Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Manuel Carrillo, Director of Parks and Recreation, Fires Commissioner

Manuel Carrillo Jr., Baldwin Park
Director of Parks and Recreation
Baldwin Park's Director of Parks and Recreation, Manuel Carrillo Jr., fires Commissioner John Rios with the support of the City Council. Mayor Manuel Lozano, Council Member Raquel Monica Garcia, and Council Member Ricardo Pacheco voted to fire the Parks and Recreation Commissioner. Carrillo requested the firing of the Commissioner because the Commissioner was revealing Carrillo's financial malfeasance; in this instance, Carrillo authorized the stealing of city resources to enrich a sham non-profit sports corporation.

According to sources, Rios was fired because he was asking questions of Carrillo - which is incidentally a commissioner's job. A commissioner's job is to oversee the department.

Rios asked Carrillo why he was allowing a soccer league to use and destroy the city fields and parks. The soccer league, a non-profit corporation, was charging the city's youth a fee of about $20 per child. The soccer league would use city property to conduct their operation, while ripping off the families of Baldwin Park. In the end, the city's parks and fields were destroyed. Taxpayer resources had to be spent to repair the fields.

One source stated that Carrillo, Lozano, Pacheco and Garcia permitted the theft of these city resources because the owner of the non-profit was giving all of them cash donations. The financial reporting forms, however, do not show any donations from the soccer league.

Once again, Carrillo and the City Council have engaged in a familiar pattern of misconduct. For asking questions, Carrillo requested that the City Commissioner be fired. Now, isn't that a commissioner's job - to ask questions and to oversea the board?

Where have we seen this before? In May of 2014, a boxing coach who worked there for 17 years asked whether it was fair to get a 40 cent an hour raise, Carrillo and the Council also fired him? Director of Parks and Recreation Suspends Employee For Whistleblowing Incidentally, Carrillo makes $200,000 a year.

Furthermore, the Council and Carrillo fired the boxing coach - after he was a named plaintiff accusing Carrillo of laundering money through an alter-ego non-profit. The suit is still pending.

As we know, for being the lawyer and investigator against Baldwin Park, I was arrested and then the Mayor filed a TRO.

Another pattern we're seeing is the potential abuse of using a non-profit status. Carrillo has been accused of running a fake non-profit, in which he collects donations from businesses the City engages with and buys Walmart gift cards in a sham Christmas event - called Santa Clothes. As the recipients, of which Carrillo is most likely one, all avoid paying taxes. Are we seeing the sports soccer league doing so too and really acting as a profit making entity?

The last pattern we see arising is that the victims are children and families of Baldwin Park. Carrillo cannot account for all the money he has collected from the children in the sports programs. Now, he endorses a sham sports non-profit to do the same.

But it gets worse. Carrillo and City Manager Shannon Yauchzee also contracted out a part of the City's Park to be a sewage dump. How would you like to see human waste seeping in a public park? But that's why they did.

It appears to me that what should have happened is that Carrillo is the one in need of an investigation and a possible firing. But in Baldwin Park - as we know - it's all about harming anyone who speaks out.

There are even more disturbing facts. The City of Baldwin Park engaged in a contract that allowed the non-profit soccer league to store their portable potties at the park. The soccer league didn't have to pay a cent for it. And when I asked Yauchzee if any non-profit could do so, he suggested that only sports non-profits could.

But instead of facing up to the allegations of corruption, the players involved shot the messenger - the Commissioner John Rios. And his message was simple: Clean up your act.

Well, nobody listened and some vandals knocked over the portal potties at the park, spilling human waste everywhere. But what can we say? I guess the City Manager and Council think its fine to expose children and members of the public to disease and toxic waste.

It's clear that Baldwin Park engaged in a crappy deal because its a crappy city run by crappy people and now there's crap everywhere, allowing me to report on a crappy story for you.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Going Home

After leaving Gili Air, I had to make a choice to either follow Will and Daisy to a larger island called Lombok (not a precious key) or go with Luke and Sam and Liam back to Bali - where they would party. I chose Will and Daisy because they were the ones I first connected with, and they were the ones who first took pity on a worn out lawyer and invited me on such a wild journey.

There was nothing really that special about the next town on Lombok, called Sengigi. The place was dirty and the locals resented us. They doubled their prices everywhere and scoffed at you when you asked for local price.

At one fruit stand, I asked for some cut fruit. He charged me double the price. There were locals who came before me. So, I said, "Sell it to her."

"No. No. Local price for her," he said. I knew she wouldn't pay the price he was charging.

I just handed him the bill for the local price.

He gave me my fruit and told me to scram.

I thought, Jeez, they're all so mean here.

I found out later, that it was because the Dutch, foreigners, burned down their villages during the Imperial Age. Foreigners, in their mind, are bad people.

Daisy and Will and I just walked the beach; were filmed by locals - without our permission; and ate and chatted. There was, like I said, nothing that special in Sengigi.

Except for one thing - the restaurant. I found a small seafood restaurant, where the seafood was exquisite and reasonably prices ($5-$10). I ordered squid cooked in its own ink. Will and Daisy thought it was a disgusting thing to have. I knew that squid ink was a delicacy. And it truly was an amazing dish. I mean, the flavors were so intense.

The chef came out and greeted himself. I asked for the recipe. He seemed surprised and asked, "Do you really want to know?"

"Yes, of course," I said. Later, he revealed that he was a former chef at the Renaissance Hotel. No wonder - I thought.

The next morning, I said good bye to Will and Daisy - who left to the next town first. I felt sad they were going. I never told them how much it meant that they invited me on a such a wild journey. They were such sweet people.

I guess I didn't tell them because I was just too proud to admit that even young lawyers needed community and company and a good time. And it was something I couldn't provide for myself - but something they could give to me.

My journey back home was 49 hours. I took a three hour boat ride back to Bali. There, I met a Dutch guy, who was very smart and had at least 8 years of higher education. He liked talking about economy and policy and politics, but he didn't have that same teen spirit that my group had. In short, I needed less intellectual conversations and more fun.

I flew from Bali to Jakarta and Jakarta to Tokyo. I had to take a two hour train ride to the other airport in Tokyo. There are two. For once, I saw Tokyo in sunshine, as it was raining the entire week I was there. I departed Tokyo at midnight and took a seven and a half flight to Honolulu. I waited there for two hours. I, then, took a five and a half hour flight to LAX.

On both flights, from Tokyo to Hawaii and Hawaii back home, the person next to me talked to me about their travels. It became clear quickly that both of them didn't travel much, didn't know how to travel, and in general, didn't seem to have as much fun as I did on holidays. Then again, traveling is an art.

From LAX, I took a bus to downtown's Union Train Station. From the Train Station, I took a bus home. The entire journey from LAX to home took 2.5 hours.

My mom was happy to see me. My cat Jeh Pan didn't even seem to recognize me. He was definitely not like my last cat Luke, who was always thrilled to see me after long journeys.

I was unhappy to be back. The trip felt much too short. I could've done with another week. My voicemail was full of people wanting me to call them back. I slept at 3 AM. I had jet lag. I was back in Baldwin Park, in Los Angeles County. It wasn't a reassuring a thought.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

More days on an island in the sun - Gili Air

Gili Air
I woke up for breakfast and to my surprise Luke and Ludo were fit enough to have breakfast with me. We all went back to the same restaurant, right on the ocean, and ate breakfast.

Lauren was ill from food poisoning. She was about to leave.

The group decided to go to next key called Gili Air - meaning (Key Freshwater). That's because apparently there's freshwater on the island.

It was time to check out. Since it was 9:40 AM and we were supposed to be out by 10, I gently woke up everyone. At that point, Kira, being hung over and wasted, swore up a storm and started cursing like a sailor. I didn't appreciate it. She swore a lot.

In any event, the group woke up slowly but surely. They joined us. Queen Bee looked rather hung over and wasted.

Because Kira was Indonesian, we trusted her language abilities. She chartered a speed boat to Gili Air, which cost each of us something like $5 USD.

After breakfast though, she made us wait for two hours - not telling us the real reason. What happened was the man she hooked up with was leaving in two hours, and she just had to be with him. So, she made the whole group wait with her - while not telling us the real reason.

Lauren left. I didn't get to say good bye. She wasn't feeling well. I felt kind of sad I didn't get to say bye to her.

The speed boat ride took about ten or fifteen minutes. We landed on the island. We didn't have a place to stay. People had a lot of luggage.

Kira, however, went running after her man. I said, "Kira, two of them are behind us. We should wait."

"They can catch up!"

I thought a lot of foul thoughts I can't really write about. But I was rather upset she was making everyone else suffer because she was lusting. I thought, why don't you just go with him alone and stop dragging us along. (Essentially, this did end up happening.)

I looked at Ludo and said, "There's no way they're going to have a place for 15 of us. The others will have a place, but we won't."

The idea made no one happy. People were hot and sweaty from carrying their baggage. When we arrived at their housing, it was just as I said. There was no place for 5 of us.

So, I asked Ludo, Will and me to all come with me. Luke and Daisy stayed behind. We searched for several hours for a place. People were rather grumpy about the whole thing.

I was upset at how selfish Kira was. We could've booked our own place, if she just let us know that her only intention was to bunk up with the new boy she met. I kept telling myself to get over it. It wasn't worth stressing over. But it kind of was. We had no place to stay - while they did. And it didn't have to happen, had we known.

In the end, we found a very nice place. It was bungalow and it cost $10 a night. It was very clean and a 3 minute walk to the beach. Breakfast was included. We had a hammock and air conditioning too. I loved it there. It was clean. The toilets ran. There was space. The beds were huge. I wanted to live there for eternity - or as long as I wouldn't get bored anymore.

Ludo, Luke and I had one Bungalow. Daisy and Will had the other. I would lie if I didn't say that I was so happy to be rid of Queen Bee. It was like a millstone I no longer had to drag around my neck.

* * *
Gili Air was much different from Gili T. It was much more peaceful, serene, and not crawling with backpackers searching for sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll.

Although we were only supposed to stay two nights, the five us of agreed to stay four nights. The island brought healing and rest to all our souls.

We didn't do very much on it though. We ate breakfast. Did an afternoon activity, such as biking or snorkeling. Ate lunch. Napped. Then chased the sunset. Watched the sunset. Ate dinner on the ocean. Slept. And the day would start again.

On one of the nights, we asked Daisy to sing with the live band. After a few drinks, she agreed. I bought a few of the drinks because good news had arrived that day. (I'll write more on that in another post.)

In her island dress, the band played. She took the microphone and sang beautifully. I couldn't believe the voice she had. We all were impressed and so were the islanders. Everyone clapped. I was proud of her.

From the distance, you could see the fireworks light up the island sky in bright flowery colors. Ramadan was over. The days of fasting were over. People could eat again.

On the last night, Rich (who was with Kira's group), joined us for dinner. He introduced us two of his English friends he met in Singapore. They told us a foul story. I can't write about it here.

Then they showed us a foul video - while we were having dinner. I can't describe it here.

They partied the night away. I went back. And Rich left the island the next day. I saw Queen Bee that day. I didn't even say hi. I thought I should've, but I disapproved of how she treated us.

On the last day on the island, Ludo and Luke went their own ways. Ludo was going back to Italy. Luke was going to explore more of Bali.

I knew in my heart that my vacation was coming to an end. I so wish I could've told Lauren good bye. But I told myself that one shouldn't get attached so quickly to people. From time to time, though, I told them, I wish Lauren was around; she always had a way of making me laugh.

The next day, I walked Ludo to the port. I waited for his speed boat to come in. I gave him a lucky charm. I was kind of sad he was going too. No more breakfasts and chats, I thought.

I sighed. I knew that there was only work ahead of me after my holidays was coming to an end. And, everything was pointing to the fact that my holidays were ending.

I had two nights left. I'd follow Will and Daisy to our final island. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

My days in the island in the sun - Gili Tarawangan

Gili Tarawangan
Two groups of us went to a small sand key (quay if you're English) in the middle of the Bali Ocean. There are three small islands to the East of Bali - Gili Tarawangan (Key Tunnel), Gili Air (Key Freshwater), and Gili Meno (Key Middle). The first group was made up of Daisy and Will (the young English couple), Lauren (the Scot), Ludo (the Italian), Kira (the Indonesian-English), Alex (English - Midlander), Richard (Irish-English - Midlander), Luke (Londoner), and me (Korean American). There were also 7 or 8 in the other group, but I didn't know who they were.

The day after we all took a speed boat to an island called Gili Tarawangan. On the boat, we sat on the top of the boat as it cut through the dark, deep, and blue waters. It was sunny. So, a few of us took off our shirts, including myself, and baked in the sun.

We just chit chatted about nothing to pass the time, while the wind ripped through our hairs. They asked me questions about Los Angeles. None of them ever been. I told them it's a stressful place, and in my life, people are always asking why I'm not living up to certain expectations - mainly having more stuff - like a house, better car, better clothes, or watches.

After I stated my thoughts on the matter, I also realized for the first time how often what people say can take hold of my thinking and affect me. It shouldn't matter, but somehow thoughts can bury itself in your mind.

After arriving on the island in the sun, we immediately sat for drinks and food. I ordered a cucumber juice with lime and pineapple. Everyone else ordered a beer. (You could already see where this was all going.)

We didn't have a place to stay. I felt a bit annoyed by it. Kira, who later became known as Queen Bee, found us a dingy hotel that had four full size beds in a shabby hotel room - which had cockroaches, mice, and a toilet that wouldn't flush. (Someone named the cockroach - Jimmy - I believe after the cricket in the Disney movie.)

It wasn't the worst place I've ever stayed at, but it was rather bad. We all had to share a bed, and Queen Bee took the biggest bed for herself. I don't think this is what I was quite imagining what my holidays would turn out to be.

I found "Gili T." to be rather trashy. It was infested with young British and Australian backpackers - all looking to do drugs or drink or have sex with random people. Indonesia is rather strict with drug use, and I remember one time they sought the death penalty against an Australian girl bringing in drugs. But there are no police on the Gilis. That doesn't mean crime doesn't happen. It means the police have to come from the bigger islands though, and so in general, the Gilis really aren't policed. So, drugs abound.

Whenever a few of us walked on the streets, peddlers asked if we wanted marijuana or magic mushrooms. Now, magic mushrooms are legal in Indonesia because it grows rather abundantly on one of the islands.

I smelled them. They had a strong smell. Definitely, not fresh. (And in case you're wondering, I was sober throughout this entire vacation.)

So, people in the group 'shroomed and smoked out. Then everyone went out to drink and drink. While we were waiting though, Ludo - the Italian - offered me a cigar. And I smoked it and smoked it because I was getting bored. I usually don't smoke. And around 10 PM, I started feeling unwell. I realized I had nicotine poisoning and didn't feel so good. I stayed in and slept.

It's Ludo's fault, the whole nicotine poisoning. Even though I didn't feel like smoking, he would keep offering it to me.

I told him, "You are diablo (Devil)." All he did was tempt me.

He retorted, "We all need a devil in our lives, Paul."

I smiled.

One of them laid out on the bed next to me. I asked, "Are you doing ok?" He was obviously on something.

The rest came roaring in, drunk, at 4 AM - all of them - except Queen Bee - who found someone. I woke. I tried to sleep again. I was still feeling unwell from the nicotine.

I thought to myself, How did I end up in this group - again?

Daisy and Will also came in early. I think we were the early birds, that's Daisy, Will and me.

* * *

The next day, I woke up at around 9 am. Luke woke too. I said, "I'm getting breakfast. Wanna come?"

He said, "Sure."

Ludo saw us and said, "I come too."

So the three of us walked around the strip. I found a cafe that reminded me of a place in Los Angeles - so I picked it. I ordered a cappuccino, Luke a cappuccino, and Ludo an espresso. They both ordered a typical breakfast of eggs and meat, while I ordered lox - which is bagel and smoked salmon with cream cheese. The food was really good. We enjoyed it, except the cream cheese was not the best. I'll settle, after all I'm in the island in the sun - in the middle of nowhere.

Then the three of us walked around the entire sand island, stopping about every hour for a fruit drink or coffee. We would order a juice and sit and watch the ocean. It was nice. I felt like we bonded. In fact, Luke and Ludo and I had breakfast together every morning at the same place.

On Hammock in Gili T.
It took us four hours to slowly walk the island, with lunch and breaks. (I later ran the entire island in an hour; so it's not that big.) When we came back, the group, who had just woken up from their hangover asked what we did.

We told them we had a wonderful breakfast and that we had enjoyed walking around the entire island. They looked at us jealously. But they were so hung over, breakfast was not a possibility for them.

We took a nap. After our nap, we went out for dinner at the local night market - where the locals cooked street food. There were plenty of open grills with fresh seafood, prawns (shrimp), lobster, crabs, and clams laid out for the people to see. The food merchants shouted, "Fresh fish here! Good food! Cheap food."

Luke was sitting next two girls - one American and one Australian, early 20's. They kind of looked like punk-rock-chicks. The American was loud and very forward. In fact, she started following Luke wherever he went. I teased him and told him, "You just picked yourself up a stalker, didn't you."

She even followed Luke back to our hotel, but when the girls laid eyes on her, they gave off a catty vibe, and it was clear she was not wanted in that room.

I joined them at the Irish Bar later. I played beer pong with Luke and Richard. Richard was very good. I was very bad. (I hardly play the game.) I did end up getting one ball in the cup though.

I was getting bored at the bar. Around midnight, I went back to bed. Will was in bed. I was in a bed far from him.

Then all of a sudden, Queen Bee came in with a man. I think they wanted to have sex while we were in the room. I hope my body language made it clear that would not be appropriate.

Kira was very drunk. Very, very drunk, in fact. She looked like she was going to vomit. I told Will, "I hope she doesn't. Not in our room. It'll smell foul."

Her man went to the restroom, dumped out the trash can, which was full of pubic hairs and toilet paper wetted with menstrual blood. There were also cockroaches in the toilet.

I just watched all this happening. Luckily, Kira never threw up. The man took Kira back with her. That was good because I didn't want her vomiting in our room.

I went to bed. Even after they came back drunk, I didn't wake up. That was good.

I woke up in the morning. Luke woke up too. Ludo was up too. We were going to get breakfast. To my great surprise, however, the whole group woke up and wanted to get breakfast too, hung over or not. I can't stress enough how surprised I was. The whole group woke up and got breakfast.

So, the lot of us, all eight of us, went down to the same cafe and ordered. This time, we sat in the patio, which was built right over the ocean. It was nice - all eight of us sitting there and eating and drinking coffee.

Every morning, I shared more of my life with Luke and Ludo - telling them my war stories of being a litigator in Los Angeles or personal stories about my life. In fact, I told many and many stories on this trip. I even told Will and Daisy a bedtime story - to put them to sleep.

On this day, I decided I wanted to go scuba diving. Four people decided to go with me. The others decided to join us on the boat ride and snorkel in the water.

We wanted to dive the day before, but the storms from the Philippines ruined our dives because it made the conditions too dangerous. We had an Australian woman dive instructor. She was a control freak and stressed to us three times that we weren't ever to pass her in our dive. My group was with Richard and Alex. We dove an intentional shipwreck.

I found a sea slug on the dive. It's called nudibranch. I touched it. The dive instructor saw me touch it and she scolded me underwater. What a bore - I thought of her.

To be honest, it was the worst dive I ever had in the tropics. There was nothing there. No big animals. No sea life and dead coral.

The best part was coming back up on the boat and joining the girls at the top - who seemed to be having a gleeful time, bathing in the sun, on top of a boat that sat on top of sapphire sparkling waters. I whispered to them how our dive instructor was a Nazi. When she surfaced and arrived on the boat, I changed subjects - so she wouldn't hear what I was talking about. Soon after, Richard and Alex joined us at the top of the boat. We sailed back to the mainland.

Daisy and Will didn't join us for our dive. Somehow Will ended up losing the group and in the rush of getting a scuba dive into the day, they were forgotten. They didn't seem pleased upon meeting us in the hotel room.

For dinner, we went back to the night market. I ordered grilled squid and noodles. It tasted good. Ludo, Luke, and Lauren joined us. I asked Luke where his stalker went. He said she added him to Facebook, then left him alone.

We talked about not having a smashed up evening again. So, Luke bought a bottle of tequila and played a version of poker with Ludo. Every time one lost a game, one had to drink a shot of tequila. When I came back from the Irish Bar, Ludo had already drank 9 shots of tequila. Remembering what Queen Bee was like the other night, I was getting worried about Ludo. I said, "Maybe, you should stop, Ludo."

He said, "No. no. I'm ok. Really."

I thought, Oh, I hope so.

Soon, Lauren, Will, Daisy, and I joined the poker game. I told Luke though I wasn't drinking. I don't like tequila. He said he would drink all my shots then, if I lost.

I turned out to be a skilled poker player though. Luke never had to drink a shot because I never lost a hand in the thirteen rounds we played. Two of those rounds, I should have lost, but luck saved me. I really just got lucky and drew the right cards. The other 11 rounds was more about skill.

I played poker like I litigate. You just make the best decision you can at the time; hence, it's not like you'll win each time, but you control the bad luck with a bad hand and you increase the odds of good luck with a good hand.

I couldn't control myself and at one point I taunted one of the players and said, "I'm gonna make you lose this game." I flashed an impish grin, the kind that children show when they think they're getting away with something.

At one point, one of them told me, "Screw you, Paul! I hate you and that little smile of yours."

Lauren laughed and said, "I just love how he smiles to provoke people." (Probably something I picked up in litigation.)

Sadly, he did lose whenever I provoked him and he had to drink. He couldn't handle the strong tequila and his skin turned grey after getting drunk. He looked like a heroin addict from the movie Train Spotting.

Having the others join the game gave Ludo a break. He didn't have to drink so much. He, thus, recovered.

Some had to vomit from drinking too much tequila.

It was time to sleep. They wall wanted to hear a bedtime story. So, I told them a love story. They all fell asleep - and so did I.

That was my last night on Gili T.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

My days in Bali, Indonesia

At 4 am, a loud thud woke me up. I then heard laughter. Luke, an English backpacker, fell off the hammock outside drunk. Ludo, the Italian, pushed him off the hammock. They were both drunk. I asked myself, how did I fall into this group?

Kuta Beach, Bali Indonesia 
Well, it all started when I met this English couple named Will and Daisy, both 19. They both asked me to join them and to come to the beach. They asked gently and patiently and somehow convinced me to come. I felt like a grumpy old man inside, not really wanting to hang out with kids - who were going to get drunk and wasted and do nothing else. I just wanted to read. But I liked them. So, I went with them to the beach with our Indonesian guide, who we named: "Mr. Happy."

On the ride to the beach, I met some Brits. bunch of British people. This place is crawling with the English. One of the people in our group was a girl named Lauren - a Scottish lass. She had red hair and a cheery face.

I liked her accent. I liked it so much that I kept making fun of it. I told her, "I know all about Scotland. It's cold and dark and dreary."

She asked, "And where did you learn this from?"

"Game of Thrones. In the show, it always says winter is coming in Scotland."

"And what else do they say?"

"That there's ghosts and castles and its cold."

She laughed.

"And you have to wear fur, when you go outside. The show also says that red haired people are kissed by fire."

She laughed again, "Are we really now?"

"Yeah. That's what the show says."

"Let me tell you something: Game of Thrones is not National Geographic!" It took a few seconds for it to register. Then, I did something, I don't remember doing in awhile. I just started laughing and laughing.

Her humor pierced through my heavy shield of past suffering and cast away the dreary and buried spirit of gloominess. Something understood.

That day, we just spent on the beach. I ran an hour on it. It felt good.

In the evening, we ate at the night market. I had frog legs and rice. The frog legs were quite small; so, it was like eating a small fish with way too many bones and not enough flesh.

They went out to party. I went to sleep.

The next day someone scheduled a tour to see the monkey temple - where apparently monkeys run around everywhere; the waterfall; and the rice fields. They asked if I wanted to go. Did I really want to? 

Might as well go - I thought.

But on the paper, I saw my name on the paper already. Someone had already made the decision for me to go.

I asked the group, "Who put my name on the paper?"

"Lauren did."

"Did she now?" What a cheeky girl. I thought.

The next day we toured a waterfall, a rice field, and a temple in the jungles where many monkeys lived. Nothing that special happened, except a monkey tried to bite Daisy. One climbed up on me and tried to pull my necklace off. No wonder why they call them cheeky monkeys.

Friday, July 17, 2015

On an Island in the Sun

Gili Island at Sunset, taken by Paul Cook on an iPhone
We hired bikes and rode West, chasing the sunset, in an island in the sun. There were seven of us: one American, five English, and one Italian.

We rode our bikes for about two miles, across the jungle road, called Sunset Blvd., and sat at a beach, and watched the sunset. We ordered drinks. We drank. We watched.

The red sun slowly sank and lit the sky with different hues of pink, orange, and sky blue, and dark blue.

We talked about how we've been doing this every day now and how nice it was.

The first star that appeared wasn't actually a star - it was Jupiter. And below it, there was Venus. Afterwards, we ate food and bought waffles with chocolate and bananas and talked about our days in Indonesia.

Then, they went out and drank and danced out on the beach, while a bonfire roared. They danced and drank until the morning sun came out.

It's been a festive time because the fasting period of Ramadan, the Muslim period of fasting from dusk till Dawn is finally over. You hear the firecrackers all over the island and the children laugh and play with glee.

There's an entire backstory to all this, and I'll try to update everybody about what's happened. The Italian left us today. He always seemed happy and wanted everyone else to be happy.

Well, I'm coming home in a few days now. I can honestly say the days went by fast.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Special Report - LA Times Accuses Baldwin Park's Current CEO, Shannon Yauchzee of Facilitating Corruption in West Covina

Shannon Yauchzee, Baldwin Park's CEO
Picture Not Reflective of Real Age
The Los Angeles Times has accused the City of West Covina, a City adjacent to Baldwin Park, of incredible mismanagement. California State Auditor, Betty Yee, accused the City Manager and Director of engaging in criminal behavior, by laundering money by not abiding by lawful and ethical procedures - such as avoiding the bidding process.

At the heart of awarding multimillion dollar contracts to vendors without being transparent or providing a free market for city work is Shannon Yauchzee, Baldwin Park's current City Manager. The current City Manager said he was only following Yauchzee's recommendation to not abide by the law "to build team morale," (of course at the expense of the taxpayer).

For those of you who aren't familiar with the scam, what usually happens is that the city pays an overinflated price for a service to a private contractor - take for instance Baldwin Park's building of the Parking Structure. The City will pay an extraordinary amount, and even take a loan to pay for such a project. In return, the citizens are left with the bill. Hence, the reason taxes go up or the city levies higher fines or licensing fees. But to appear that everything is really in the city's best interest, the contractor will submit a low bid, and after the contractor gets the job, he'll start increasing the price of the services, either every 3 months or every year.

The promotion of the current City Manager, Shannon Yauchzee has been met with cynicism and pessimism. It's been alleged he has ties with Roger Hernandez, assemblyman from the West Covina district. Hernandez has married Susan Rubio, Baldwin Park Council Woman, in what's suspected to be a marriage of convenience. If it's not for the love, it's for the money. Another one of Hernandez's appointees is Robert Nacionales-Tafoya, Esq., aka Robert Tafoya, Robert Nacionales, and Robert Tafo. Tafoya defended Hernandez in a civil suit, where he allegedly punched his ex-girlfriend bloody and broken. It's also been discovered that Hernandez suspiciously lent Tafoya $75,000 in the form of a mortgage loan under the name of HernandezRoger. While Hernandez was on West Covina City Council, Hernandez appointed Tafoya as a commissioner.

But because Hernandez cannot control West Covina, he's set his eyes on Baldwin Park, by securing it through marriage and the promotion of his own people. In return, there's no doubt that Baldwin Park will be paying his select contractors - which is already has done with ROEM Development.

With that background, this LA Times article takes on a new light:

It was a bumbling city that didn't know how much it was collecting or spending. It signed large contracts without proper bidding and hired administrators without vetting their qualifications. Its city manager spent lavishly on meals and arrangements for council members with the city credit card. And it lost $1 million by selling a developer land it wasn't legally allowed to sell.

Read more: Audit finds massive financial mismanagement in West Covina

Signing off from Indonesia.

Monday, July 6, 2015

From Tokyo to Malaysia to Bali

Kula Lumpur, Malaysia
From Tokyo, I took an eight hour flight with Japanese Airline to Kula Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. The flight cost $50, but I had to pay something like 22,500 British Airway miles. Who knew it was an eight hour flight?

I was lucky to have a free pass again to the admiral lounge. the Admiral Lounge in Tokyo is awesome. I ate some cod roe in miso soup with egg and rice. I ate three bowls of this because it was so good. I also took a shot of cognac to put me out for the flight.

My concluding thoughts are that I want to come back to Japan, but not to Tokyo. I'd like to see one anime museum that was totally booked. Other than that, it's way too crowded for me.

An eight hour flight. I just didn't think South East Asia was so far away from East Asia. It seems so close. I've added a map to show you where I've been.

I've been flying nearly 24 hours now: 5 hours to Hawaii, 10 hours to Tokyo, and 8 hours to Malaysia.

I stayed one night in Kula Lumpur. I had enough points to pay for a free hotel there. I ate some Muslim food at night. I had 8 hours of sleep. Then, I woke up and boarded my flight to Bali, Indonesia.

This is my first time in a Muslim Asian country. I've been to Lebanon and Turkey before, but Islam in the East is a bit different. For one thing, it's not as conservative, as in the Middle East. Women don't need full covering. But being in Kuala Lumpur, it strikes you as a Muslim country - as they frown on pork and alcohol almost everywhere. Also, people kept looking at me, being a bronzed Asian, wearing shorts and not abiding by Muslim culture and tradition.

I'm flying Malaysian Air, now. They have issues. I'm scared. I'm praying not to get into a plane crash. At every point of my travel, something went wrong with Malaysian Air. Its internet booking didn't work. Its phone number didn't work. It's kiosk checkin didn't work.

If they have so many problems with electronics in dealing with the customers, you can imagine how it it in the cockpit for the pilot.

You get the message. Malaysian Air is broken. Don't fly with them. It's scary.

Praying to God now not to get into a plane crash.

My Trip "Purify" - Starting from Los Angeles; Honolulu, Hawaii; Tokyo Japan;
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and Bali, Indonesia (Final Country Destination)

Sunday, July 5, 2015

My days in Tokyo

Shinjuku District, Tokyo
Tokyo is expensive. Tokyo has no space. These are my two conclusions about the city.

I've been here nearly a week. At first, I didn't enjoy it. Perhaps, because I feel so cramped here. There's no room in my hostel. There's no room in the elevator. There's no room in the subway.

Also, it's super expensive. To give you an example, a watermelon the size of a grapefruit costs $7 USD. Can you believe it?

Also, on my first night, an Argentinian backpacker rummaged through my shorts and stole 17,000 Yen from me (about $140). He did it, when I was knocked out from the jet lag. That's the first time I've had anything stole in my fifteen years of travel. I accused him. He didn't say anything. He just fled the hostel.

I filed a police report. It took an hour. The detective came to my hostel. I found that strange that he sat at the owner's living room and talked to him. In America, we wouldn't have a detective sitting in our living room. We'd go to the station.

The detective was a friendly man. He offered me a menthol cigarette. Although I don't smoke, I took it out of politeness. He lit it for me. I inhaled. The mint smoke sat in my mouth. He was super nice and professional and kept apologizing. He bought me a coffee as well - I bet out of his own pocket - not the police budget. In the end though, because I had to leave Tokyo, I had to withdraw my police report. I think I'll remember that detective's kindness - however - for the rest of my life. It meant a lot.

It wasn't that much money, but I keep thinking that guy was such a piece of (you know what). He was 30. He knew the money was in my wallet because he saw me pay the hostel owner. Earlier in the day, he kept complaining he had no money. I was thinking, go back home then. Traveling's not a right. But, I guess his greed got the best of him. It left me feeling an ugly feeling inside about my trip.

The next few days got better though. I met a French Canadian named Victor at hostel. We toured the city a bit. But because he was white and had no experience with Asian culture, everything about it fascinated him: the talking machines, the cartoon animals, the masses of people, the food, etc. In contrast, none of it fascinated me because strangely enough, my home is still pretty Korean: the food, the language, the culture, etc.

Giant Angelfish
In any event, the next day, I went to the Sumida Aquarium. I was very impressed by the freshwater exhibit. In case you didn't know, I've been an aquarium hobbyist for nearly 28 years. I've been collecting fish since I was 6 years old. So, when I saw the giant angelfish, I was wowed. I kept wondering how to get mine that big. I have angelfish at home too. I love them.  I was just wowed by the aquarium. I know, it's not in the top ten things to see in Tokyo, but I enjoyed it.

My kitty Jeh Pan would've loved it too. My mother and I just laugh at him as he jumps high and jumps at the aquarium, belly flopping against the glass. He tries over and over to catch those angelfish, and those angelfish don't even know a cat is trying to catch them.

Other than that, I saw a few museums. I went to the National Tokyo Museum today. There was so much fascinating war items. I really enjoyed seeing the swords and the armor. I thought, If I only had more money and an office, I'd put those in my office.

Yet, when I saw the Buddhist statutes, and although they looked peaceful, my skin felt like it was on fire. I got itchy everywhere. I started scratching and so, I had to leave the room. After awhile, my skin returned back to normal. How weird is that.

Tsukiji Fish Market
This morning I went to the fish market. I bought three pieces of sushi and an oyster. I spent $9 USD. Everything is so expensive in Tokyo. But it tasted really good. So, I was happy I bought it.

I bought a piece of fatty tuna, called Toro. When I ate it, it tasted like meaty butter, which melted in my mouth.

In short, I keep eating in Tokyo: ramen, sobe noodles, curry and rice, and breakfasts sets. Nothing is cheaper than $6, even the fast food here.

I really enjoyed my last few days here, but I can't live here. It's too expensive, and there's no space. I never knew this, but as a writer, I feel like I need some desk space. It just seems too hard to write without space.

Maybe, next time, I have to check out Kyoto - the former ancient capital - rather than Tokyo.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Insight Into the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil

While sitting down at a Tokyo cafe, I was reflecting on theology and philosophy. I've never written on spiritual texts, but I thought I should on this one.

I grew up in Sunday school. I must have heard the story of the fall of Adam and Eve from multiple narratives: Christian, Jewish, literary, and philosophical. I must have heard a number of pastors explicating the story, but today, because of what I've gone through, I think I have an insight into the story. (Now, if you think this is preaching, I don't want to offend your values - don't read further. I have a lot of atheist readers, but even if you are atheist, there are practical applications of my criticism of it.)

According to Genesis Chapter 2, God commanded Adam and Eve to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It was the only tree they were not supposed to eat from, but every other fruit from another tree was edible. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was planted in the center of the garden, and the Scriptures give us one subtle but profound insight: so was the Tree of Life.

One day, Eve, being alone, talked with a serpent, who said that she should eat from the fruit because God had not actually told him it was forbidden. He convinced her that if she ate from it, she would not actually die and that in fact her eyes would be open and she would be like God. She saw that fruit was beautiful and looked delicious; so she bit and ate. Then, she gave some to her husband. He bit and ate.

Then, they realized they were naked and felt ashamed. They covered their nakedness. God caught the two. Adam blamed Eve. Eve blamed the serpent.

God punished them accordingly. Women would have pain from childbirth. Men would have to work against a hostile earth to survive. The serpent would be a despised animal and have to slither on the ground for the rest of their lives, living forever in animosity with humans. All of them were condemned to die and return back to dust and dirt.

God banished them from the garden. He ordered an angel to block humans from the access to the Tree of Life. That's the fall of man in a nutshell, with many missing details. (If you want the entire account, read Genesis 2-3).

It was over breakfast that I realized that although the path to the Tree of Life is now gone and that we've been expelled physically from the Garden, the Garden of Eden and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil still exist in our spiritual lives. The world we live in and the people that are in it, is the Garden of Eden. And in that world or garden, we're given full permission to do good and have pleasure. (After all the word Eden means delight or pleasure in Hebrew). But at the center of the garden, once again, is still the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

And where is that center? It's the heart of course. And guess what, the heart tempts us with the same three temptations Eve was tempted with: 1) Don't you want to be God in your life? 2) Did God really say that? Let's test him, instead of trust him. 3) Aren't there better things out there to be God in your life? No wonder the serpent showed her how beautiful and pleasing the fruit was. Instead of spiritual peace, won't money, power, and lust fill those needs instead.

So - what's the point you ask? The paradise lost story replays in our lives the same way. At the moment, one chooses to fall into one of the temptations, it is pleasurable in that moment, until one is caught. Then, the guilt and shame results, and our relationships whither and die - just like death was introduced into the garden. At some point, the temptation or addiction grows out of control, hijacks that person's life, and ousts that person out of the lives of others - just like Adam and Eve get banished from the garden.

This example is most often seen in a drug addict, who starts off by telling himself that he's not hurting anyone but himself. Like Eve, he's bit into the fruit and ate. At some point, after burning all his relationships, his life becomes unmanageable. He gets banished from the social world he once lived in, with a long hard and almost impossible path to travel to get it back. Remember, it all begins, once again at the center of that person's life - the heart.

The analysis reminds me of what my older sister at church told me once, 11 years ago. I told her a story of how I failed as a youth because I took a shortcut I shouldn't have taken. And she said to me, "Paul, you know, that temptation to do wrong is always there in our lives. It always presents itself as the easiest and best choice." 11 years later, I can say what she said is true - in my work, in my relationships, and in my journey to run the race of life.

So - is there any hope in this story? Of course. The most amazing insight I had, was that I saw what true love is supposed to be. Even though the Tree of Knowledge lives in our heart, our rejection of it (and the suffering resulting from doing so), to do the right thing for those we care about, is what love really is. Without overcoming the temptations in ourselves, denying us ourselves, for the sake of the welfare of God and others is the proof of love.

Perhaps, the reason that the path to the Tree of Life is now blocked is that absent divine intervention, our own will cannot make it there any longer. It may be that paradise lost was man's ultimate admission that one's will power is not enough to escape the thrills and euphoria offered by forbidden fruits.

(And if God is a distasteful concept to you, replace it with the notion of a universal and moral consciousness. Anyways, that's it for theological treatises. I'm going to return back to travel writing.)