, we all wanted to go. Although for the first time, the World Sprints Federation added a 75 and an 80-year-old division, we’d been practicing to compete against the 70 year olds, and wanted to qualify for that.

At the end of February, we flew to Oahu for the time trials. Eight boats competed at Sand Island near the airport in Honolulu for the six slots available for Hawaii 70-women’s division to move on to compete in England. We showed up, paddled — and came in last of the eight boats :(. Our steersman couldn’t see our brown flag a quarter of a mile away; a plane took off over us at the start – so seats five and six lost two strokes! We were more than disappointed. We had been training for this one race for four years – and we lost the chance.

But the Kihei Master’s boat was disqualified as well; the steersman couldn’t see the flag and had gone in to another canoe’s lane. So we – Super Bees – moved up to 7th place, still not the within the top six that would qualify to go to England.

Bemoaning our loss, I flew home later that day – and was seated next to two women on the Hawaiian Airlines flight to Maui. One woman, Faith, I recognized as being from our arch-rival team, Hawaiian Canoe Club. Faith too had been in a younger crew that had not made it to World Sprints. We complained about our bad luck. But then, I realized that Faith had been in the boat when Pua had died of an aneurysm about 10 or so years ago. I had been in another boat out in the harbor that day. This was before cell phones, so by the time her boat was on shore and an ambulance arrived, it was too late. Pua was an always friendly woman who wore a colorful hibiscus flower in her hair; she was the wife of our KCC men’s coach, Kawika. Faith had been in Pua’s boat that day, and she went on to share that a couple of years ago her son Mathew at 28 had died of an aneurysm. Suddenly, my complaints about not making it into the World Sprints competition did not seem important at all.

The next morning, a Sunday about 9am, our coach Vanessa called me and said that the Waimanalo woman’s 70 team that had qualified to go to Sprints had dropped out because a few of the women on the team could not afford to go to England. Waimanalo is mainly Hawaiian and often they can get only low-paying jobs (even now). So we SuperBees (mainly haole) were at number six. Perhaps it wasn’t really fair, but what an unexpected blessing for us – we qualified for the 70s division! And now we could compete!! Vanessa said we needed the names of the six women who would be in the crew for Women 70s by noon. Our SuperBees would be competing in the Women’s 75 division anyway, but who would be in the 70 division? What about our Kihei Masters? Deanna on the As has family in England, and the As were actually better than we. We could, but should we, go compete in the 70s? We called a Zoom meeting and hashed out everything among the five of us who showed up, Our steerswoman had been so exhausted that she had turned off her phone and her computer, so she was unreachable. With Pua, Faith, and Matthew in mind, we decided that what was really important was teamwork and helping one another. So with a few conditions – like wanting to be in the double-hull with them and the A’s taking Dorothy from our boat since she was too young to qualify for the 75s (we aren’t completely magnanimous), we sent the names of the A Team to Vanessa for the 70s Women crew.

So we Super Bees and the Kihei As overcame the hurdle of being on a team. We were all going to World Sprints 2022!

Then there was another big hurdle for me – the personal medical issue.

In April, I had run up our very steep driveway after our little rascal dog Makena — and fainted.

Puea, Makena, and me. Makena looks cute, but he is a rascal who will go off on adventures any chance he gets.

I didn’t get hurt when I fell because the drive is steep and I’d put my head down when I felt dizzy. I didn’t tell anyone. But I did call my doctor and went to see her. She said she thought she heard a slight heart murmur and referred me to a cardiologist. He said he thought I just needed to hydrate more and have salt. Okay, I can handle that. But he also had me take a slue of tests. A few weeks before I was to leave for England, a Physician’s Assistant in a TeleHealth screen that was about two inches high shared the results of the tests. She told me that I had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a thickening of the septum between the two chambers of the heart. It’s usually a hereditary condition, and it’s what young athletes who drop dead without warning often have. What!!! She said I could get medications, a defibrillator or if necessary, a heart transplant! What!! But no one in my family that I knew about had the condition. We paddlers had been practicing strenuously for four years – doing the same workout as those 30 and 40 years younger. Wouldn’t I have died already? But that diagnosis scared me; I didn’t particularly want to kill myself by competing in the World Sprints. However, the actual races are much, much shorter than our hour practices, so I wasn’t going to let that surprise diagnosis keep me from going to Sprints!

The final week before we were to leave on August 8th for London, luckily, perhaps, Barry got COVID. So I had a better excuse not to go to practice (than being afraid that I’d drop dead). Finally I got to see the cardiologist in person on August 5th. He told me that for my age my heart is in good condition! If I were 40, he said, he would be concerned, but I should just make an appointment in a year – no meds, no defibrillator, no heart transplant! He told me to go to World Sprints and send him pictures of any medals. I left his office and cried out of relief. I did go to Sprints and I sent a photo of my medal to my cardiologist. So that scary hurdle for me was cleared.

However, during the World Sprints there was an incident that shows how you never know what might happen – and a reminder that racing can be hard on a heart. The men 60s races were earlier in the morning of a day we 75 women had two races. We were watching. As the Hawaii Men 60s from Kauai came first across the finish line, we could see Kiope stand up in his red shorts and seem to be rubbing the shoulders of the man ahead of him. But then we could tell there was something wrong – really wrong. The man looked as though he was falling out off the side; Kiope was holding the man in the canoe. Luckily, the canoe was near the dock – and medical people were on site. Soon the man was on the pier, medical people ran to surround him – sheets were strung up to keep the rest of us from seeing what was happening.

Soon there was also an ambulance, four police cars, and many medical people on the pier
The British even sent a medivac helicopter

About a thousand racers and attenders stood in silence. We all held our paddling blades pointing up – indicating a paddler in distress. Every minute seemed long. We may have waited about an hour like that in silence. Then someone started singing Amazing Grace; we all joined in. Then we sang the Hawaiian anthem: Hawai’i Pono’i. I think we were all sure the man was dead. I kept thinking, since I had had that terrible diagnosis from the PA, that could be me.

But then, I could hear laughter from out on the pier. What!! Laughter?

A woman came tearing through our crowd of amassed paddlers. She was screaming, “He’s alive! He’s alive!” Many of us cried.

And what was that laughter? We heard later, Vic, the man who had collapsed, had automated external defibrillator (AED) paddles used immediately and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was brought back to life. The medical personnel were able to restore his heart rhythm. Vic, who is sight impaired – said, when he woke up, “I still can’t see!” Everyone laughed in relief. It shows Vic’s excellent sense of humor too. Vic was taken to the hospital. His wife came back to the race site that afternoon to pick up Vic’s 1st place medal! He’s doing fine now. We were very impressed with the British medical response. Vic was extremely lucky to have immediate attention.

What happened to Vic can be an issue. When we race at these competitions, we often sit around for hours waiting for our turns to race. At the race line, we hold still, then burst forward at the starting signal, go full out, and then stop abruptly once we cross the finish line. That’s a lot of stress on our hearts. We are supposed to warm up before the races, but that doesn’t always happen. Haiku Bob on the Kihei Canoe Club men’s crew at World Sprints in Calgary, Canada several years ago, collapsed near the finish line. It took too long to get him help – and he died. His crew came in 3rd in that race in spite of Bob dying. Pua, Haiku Bob, Vic! It’s a sport not without its dangers. Hurrah for the excellent British medical response.

Other hurdles have arisen throughout my paddling history– as in life in general, but the friendships, the challenges, the beauty of being on the water have all been worth the effort and persistence.

Although we spent most of our days at Dorney Lake during the completion, we did get to explore Windsor where we stayed in the Holiday Express – with its wonderful breakfasts. We walked to the castle and ate delicious dinners: Mediterranean, Indian, Moroccan, even the British pub we tried had excellent food.

Paddling Sisters: Wanda, me, Gloria, Joy, & Audrey
At Windsor Castle: me, Joy, Wanda, & Audrey
Oh no! Is Audrey in trouble again? No, she’s just hanging out with the Windsor Castle police
Windsor Castle – waiting for the changing of the guards
Changing of the guard at Windsor Castle in. 90+ degree heat!
Outside Windsor Castle

The Windsor streets and flats were lovely:

A Windsor English pub

We saw evidence of British humor:

Another sign said:
“I’m from a family of failed magicians. I have two half-sisters.”
The Thames
On the Thames
Many cathedrals too

We did get to go into London for a day:

Our favorite part of the day was the River Thames City Boat trip – we could get on and off.
London park
River Thames – the tide was coming in!
Dorothy and Audrey on our Thames boat
Joy and me on the boat
We hopped off the boat in Greenwich – and had a lovely Indian meal (and checked our watches)

Although hard on the British, the temperatures were Kīhei, Maui hot – in the 80s and 90s; we felt right at home.

I enjoyed our whole adventure – the races, the challenges, the travel, but mostly the friendships. Thanks to all the Super Bees: Kekoa for steering us – we really couldn’t have done it without her; Gloria, for being an excellent seat two encouraging me, the stroker, and watching where we were going; Joy for often being seat three and calling us over – also for her unflagging generosity, Victoria for her strength and determination, and Audrey, who I consider the “brains” of our boat, was the one who would call out, “Give it all you’ve got!” – and we would. We are thankful too for – Dorothy, who drove from Kanapali in the dark early mornings to practice with us, but at 71 was too young for our boat; she was accepted into the As 70 canoe. For all the As- Deb, Deanna, Wanda, Iris, Suzan, Christine, sometimes Jani – with her good attitude, and especially Diane, who challenged us all to be our best. Thanks to all for being good competitors and friends. Thanks to Coach Kawika and especially to Coach Vanessa. We have a wonderful community.

The 2024 World Sprints will be in Hilo, Hawaii and the 2026 races in Paris, France! I hope all of us Kīhei paddlers will be persistent, show up, work hard, and with a little luck, be at those races too. Thanks to the Va’a Federation for adding the 75 and the 80 divisions so we even have a chance to make a team.

I hope by then we will really have The Boys in the Boat spirit. They are the competitors who won against great odds the 1936 races in Germany. For a wonderful example of the human spirit read The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, a non-fiction by Daniel James Brown.

We Super Bees will not go work in a limestone quarry off season to build our strength as the boys in the boat did, but we are working on our camaraderie and care for each other as they did – and paddling, of course. It was their teamwork that really gave those boys the superpower they showed. Our friendships are the most important aspect of paddling for me.

Another book I recommend is the novel Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Gramus. Set in 1952, the main character Elizabeth Zott is a rower and an American chemist, two unusual pursuits for a 1952 woman. Rowers may be even more fanatical than paddlers. For a laugh-out-loud fast read that also makes you think, get the book. If you have a dog, Elizabeth’s dog Six-Thirty will make you pay more attention to dogs in your life too.

May we all become more like the boys in the boat with their determination and care for each other as they forged ahead and like Elizabeth Zott who too faced great obstacles and hurdles. I like to think we Super Bees do too.

I plan to make the World Sprints 2024 – and Paris 2026. I know I need persistence, a great crew, and some luck.

May you find companionship and purpose as you persist in jumping the hurdles in your life too.

Aloha, Renée

P.S. You (and I) may think this post is over, but I have to tell you the rest of the story.

Because I was coming straight back to Maui – and the other women were traveling on, I agreed to bring back our paddles. I did carry-on, and then used my checked baggage limit for the four-foot high hard-case golf bag, borrowed from Victoria, that would fit all our paddles; we affectionately called it “the casket.” No problem, I thought. The case has rollers, and I could check it in at Heathrow and pick it up when I landed on Maui. I didn’t realize that I had to go through U.S. Customs when we landed in San Francisco eleven hours later. With little lay-over time, I was to then change planes to fly on to Maui. Once in San Francisco, I waited and waited at baggage for the “casket.” Because it was oversized, it took forever to come through, and by the time I’d gone through Customs and rechecked the bag, I was too late to board the Maui flight. Yikes!

The airlines rebooked me on a early flight the next morning. I got a motel room close to the airport, ran through a creepy highway underpass to the closest place to eat – a Denny’s where I got a vegetarian omelet – that tasted like grease, ran back through the underpass, slept a few hours, and then went back to the airport. Almost no one wore a mask. The TSA lines had us packed in like sardines. We needed to pass – paired up two-by-two, shoulder-to-shoulder – with a sniffing dog and its handler passing in front and behind. I was paired with a 30-something scraggly bearded guy wearing a one-piece brown cotton jumpsuit with little yellow bees all over it. The outfit would have been cute if it were on a two-year old. I don’t like to be judgmental, but I did hope that no one thought I was associated with that guy in any way. I hoped too that he didn’t have a bomb or marijuana or whatever they were searching for. We made it through.

On the five-hour flight to Maui, I sat next to an interesting woman; we talked much of that time. Then I was home – where I was happy to be. The next morning, however, I didn’t feel well – and I took a COVID test – Positive! But I started Paxlovid right away, so my case was mild; I was home where Barry and John took good care of me, and I recovered quickly. I count getting COVID as another hurdle – but I didn’t get it before World Sprints or during the races- as some paddlers did, and I made it home, so I wasn’t stuck somewhere. Hurdles are everywhere. But with persistence – and some luck – we can make it through our challenges.

“The casket” returned to Victoria & John’s house

Many blessings – and some luck – to you as you persist. Aloha, Renée

Banner photo: from the left, Joy Nelson, Gloria Lee-Jones, me, Victoria Smith, Audrey Quinn, Kekoa Enomoto

Please Vote!

If you are a Hawaii voter who turned in your mail-in ballot, go to https://hawaii.ballottrax.net/ to see if it has been accepted. If there is a problem – forgotten signature or something, you have time to correct it TODAY.

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For Hawaii residents, here is information you can use – from Gary L. Hooser:

If you’ve already voted, mahalo plenty. Please if you can, take that extra step to make a call or send a text and encourage friends, neighbors, and family to do the same.If you’ve waited until today to vote – Here is a pretty cool statewide interactive map showing the location of each “Ballot Drop Box – Places of Deposit” and “Voter Service Centers”.“Ballot Drop Box – Place of Deposit”
Here you can drop off the sealed envelope containing your ballot that you got in the mail.“Voter Service Centers” – open between 7am and 7pm today – November 8th 
Here you can vote in person. If you’re not already registered to vote, you can also register here and vote at the same time. If you have lost your ballot or have other ballot issues, you can speak with people here who might be able to help you. More information is available here at the Office of Elections.  Here are the Pono Hawaiʻi Initiative endorsement recommendations for Statewide legislative races and Council races for every County.Here is a short blog piece I wrote that you might find interesting: Who Controls Government In Hawaiʻi?View this provocative 2 minute video on the Maui political scene. Maui County is leading the way but big money development interests don’t like it one little bit – and are spending millions fighting back.For my friends on Kauaʻi: I wrote this last week and the good ole boys might find it a bit irreverent, I’m hoping by being direct I get the point across: KauaʻiCouncil – Let’s Not Just Rinse and RepeatThat’s all I’ve got for today.  Tonight will be a long one, that is for sure.Sincerely,Gary L. Hooser*In case anyone was curious: No candidate, no person, and no entity whatsoever, has approved, authorized or paid for anything contained in this email. All costs of sending and maintaining this email list I pay for personally.And – for those who wonder why I do what I do…here is a hint.

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And if you have already voted and want to do more today, here is a good list from “Chop Wood, Carry Water” –

  1. Sign up for phone banking shifts with the Ohio Democrats through this Mobilize link, even if you haven’t made calls before. They’ll prepare you well to maximize your impact on Democratic turnout by having important voting plan conversations.
  2. I’ll be calling with the DNC for a good part of today. Their dialer is the best. We’ll be calling into whatever state needs it most—it looks like right now it’s PA, but it’ll change a few times—giving Democratic voters all the info they need to cast their ballots today or tomorrow. This calling is super fun and effective. Sign up for a shift here.
  3. Movement Labs still has millions of texts to send. Sign up here.
  4. I’ve signed up to make calls into Georgia with Fair Fight from 2-4PM PT. I’ll be a bit late as I’ll be coming off of another phonebank (see below) but I’ll be there! Join me! Use this link to sign up.
  5. Know anyone who has money left? Share this Tiktok I made to try to help raise money to close Down Home NC’s 11K budget gap. (I posted it on IG, too.) We’ve raised 6K already! The link to give is here.
  6. Make “ballot chase” calls into PA all day today. Sign up here.
  7. The Environmental Voter Project will continue to have phonebanks all day today. I will tell y’all: my thirteen year old made calls on this phonebank yesterday and loved it. The calls are non-partisan and you’ll simply be helping folks make a plan to vote. Great for new-to-calling folks. Sign up here.
  8. Sister District has phonebanks all day today into PA, NC and MI. They are doing a yeoman’s work making sure folks vote down ballot as well as up—which literally could save democracy. Sign up for a shift here. They need more callers badly.
  9. I’ll be running a phonebank into AZ today from 12:30-2:30 PT / 3:30-5:30 ET. We’ll continue to talk to low-propensity Dems and make sure they get out to vote! Please come!
  10. Thousands of Pennsylvania ballots could be thrown out because they lack signatures, dates, or secrecy envelopes.Voters can still fix these ballots! Volunteer to call and tell them how.
  11. There’s a “Women Are Voting” virtual textbank tomorrow. Sign up here.
  12. Activate America has GOTV phonebanking shifts all day today and tomorrow. Sign up here for today. Sign up here for tomorrow.

Finally, for a good take on where we are electorally right now, read today’s Status Kuo. Very helpful. Although I still think we can hold the House. (:

OK. I’m off to call. Sending love and strength. We can do this.

Jess

“Chop Wood, Carry Water” is a reader-supported publication. 

***** ********

Wherever you are, Democracy needs attention. We can’t be complacent. Stay calm. Vote. And work to make our country fulfill its promises to all citizens – and be a good model for the world.

Aloha, Renée

Book: “Assessing the Healing Power of the Vagus Nerve”

Do you suffer from common problems, such as –

Chronic physical tensions

  • Tense/hard muscles
  • Sore neck and shoulder muscles
  • Migraines
  • Back pain
  • Arthritis
  • Dizziness . . .

Emotional issues

  • Irritability, anger
  • Feeling ‘down’
  • Feeling of hopelessness
  • Lack of energy
  • General anxiety
  • Nightmares
  • Excessive worries . . .

Heart and lung problems

  • Chest pains
  • Asthma
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • High blood pressure . . .

Visceral-organ dysfunctions

  • Poor digestion
  • Stomach problems
  • Hyperacidity, ulcer, hearburn
  • Loss of appetite . . .

Immune-system problems

  • Frequent influenza
  • Minor infections
  • Allergies

Behavioral problems

  • Frequent accidents or injuries
  • Increase in drinking or smoking
  • Excessive use of medicine with or without prescription
  • Autism, ADHD, Asperger’s syndrome

Or other problems involving interpersonal relationships, mental issues or . . . (3-5).

All these issues, says Stanley Rosenberg, author of Accessing the Healing Power of the Vagus Nerve: Self-Help Exercises for Anxiety, Depression, Trauma, and Autism, are related to cranial-nerve dysfunction. In this book, Rosenberg shares his forty-five years of training, research, and experience.

Rosenberg explains that the autonomic nervous system not only regulates the workings of our visceral organs (stomach, lungs heart, liver, etc) but is closely tied to our emotional state, which directly influences our behavior. Improving the cranial-nerve function encourages the autonomic nervous system to return naturally, on its own, from a state of stress – the “fight or flight” mode we often seem to be stuck in – to our feeling physically and emotionally safe, which helps our bodies heal. Rosenberg has been able to achieve positive results with health issues as far-ranging as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), migraine headaches, and autism (and those issues listed above).

His simple self-healing exercises seem too good to be true. However, our often being stuck in “fight or flight” restricts blood flow to our brains – and reduces the healing capabilities of our bodies. And even if you are basically okay in your daily life, a few minutes watching the daily news is sure to make you feel stress, and put your body in “fight or flight” mode.

How can you tell if you have a dysfunction of your pharyngeal branch of the neural vagus?

If while you are saying “ah, ah, ah” in a percussive manner, the uvula goes up to one side but not the other, there is a dysfunction of the pharyngeal branch of the ventral vagus (Appendix p. 4).

You can read Rosenberg’s explanations in his 250 page well-notated book, or you can jump to the end of the book and try his self-help exercises. His Basic Exercise is the one he introduces first to his patients. See if it helps whatever your condition is.

BASIC EXERCISE INSTRUCTIONS

“The first few times that you do the exercise, you should lie on your back. After you are familiar with the exercise, you can do it sitting on a chair, standing, or lying on your back.

  1. Lying comfortably on your back, weave the fingers of one hand together with the fingers of the other hand.
  2. Put your hands behind the back of your head, with the weight of your head resting comfortably on your interwoven fingers. You should feel the hardness of your cranium with your fingers, and you should feel the bones of your fingers on the back of your head. If you have a stiff shoulder and cannot bring both of your hands up behind the back of your head, it is sufficient to use one hand, with the fingers and palm contacting both sides of the back of your head.
  3. Keeping your head in place, look to the right, moving only your eyes, as far as you comfortably can. Do not turn your head; just move your eyes. Keep looking to the right.
  4. After a short period of time–up to thirty or even sixty seconds–you will swallow, yawn, or sigh. This is a sign of relaxation in your autonomic nervous system. (A normal inbreathe is followed by an outbreath, but a sigh is different–after you breathe in, a second inbreathe follows on top of the first inbreathe, before the outbreath.)
  5. Bring your eyes back to looking straight ahead.
  6. Leave your hands in place, and keep your head still. This time move your eyes to the left
  7. Hold your eyes there until you notice a sigh, a yawn, or a swallow” (186-190)

That’s it. It takes only a minute or two.

Try this Basic Exercise to bring your body into a state of safety that activates its innate capacity to heal.

Rosenberg says that most of his clients “have an upper cervical misalignment–i.e., a rotation of the vertebrae C1 (the atlas) and a tipping of C2 (the axis) away from their optimal positions. Using the Basic Exercise almost always brings my clients back into a better alignment of C1 and C2, and when I test them again I find that they have proper ventral vagal function”(191). . .

Rosenberg’s “‘Salamander Exercises’ progressively increase flexibility in the thoracic spine, freeing up movement in the joints between the individual ribs and the sternum. This will increase your breathing capacity, help reduce a forward head posture by bringing your head back into better alignment, and reduce a scoliosis (abnormal spine curvature).

Eighty percent of the fibers of the vagus nerve are afferent (sensory) fibers, which means that they bring information back from the body to the brain, while only 20 percent are efferent (motor) fibers that carry instructions from the brain to there body. . .

LEVEL 1: THE HALF-SALAMANDER EXERCISE

To do the first part of the Salamander Exercise to the right, sit or stand in a comfortable position.

  1. Without turning your head, let your eyes look to the right.
  2. Continuing to face straight forward, tilt your head to the right so that your right ear moves closer to your right shoulder, without lifting the shoulder to meet it.
  3. Hold your head in this position for thirty to sixty seconds.
  4. Then let your head come back up to neutral, and shift your eyes to look forward again.
  5. Now duo the same on the other side: let your eyes look to the left, and then simply bend your head to the left. After thirty to sixty seconds, return your head to an upright position, and your eyes to a forward direction” (201-202). . .

A variation to the Half-Salamander Exercise is to look left while you tilt your head to the right and look right when you tip your head to the left. . .

“Twist and Turn Exercise for the Trapezius

The Twist and Turn Exercise improves the tone of a flaccid trapezius muscle, and balances each of its three parts with the other two parts. It also helps to lengthen the spine, improve breathing, and correct forward head posture (FHP). This in turn often alleviates shoulder and back pain.

This exercise can benefit anyone, not just those with FHP. It takes less than one minute to do, and the feeling of positive change is immediate. It is a good idea to take a moment to do this exercise whenever you have been sitting for a while, and to repeat it regularly from time to time. I do it almost every time that I get up from sitting at my computer. Every time you do the exercise, you will experience an improvement in breathing and posture, and its positive effects are cumulative. . .

TWIST AND TURN EXERCISE INSTRUCTIONS

There are three parts to this exercise. The difference between the three parts is the position of your arms.

  1. Sit comfortably on a firm surface, such as the seat of a chair or a bench. Keep your face looking forward.
  2. Fold and cross your arms, with your hands resting lightly on your elbows. You with be rotating your shoulder girdle briskly, first to one side and then to the other, without stopping, and without shifting the hips.
  3. For the first part of the exercise, let your elbows drop and rest just in front of your body. Rotate your shoulders so that your elbows move, first to one side and then back to the other side. When you rotate your shoulders from side to side, your arms glide lightly over your stomach. This activates the fibers of your upper trapezius.
  4. Do this three times. Do not strain, and do not stop your movement. Move your shoulders without forcing them or holding them; your movements are easy and relaxed.
  5. The second part is just like the first; the only difference is that you lift your elbows and hold them in front of your chest, at the level of your hear. rotate your elbows first to one side and then to the other. Do this three times. This activates the muscle fibers of your middle trapezius.
  6. For the third part, raise your elbows as high as you comfortably can, and repeat the exercise above. Rotate your elbows from side to side, three times. This activates the muscle fibers of your lower trapezius” (208-212).

Get moving to help your body heal. Stanley Rosenberg offers other self-helps exercises for migraines, stiff necks and more.

Be well. Aloha, Renée

Barry’s Gleanings: “Most Americans Value Immigration. Most Politicians Don’t”

https://www.heraldextra.com/news/opinion/editorial/2022/sep/23/de-rugy-most-americans-value-immigration-most-politicians-dont/

At a time when the American economy could use more people, restrictions on immigration continue to trap a lot of unused talent in low-productivity countries. To unleash it, the United States could simply let these immigrants in and let them work. They’d become a productive part of the system that makes this country so wealthy. But politicians are getting in the way.

Forget for a moment about the usual fear-based talking points. Ignore the recent use of immigrants as political props. As George Mason University economist Bryan Caplan said on PBS, “if you don’t know anything about economics, just learn this: the secret to mass consumption is mass production. Countries that produce a lot of stuff have a high living standard. Countries that produce a small amount of stuff have a low living standard. That is why people want to live in rich countries, because production per person is high in rich countries.”

Unfortunately, the extravagant redistribution of wealth during the COVID-19 years created incentives to stay home instead of work. Today, many U.S. industries are having a hard time finding workers, leaving production lower than it should be. That means fewer goods and services to raise our living standards. It’s so bad that unfilled jobs in the manufacturing sector could cost the U.S. economy $1 trillion annually.

This highlights that our problem isn’t too many immigrants. Instead, we admit too few people who want to come here to work, often leaving them with no good choice but to try anyway.

I understand that some Americans feel uneasy about allowing in more immigrants who are less educated than most of our population. But you don’t have to be a highly educated engineer, surgeon or entrepreneur of the caliber of Elon Musk to add net value to the U.S. economy. In fact, so much of our country is functioning so well precisely because of so-called low-skilled workers.

Think back to the many months of the pandemic when the economy was closed except for those businesses labeled “essential.” Who do you think kept supermarkets open by stocking shelves and driving supplies from warehouses to stores? Who collected garbage, planted vegetables and raised chickens? Who prepared the takeout meals you ordered on Uber Eats or other platforms? Who cleaned your home or renovated your patio? Who worked in elder care facilities? It was the workers we dismissively call “low-skilled.”

Meanwhile, much of the country’s computer class hid in our homes, safe and fully paid, collecting COVID-19 checks and enjoying the luxury of others delivering to our doorsteps the things we’ve come to expect. In a country with 11 million job openings sitting unfilled, we should want more people around who are willing to do the type of work that makes our lives better.

The best part is that these new immigrants don’t just bring their labor, they also bring their youth, culture, music, ideas and innovation. As much as ever, it’s the mixing of people who choose to become our neighbors — those who courageously and energetically uproot themselves and leave everything and everyone they know to come to America — that makes this country uniquely innovative and prosperous.

The American people agree. For years, Gallup has polled people about whether immigrants are a good, bad or mixed thing for this country. Since 2014, 70% or more have responded that immigrants are a good thing. Most of us don’t want fewer immigrants. Unfortunately, when it comes to immigration reform, there are no adults in the room.

Democrats pander to immigrants but do little to liberalize the system. As a result, people in search of the American dream continue to come illegally. This year, for the first time, over 2 million have been arrested at the Southwestern border. They take horrible risks and get stuck in despicable conditions when they arrive.

Meanwhile, Republicans’ hostility to immigrants has increased, thanks in no small part to stereotypes from the minds of people like former President Donald Trump — fallacies from “they are drug dealers” and “welfare queens” to “they will deface our culture.” Of course, welfare could be an issue if extended to everyone who arrives. But that’s not the case now, and if need be, Congress could clarify it. This is precisely what a majority of Americans want. Either way, these concerns should be addressed by reforming the welfare state.

The tragedy is that there are solutions to all these problems. I’m willing to bet that in the long term, we’ll never regret bringing more people to the United States. Please let them in.

Veronique de Rugy is the George Gibbs Chair in Political Economy and a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

By Veronique De Rugy – seen in The Maui News, September 23, 2022, p D1.

Veronique De Rugy

Banner photo: <https://www.gannett-cdn.com/-mm-/b2b05a4ab25f4fca0316459e1c7404c537a89702/c=0-0-1365-768/local/-/media/2018/09/21/USATODAY/usatsports/247WallSt.com-247WS-494421-immigrants.jpg?width=3200&height=1680&fit=crop&gt;

There is room. We have jobs. Most of us in the United States are thankful for our immigrant ancestors. Let’s create legal paths for the workers we need. We will all be better off.

Aloha, Renée

Who are the Homeless?

“We need always to be thinking and writing about poverty, for if we are not among its victims its reality fades from us. We must talk about poverty, because people insulated by their own comfort lose sight of it,” said journalist and social activist Dorothy Day, cofounder of the Catholic Worker Movement. “It is hard to write about poverty.

We live in a slum neighborhood. It is becoming ever more crowded with Puerto Ricans [then when Day wrote this 1952 essay or at anytime whoever is the poorest], those who have the lowest wages in the city, who do the hardest work, who are small and undernourished from generations of privation and exploitation. . .

So many decent people come in to visit and tell us how their families were brought up in poverty, and how through hard work and cooperation, they managed to educate all the children — even raise up priests and nuns to the Church. They contend that healthful habits and a stable family situation enable people to escape from the poverty class, no matter how mean the slum they may once have been forced to live in. So why can’t everybody do it? No, these people don’t know about the poor. Their conception of poverty is not what poverty is. . . (“Poverty and Precocity” The Sun, Issue 520, p 22-23)

https://www.thesunmagazine.org/issues/520/guests-issue-520

Who are the homeless? Photographer Doug Winter shows us –

520 - Winter - Guests

© Doug Winter

PHOTOGRAPHY

Guests

BY DOUG WINTER • APRIL 2019 The Sun.

For the past two years Doug Winter has been photographing and interviewing people at Loaves & Fishes in Sacramento, California. Founded in 1983, the charity’s mission is to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless, but it also tries to meet less tangible needs for “love, acceptance, respect, and friendship.” Their guests — who may number up to a thousand on a given day — can eat a meal, do laundry, take a shower, receive mental-health counseling, and socialize in Friendship Park, an outdoor space at the center of the organization’s campus. Loaves & Fishes estimates that more than half the people who come there are over fifty, more than half have a psychiatric diagnosis, and about 60 percent are sleeping outside every night.

Winter sets up his equipment in the Loaves & Fishes library once a month. The subjects get to keep prints of their portraits, which Winter also shares on his blog (dougwinterstudio.com/blog) in an effort to increase awareness and understanding of homelessness.

— Ed.

Cornelius and April (above) met on the street four years ago and discovered they’d had similar struggles growing up. Both had to drop out of school to help take care of family. “The last week of the month, we never had any food,” Cornelius says. “I filled out many job applications, but I could never get a job. So I started hustling, selling drugs.”

Cornelius spent thirty years in prison. April is retired. Now they live in an old Cadillac that’s often in danger of being towed due to tickets or other violations. Both receive some assistance every month, but not enough to afford an apartment in Sacramento.

When they wake in the morning, they usually go to Friendship Park. “It’s nice not being hungry and being able to do laundry,” April says. “It’s a safe place, and we can meditate there, too.”

520 - Winter - Guests - 2
© Doug Winter

Gloria, a fifty-four-year-old mother of two, first tried crystal meth at a party more than twenty-five years ago. She used meth daily, in part to numb the lasting pain of sexual abuse she’d survived as a child. Then an overdose and a failed suicide attempt pushed her into recovery: “I saw myself floating over my body, and I saw myself ask my boyfriend for help, but he had his headphones on and couldn’t hear me. So I asked God to help me, and then I woke up on the couch.”

Gloria currently lives in Sister Nora’s Place, a long-term women’s shelter at Loaves & Fishes. She has been off meth for five years and goes to 12-step meetings.

She wears a small Wonder Woman necklace. For her it means “stand up for yourself, be strong, don’t be afraid to say no.”

520 - Winter - Guests - 3
© Doug Winter

Gregory is sixty-four and grew up in Jamestown, North Dakota. His grandparents had a cabin on Spiritwood Lake, eighteen miles north of his hometown, and he spent the summer months there swimming, learning to sail, and fishing with his grandfather. For Gregory the deep blue-green waters of the lake were an escape from the school year: “I felt like that was my home. They had to force me to go back to town.”

Gregory made it through three years of college as a pre-med student, but a car wreck put an end to his academic career: “The doctors told me I had to accept the fact that I might never walk again,” he says. “I didn’t accept that. I was going to find a way to walk, and I did.”

520 - Winter - Guests - 4
© Doug Winter

Anthony was born in Rayne, Louisiana, in 1955. He lives in a small room at a boardinghouse near Loaves & Fishes. Eighty-five percent of his monthly assistance goes to pay his rent. He acknowledges how tough it was to live on the street, avoiding the cops and the looming possibility of jail. (Thousands are arrested each year in California for vagrancy.) Anthony says anyone who “stands under the blue sky” could end up in the situation he is in.

520 - Winter - Guests - 5
© Doug Winter

James was born in 1954 and grew up in San Francisco. He worked concessions and ticket sales at Candlestick Park before he was drafted into the Army and did two tours of duty in Vietnam.

James’s mother passed away last year from cancer: “She was a tough woman. She gave me money and put a roof over my head. She made me omelets before I went to school and packed brownies in my lunch. We got along really well.” He pauses to find the right words for what his mother did for him: “She gave me the opportunity to be myself.”

520 - Winter - Guests - 6
© Doug Winter

Nina, a forty-nine-year-old Sacramento native and mother of four, has been living outside for about a year and a half. She graduated from high school in 1985 and started working as a cashier at an auto-parts store. Then the store got robbed during her shift by someone who shoved a gun in her face. A few weeks later her fiancé was hit by a car. Within a year he was dead from medical complications.

“It’s been a rough journey,” Nina says.

A woman she met at Maryhouse, the Loaves & Fishes daytime shelter, has offered to let Nina spend a weekend in her home. “I’m going to see how it goes,” Nina says. “I’ll be inside. I hope it works out.”

520 - Winter - Guests - 7
© Doug Winter

Michael has been a firefighter, a certified welder, a diesel electrician, and a maintenance worker. He also helped build the light-rail system in Sacramento.

In 1969 Michael was drafted and sent to Vietnam, where, because of his wiry frame and high-school wrestling experience, he became a tunnel rat: “They wanted me to go down into the holes and crawl through the tunnels that ran under the jungle and get the enemy to come up out of there.”

Michael lives in Guest House, a recovery center for people who are working their way back from addictions or have just come out of lockup. He also volunteers at the Loaves & Fishes kitchen. He says it helps him stay busy and give back.

520 - Winter - Guests - 8
© Doug Winter

Bill, a California native, grew up very poor, dropped out of high school, became homeless, and lived a wild, reckless life until one day he “woke up dead” in a motel room: “My body was cold. I saw a bunch of people standing above me.” He had overdosed on heroin, and the EMTs had given him a shot of Narcan to revive him. “I felt so ashamed. I almost started crying.” It was that shame, he says, that got him off drugs. In recovery he attended 12-step meetings, got mental-health treatment, and joined a health club.

He also found employment at the Masonic Temple as a janitor and groundskeeper: “That’s what really got me out of the gutter. I saved my money over the years, and I was able to buy a mobile home over here near the river.”

Bill is retired now and helps his neighbors in the mobile-home park with landscaping and other chores.

520 - Winter - Guests - 9
© Doug Winter

Teresa likes reading, writing, and photography. She especially enjoys science and medical books.

A fifty-five-year-old mother of five, she has been living alone in a tent for about a year. She owns a house but can’t go back there due to the threat of violence.

“I have to do something else,” she says about her living situation. “I can’t be outside anymore.”

DOUG WINTER. (p. 14-21)

At the end of Dorothy Day’s 1952 essay, which seems as relevant today as it did then, she says, “When a community is always building, enlarging, and embellishing, there is nothing loft over for the poor. We have no right to do so as long as there are slums and breadlines somewhere” (23).

Let’s address the causes of homelessness – not just open a parking lot where people can sleep.

Let’s count our many blessings and help others. Making sure people have livable wages is one place to start. Investing in our public school children is another. What’s being done where you live?

Aloha, Renée

Banner photo: <https://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/veterans-homelessness.jpg?w=2700&gt;

Thought for the Day: “The Major Philanthropists of Our Society”

“When someone works for less pay than she can live on . . . then she has made a great sacrifice for you, she has made you a gift of some part of her abilities, her health, and her life. The ‘working poor,’ as they are approvingly termed, are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor to everyone else.”

– Barbara Ehrenrich in “Sunbeams” The Sun, April 2019, p. 48.

Banner photo: <https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/alison-garnham/child-poverty_b_4872700.html&gt;. From: ” Why Iain Duncan Smith and George Osborne Are Wrong on Child Poverty” – Huffington Post,

“The main cause of poverty remains lack of an adequate income. . .

Parents want secure jobs, living wages, fair rents and affordable childcare. This should not be too much to ask in one of the world’s richest economies, yet these things remain out of reach for millions of families. At the heart of the strategy should be the promise that, as the economy grows again, those at bottom will gain more than those at the top. This will need strong wage growth for the lowest paid, more job security and affordable rents; and that means taking tough decisions that have been dodged . . . to stop those at the top running off with all the proceeds of growth.”

Every worker must receive a livable wage.

Aloha, Renée

Mexico

In 2006, Barry and I lived in Oaxaca City, Mexico, for six months. Our son John and family friend Jesse were 16 and came with us; the guys and I took Spanish lessons at Spanish Magic; Barry worked on losing weight and getting healthy; we all had an excellent time. We loved the people, the celebrations, the colorful city, the music, the food.

“On Mexicans, Anthony Bourdain wrote this:

‘Americans love Mexican food. We consume nachos, tacos, burritos, tortas, enchiladas, tamales and anything resembling Mexican in enormous quantities.

We love Mexican beverages, happily knocking back huge amounts of tequila, mezcal, and Mexican beer every year. We love Mexican people—we sure employ a lot of them.

Despite our ridiculously hypocritical attitudes towards immigration, we demand that Mexicans cook a large percentage of the food we eat, grow the ingredients we need to make that food, clean our houses, mow our lawns, wash our dishes, and look after our children.

As any chef will tell you, our entire service economy—the restaurant business as we know it—in most American cities, would collapse overnight without Mexican workers. Some, of course, like to claim that Mexicans are “stealing American jobs.”

But in two decades as a chef and employer, I never had ONE American kid walk in my door and apply for a dishwashing job, a porter’s position—or even a job as a prep cook. Mexicans do much of the work in this country that Americans, probably, simply won’t do.

We love Mexican drugs. Maybe not you personally, but “we”, as a nation, certainly consume titanic amounts of them—and go to extraordinary lengths and expense to acquire them. We love Mexican music, Mexican beaches, Mexican architecture, interior design, Mexican films.

So, why don’t we love Mexico?

We throw up our hands and shrug at what happens and what is happening just across the border. Maybe we are embarrassed. Mexico, after all, has always been there for us, to service our darkest needs and desires.

Whether it’s dress up like fools and get passed-out drunk and sunburned on spring break in Cancun, throw pesos at strippers in Tijuana, or get toasted on Mexican drugs, we are seldom on our best behavior in Mexico. They have seen many of us at our worst. They know our darkest desires.

In the service of our appetites, we spend billions and billions of dollars each year on Mexican drugs—while at the same time spending billions and billions more trying to prevent those drugs from reaching us.

The effect on our society is everywhere to be seen. Whether it’s kids nodding off and overdosing in small town Vermont, gang violence in L.A., burned out neighborhoods in Detroit—it’s there to see.

What we don’t see, however, haven’t really noticed, and don’t seem to much care about, is the 80,000 dead in Mexico, just in the past few years—mostly innocent victims. Eighty thousand families who’ve been touched directly by the so-called “War On Drugs”.

Mexico. Our brother from another mother. A country, with whom, like it or not, we are inexorably, deeply involved, in a close but often uncomfortable embrace.

Look at it. It’s beautiful. It has some of the most ravishingly beautiful beaches on earth. Mountains, desert, jungle. Beautiful colonial architecture, a tragic, elegant, violent, ludicrous, heroic, lamentable, heartbreaking history. Mexican wine country rivals Tuscany for gorgeousness.

Its archeological sites—the remnants of great empires, unrivaled anywhere. And as much as we think we know and love it, we have barely scratched the surface of what Mexican food really is. It is NOT melted cheese over tortilla chips. It is not simple, or easy. It is not simply “bro food” at halftime.

It is in fact, old—older even than the great cuisines of Europe, and often deeply complex, refined, subtle, and sophisticated. A true mole sauce, for instance, can take DAYS to make, a balance of freshly (always fresh) ingredients painstakingly prepared by hand. It could be, should be, one of the most exciting cuisines on the planet, if we paid attention.

The old school cooks of Oaxaca make some of the more difficult and nuanced sauces in gastronomy. And some of the new generation—many of whom have trained in the kitchens of America and Europe—have returned home to take Mexican food to new and thrilling heights.

It’s a country I feel particularly attached to and grateful for. In nearly 30 years of cooking professionally, just about every time I walked into a new kitchen, it was a Mexican guy who looked after me, had my back, showed me what was what, and was there—and on the case—when the cooks like me, with backgrounds like mine, ran away to go skiing or surfing or simply flaked. I have been fortunate to track where some of those cooks come from, to go back home with them.

To small towns populated mostly by women—where in the evening, families gather at the town’s phone kiosk, waiting for calls from their husbands, sons and brothers who have left to work in our kitchens in the cities of the North.

I have been fortunate enough to see where that affinity for cooking comes from, to experience moms and grandmothers preparing many delicious things, with pride and real love, passing that food made by hand from their hands to mine.

In years of making television in Mexico, it’s one of the places we, as a crew, are happiest when the day’s work is over. We’ll gather around a street stall and order soft tacos with fresh, bright, delicious salsas, drink cold Mexican beer, sip smoky mezcals, and listen with moist eyes to sentimental songs from street musicians. We will look around and remark, for the hundredth time, what an extraordinary place this is.”

Antony Bourdain

Seen on FB from:

Human Rights, Civil Rights Advocate. Migration is a human right. Shared by political commentator

Let’s celebrate Mexico – & Mexicans

Aloha, Renée

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