Thursday, December 18, 2014

Breaking News - Mayor Trial Begins!

Mayor Lozano and his Cheerleader Council Member Raquel Monica Garica
We interrupt our Chilean adventure series for breaking news in Baldwin Park. Yesterday, Paul Cook had a trial against Baldwin Park's Mayor Manuel Lozano for filing a meritless temporary restraining order against him.

Cook was the last case to be heard, and there was only ten minutes left in the court room. The judge expressed great interest in devoting time to hear this case, and continued the trial until Feb. 25, 2014. To Lozano's distress, the judge asked both parties to brief the issue.

Read the San Gabriel Tribune Article here. Mayor Trial Begins

Sunday, December 14, 2014

To the End of the Wolrd (El Fin Del Mundo)

My brother started getting nervous when our bus from Valparaiso to Santiago was late. Our scheduled bus just left 10-15 people stranded. It came and just left. We had to rebook our tickets for the next bus, which was 20 minutes later. I told Scott, "We are in Chile."

I sat next to a Colombian PhD student in engineering. He told me about his research in changing molecules into hyperactive, transitional states called critical fluids. He was surprised that I understood. I told him I used to be a scientist in another life.

When we arrived to the airport, a guy on the airport bus kept starting at me with scorn. He looked familiar. Then when we exited the bus he told me, "Hola."

Oh, it was the Diva. What are the odds I would see him again? It was four days after I bumped into him at LAX, and now I see him again in Chile. I told Scott. Scott said, I should've said to him, "Did you have a good flight?" I wish I said it.

We boarded to the Southern Capital, Punta Arenas. It was a 3 hour flight to the end of the world. Because of infrequent flights and monopolies, I used up all of my miles on an account to book the flight. In short, it's expensive to get into the end of the world.

When we arrived to the Southern Capital, it was midnight. The sun was still out. It's summer in Patagonia, but it was still freezing.

My brother and I were expecting a tropical vacation, and we hit blasts of Antarctic winds. The winds smashed through our clothes and into our bones, chilling them. We didn't have winter clothes. We were two hours away from Antarctica. We were so unprepared for this trip. We were freezing.

Punta Arenas was a seaside port city that my brother said looked like one of those nightmare settings in Maine that Stephen King always uses. It had a European feel, but it definitely felt like an East Coast fishing village.

The seafood was fresh and cheap in Punta Arenas. We ate a lot of fresh king crab. Scott had a lot of deep fried eel. The food was really good and fresh and cheap.

For breakfast, while Scott was sleeping, I ate the baked king crab in cheese and cream over bread. I ate most of the leftover king crab. I left Scott a few spoonfuls.

When he woke, he went for the king crab. He was mad, like an angry bread, to see I ate most of it. He poured the seafood soup over our leftover french fries and meat. He then said, "You make me eat like a beggar. You ate all the king crab!"

After, we went to see penguins. Scott kept commenting how he wanted to eat one of them. I said to him, "If you pee on one of them, it gives you good luck."

He believed me and asked, "Who told you that?"

I smiled.

He said, "Did you just make that up?"

I started laughing.

I told him that penguins have so much fat, if you chop off their heads and put a wicker in it, it makes a candle. This is true my marine bio professor taught me that. He said they're a good source of fuel in Antartica.

 The Megallan Penguins were cute. We paid $25 to take a drive to see them. It kind of felt like going to a zoo, except it wasn't completely a zoo, but it wasn't like really seeing them in the wild. There were so many tourists.

When Scott saw them, he said he wanted to eat them again. I said, "They probably wouldn't taste good because they have too much fat."

So, he came up with the idea of frying vegetables in their fat. I said, "Well - now that might taste good. Lard always makes veges taste better."

We went to second hand store when we came back into town. For $25 bucks, we got hiking shoes and weather proof jackets. We were going to need them.

We caught our bus to the next town over. We were going to see the Torres del Paine (the Towers of Paine) soon. We were seeing what was at the end of the world.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Our Days in Chile - Valparaiso

After getting my brother, we took a bus to Valparaiso - an ancient seaport City - which looked to me like a Van Gogh painting - but to my brother looked like a Spanish version of San Francisco. We stayed at a Victorian house on top of the hill.

We both napped in the late afternoon because both of us had not slept much. I liked the comforter full of goose blankets. When I woke from my nap, my brother said that a cat came in, but I was asleep. I was sad that I had not seen our guest. For dinner, we ate a French restaurant, which charged a very moderate price - except the food was only average. Although for $5 they brought us six exquisite and rich desserts all served in shot glasses. These tasted good.

My brother and I took a sleeping pill. We regretted it. We slept for 12 hours.

When we woke, we ate lunch. We had razor clams in a cream and cheese sauce. It tasted wonderful. It was a national dish. We also picked up all the abalone (paua in New Zealand), a wonderful shellfish, which costs too much to buy in America. I cooked it later in a soup.

My brother often complained about walking to our place on top of the hill. He was constantly searching for an easier way. I had found one and told him I wasn't telling him because he needed the exercise.

He'd walk up the hill and be drenched in sweat. I'd wait for him at the top and tell him, "It doesn't even make my heartbeat go up."

"You're such a liar."

"No, it really doesn't. I was born with the right genes from Mom and Dad. Not like you."

"You're so full of it."

He ended up finding transportation to that hill, but it was on the same day we left the city.

I liked Valparaiso because it looked like a city that would come out of the imagination of artists high on absinthe. My brother found it not his cup of tea. He said, "You like this place because you're a freak - like this freakish place."

During one part of our trip, we had to split up. I took a bus back to the capital, Santiago. He went to the beach. The return trip took 5 hours in total.

I went to the dentist in the capital. I found a dentist on the internet who was going to do my root canal for 70% off of what my dentist in America wanted. Yes, I was a bit nervous because I didn't know how good she was, but I couldn't afford to pay for such an expensive treatment back home. Also, even though the price was incredible in America, they said there was a waiting list until possible January, if not February.

The specialist was a woman and she spoke English. She looked young. But by the way she smiled, I knew she was honest. By the way she analyzed my x-ray and told me what she was going to do and why, I knew she was very skilled.

Yes, the procedure wasn't very pleasant, but it wouldn't have been different in America. She injected two shots of anesthesia in my mouth. She even said, "I'm going to inject another shot; it's going to hurt." She pierced the roof of my mouth with the needle. It did hurt.

Then she started drilling into my tooth. A sharp pain pulsed through my tooth into my gum. I raised my left arm and said, "It hurts."

She said, "Let's wait a bit longer for you to get numb."

Then she injected a needle into my tooth. After that, I felt no pain.

She took about an hour to drill into my tooth. She pricked a thin needle into my tooth and in one pull removed the root. She showed the nerve of my tooth. It looked like a snake on a toothpick. She said, "It's rare to get it out so cleanly. It's a 1% chance."

Through it all, I knew she was really skilled. I was impressed by how she didn't seem stressed, and it all seemed easy for her. I've been through a number of dentists through my life. Out of probably 10 dentists (not that my teeth are bad, but I've lived in different places over my life), women dentist have talent in not making you feel pain. This one was the best one I could remember.

After, she said, "We're not going to give you the crown. You'll save money. There's enough tooth to do a resin filling. A crown would wear your tooth down more."

She started injecting bleach into my tooth. It smelled like sterile. I gagged at one point because the bleach tasted so nasty.

Then, the molded the cavity in my tooth. She said come back a week later, the resin filling will be ready.

After she was going to shake my hand. Instead, she hugged me and kissed me, and said, "This is how we do it in Chile."

It felt weird at first because she was a doctor. But I realized, you know, I liked it. I liked her. Not romantically. But I liked how professional and honest she was. And she knew me in a way no one else did. She knew the condition of my teeth and my mouth. Not even my parents could claim that privilege. So, I liked that she wasn't afraid to hug me and say, "Feel better."

I downed a beer for the ride back home. I knew it'd be a boring bus ride back into the seaside City. When I arrived, I hiked the hill, and met my brother in the room.

We went out for a midnight dinner at a Tapas Cafe. Tapas are small Spanish side dishes. It was so lively inside, with the chattering of tourists.

We had a beautiful Italian waitress serve us. We ordered wild salmon civiche (civiche is seafood usually cooked in lime juice) and grilled octopus. We drank down pisco (Chilean brandy) sours.

He told me about his day. I told him about the honest dentist I met. We talked about what we were going to do.

He told me the cat came back. When we went back to our hostal, the calico kitty came in and said, "Meow" to me. I petted her. She didn't want to leave. I picked her up. Dropped her outside the window. Then shut it.

Tomorrow, we had to catch an airplane to the most southern tip of South America. We were going to the end of the world.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Bad Luck With Good Journeys

While I was on my way to the airport to board a flight to Chile, my brother called me and said, "I can't board my plane. I'm stuck in Dallas. My passport expired."

Scott was in Vegas, and he asked me to book him a flight with my miles to South America. (I've accrued millions of miles in my youth.) We were supposed to meet in Dallas, Texas and then fly out together to South America. That wasn't happening now.

He didn't know what to do. He was stuck in Dallas with a boarding pass to Chile, but he couldn't get on board. I said I'd meet him in Dallas, and we'd both figure it out together.

I boarded my flight. I napped. The nap was longer than expected. I thought to myself, This flight is taking a long time to depart.

The Captain switched on the speakers and said, "We're having difficulty departing. The door isn't locking. It shouldn't be much longer until we fix the issue."

One hour turned into two. That's when I knew I missed my flight from Dallas to Chile.

A number of us got off the airplane. We had to rebook our tickets.

While waiting in line for the customer service agent, I noticed an effeminate and tall male hogging up all the time with one of the ticketing agents. There was a line. He was complaining about how he couldn't get into Chile. He was so demanding asking the agent to check every route from Dallas to Miami to partner airlines. He uttered, "Oh my God" every other sentence. He was hogging up time.

He also had the worst fashion sense. He wore these ugly neon blue pants that hugged his butt too tight. Not a pretty sight.

When I got to the agent, she re-booked me on another airline for a direct flight to Santiago. I was torn as to whether I should layover in Dallas to see my brother, who told me he was thinking of flying back to Los Angeles to get an emergency visa - only to fly back to Dallas - or go to Chile.

The good news was that American Airlines, without a fee, rebooked my brother to Chile from Dallas a few days out. In the end though, I made the decision to not fly to Dallas because he needed to sort out his passport and me being there wasn't going to help or hurt the situation.

In five minutes, I had everything sorted with the booking agent. The airlines gave me a hotel by LAX. I suppose I could've went back home, but this would not have been an easy feat. Without a car, it'd be a hassle to get home and back. So, I'd be staying in a hotel in my own home city. It felt like a vacation without really being one.

The diva was still on the phone. So, I decided to give him a piece of my mind. I think all the stress of litigation had just winded up in me, and I needed to vent. "Hey - " I said, "you know how selfish you are? There are people waiting in line. You've been at this for thirty minutes."

He said, "Excuse me?"

I said, "You heard me. You know how selfish you are? Just take whatever they give you. Or, just come back later when everyone is done. There are 15 people waiting."

"How dare you?! Just mind your own business."

"It is my business because you held me up in the line - just like you're holding up everyone. Now get real and grow up." The diva was in his late 40's and 50's, which to me showed he wasn't acting his age. It seemed like he came from a family where he got whatever he wanted.

He turned his back to me and said: "Humph."

I called my brother and told him everything. He said he didn't know whether he should cancel the trip and return. He didn't know what to do. He didn't know if Dallas could handle his passport request.

A woman tapped me and said, "I couldn't help but overhear your conversation. I work for the State Department. Tell your brother to get an emergency passport in Dallas at the post office or Federal Building."

"Well, I didn't know they had a Federal Building in Dallas."

"They do."

"The Post Office won't work for a same day passport. It hasn't since nine eleven."

"I didn't know that."

"But the Federal Building - now that might work."

I called Scott and told him to get a same day passport at the Federal Building. He said he would try.

I walked into the Admiral Lounge. I have a pass. There, I saw the diva again. He couldn't believe someone that looked like me in casual clothes and at my age had access to the premium lounge. I met his scornful stare with words: "I see the selfish person is back."

"That's right."

He turned his back to me and humphed again. What a diva, I thought.

I got a little food. I took out my computer. I started writing, thinking, and wondering about what laid ahead.

Scott called and told me to save money, he'd stay in a sleazy hotel in Dallas.

After finishing my writing, I went to my hotel. There, I ordered a Micheleda (a Mexican drink of beer and tomato juice) and a steak on the airline's dime. The bartender was Mexican and appreciated I ordered a Michelada. We talked in Spanish. I told him everything that happened. He gave me a free drink and extra beer. The steak was a little better than average.

Scott called me the next morning. He got his passport. I boarded my flight too.

I watched four movies on the flight. The new X-Men movie impressed me. All the flight attendants on LAN were very nice to me, especially because I could speak Spanish. One flight attendant asked if I was an exchange student going to Chile to improve my Spanish. (Only if I was really so young.)

I sat next to a Brazilian couple. I didn't know how to feel about them. I think they were newly weds. And they were very kind. Except, the airline comped me my own row because of my troubles. Since they were originally seated apart, they took the rest of my row. I could've used that row to sleep more. I mean was it going to kill them to sit apart for 15 hours. I didn't know how to feel about them.

After the long flight of 15 hours, I waited another four at the airport - waiting for my brother. I sat at a cafe, using my computer and the internet. I wanted to sleep. I had not slept on the airplane. I saw that my brother's flight had arrived. I met him at the arrival gate. We made it to Chile together - finally.


Monday, December 1, 2014

Why We Fight - Letter to My Boxers

Dear Reader:

I haven't written in awhile because lots has been going on. I took a trip to San Francisco. I was invited to speak in Santa Cruz on how to stand up to bullying cities (like Baldwin Park), and I filed two intermediate appeals on one of my cases. The appeals required me to work until midnight every day, but the great thing is, if I win, I'll ask the Appellate Division to publish the opinion. Then, I make law in California. When I was a teenager, I could only dream of making such a difference in the world. After all, Los Angeles is one of the great cities of the modern world.

I also didn't write regularly because I got sick in Santa Cruz. I guess meeting so many people increases your chances of getting a cold. Plus, there was a cold snap that hit San Francisco, and it seems that such changes in the weather weaken the immune system.

Nonetheless, I'm up and running again. My kitty Jeh Pan (Trial) is also up and running. I enjoyed how he watched me print my appeal petitions. His head tilted and seesawed as he stared at the printer spitting out court documents. It was like watching a cobra dancing to the snake charmer, but instead, it was a printer commanding a cat. I guess Trial likes to watch court papers being run. He also dashes around, and some times too quickly. So, when he tries to stop himself, he ends up sliding on our wooden floors and crashing into the wall. Poor kitty. My mother says he must've been born prematurely.

Well, while feeling like a drudge and in the hustle and bustle of a lawyer's life, I thought a lot about what we're really fighting for. Why do I publish articles on the child abusing and money laundering Manny Carrillo, the Director of Parks and Recreation, and the City Council Members and Mayor? Why do I publish how the Police Association is stealing from our community and abusing community members, in violation of our God given rights? Why do I publish that our unfit Chief of Police has filed for bankruptcy twice and is a raging alcoholic with no self-control? I mean, what's the point? When does it end?

The reason is that we fight so that our youth can still have dreams. I start by saying that almost all Americans, with the exception of the Native Americans, came to this country from a foreign land. Even if it wasn't your parents or grandparents, someone in your bloodline, made the difficult decision to abandon their homeland to come to a country of potential promise.

The Europeans used to tell each other that the streets of San Francisco were paved with gold. And when those foreigners left to become Americans, the times and conditions of their homeland were horrible. Those with ancient American roots can claim that they left England and Holland because they were targeted by the crown because they refused to bend the knee to to the Pope or King of England. They only wanted to have the freedoms that we proclaim makes us a great people and country.

Some, like my parents left because the country was torn asunder. When my mother left Korea, she said the children had lice in their hair and crabs on their body. And many Mexicans, escaping their hopeless situation of poverty, chose to cross the border into the free country of the States.

This point is relevant because the city I live in is comprised of 90% immigrants, mainly from Mexico. Therefore, like many generations before them, they've become part of the 250 year history of journeyers. Think about that: a quarter of millennium, this country's message of hope has brought throngs of people on a pilgrimage to leave their homes in search of a place that promised them a new life.

Now, in Baldwin Park, the City Officials and administrators scheme to steal that promise of hope and a better life from our youth. That's exactly why we oppose them and fight back.

When Manny Carrillo and the Chief of Police, Michael Taylor, fired the innocent boxing coach, who cared for the kids, they tried to paint him as a pedophile - without evidence by the way. Now, our gym has decayed into a shamble. And to "fix it," of all things, they hire a violent criminal to put the children at risk and expose them to corrupt values. How senseless are these people?

For making such decisions, Carrillo gets paid approximately $200,000. All the police, none who live in Baldwin Park, all want raises. The intermediate manager, who does nothing all day, his name is Mike Salas, sits in his office, does nothing all day, and makes approximately $100,000.

What makes me most sick is that in three months, our incompetent City Attorney, Robert Tafoya, charged the City nearly $100,000. That's $400,000 pro rata a year. He gets paid this much for malpractice, losing, getting his client sued, and shaming Baldwin Park. A judge even told me to file a bar complaint against him and told him to never forge a document to the court again. How can someone get paid almost half a million a year for all this?

When the overpaid and the under-performing steal everything from the city bank account, our youth will have no future for them. So, the most horrible part of Baldwin Park is that these City Council Members have transformed it into the same third world country that many of our family members and ancestors have abandoned. One only need to look at all of their abuses and slanders they heaped against us.

In short, there's two conflicting visions here of darkness and light. The city council and administrators want to steal all the money from the city to become rich. They just have to do it in a way as to not get caught.

I have a vision too. It's too see that my youth, my boxers, grow up to be the men and women that our forefathers and this generation would be proud of. But at every turn, the city attempts to thwart us. We fight for a future for the next generation. They fight to destroy it. We can't let them do this.

This weekend though, I realized that my dream is becoming a reality. When the Parks and Recreation Director and Chief of Police fired the head boxing coach, with the council support, in May 2014, I told the city council members that this won't stop me from casting a dream for our youth. I know that one day, one of them would see the same cliffs in Italy that changed my life. To be honest, I don't know why I uttered those words. At the time, I also couldn't foresee how these poor youth would ever escape Baldwin Park. They never even go visit Pasadena, which is only 12 miles away. Some of them have never even seen the ocean.

On Friday, however, I had lunch with one of my boxers - who is now going to community college. And he told me, he followed my advice, and enrolled in the study abroad program at school. In two months, he was going to Italy for four months. He was scared because he didn't know what to expect. I was excited. My blood chilled. I blinked twice and said, "You are?!" Maybe, he'll overlook the same cliffs I was at and see the same sapphire blue sea that left a haunting memory shimmering in my mind forever.

When I was 30, I witnessed an event that had a profound impact on me. From it, I learned this: Good prevails over evil. Light drives out darkness. And love can raise the dead back to life.