Wednesday, September 27, 2023

My Days in Crete: More Greek Kindness.

I walked into a seafood restaurant, and a tall, athletic and skinny host named Nikitas invited me and asked if I wanted to make a reservation; I didn't know it then, but he was in the Greek military special forces and was half Cyprian. (Did you know Cyprus is the only other country in the world that speaks Greek? I think a territory in Macedonia also speaks Greek.) He was kind, and he really wanted me to feel at home. Nikitas had such a unique name, it took me awhile to remember it. The invitation set the tone of extending the great Greek Hospitality that Ianis and Marina showed me earlier.

There was another restaurant I went to often for coffee called Taverna Dimitra. The first thing I noticed was that there were two notebook computers, and they looked plugged in and like they were used a lot. I found out that the family had a daughter named Dimitra, and she graduated in computer science. Her fiance is Yiannis. Yiannis was also very hospitable and kind, and I built a relationship with that family. Yiannis is also a computer scientist.

I noticed that they were a happy family and that there was a peace and kindness in their house. And you could see that the children really benefited from a loving and good home. The son was a police officer. There was much to learn here. This is in stark contrast to the stress levels of Los Angeles.

What I love about the people of Crete is that they have time for you. And they want to know more about you. And they want to talk to you. And they want to develop a relationship with you. In Los Angeles, I feel so pressed for time all the time that I don't feel like I have time for others. Here, they make time for you.

I finally made it to a small village by the sea. Crete itself was an ancient kingdom by the sea. I was fascinated to know that I was on the island where the Minotaur once lived. And the people love to come and go, talking about Alexander the Great.

I can't say that there was any eye catching event I experienced at this village. It was quiet. Maybe that's what I needed. And the food was good.

I read a lot, which was one of the aim of my trips. I wanted to get through as many books as possible. I had 6 books, two of which I was half way through. I read on a feminist memoir on a woman who was sexually abused by her father. She gave birth to a dead baby. She was a good writer. I also read on bone healing. Then there was a book interviewing ultra liberal people, like a Black lesbian woman, who was trying to convince the American public it needed to change and admit it was racist. And guess what? The next book was on a civil war general, who fought for slavery. Now, I was reading on the dirty, bribery world of FIFA soccer. I don't think you're going to meet someone who reads this diversely.

People ask me why I spend my time reading on holidays, because I can do that at home. But that's not true. I have so many responsibilities; I really have to get away to make time for reading. I stress that again. You have to make time for reading; otherwise, it won't get done.

I was five minutes by the beach. One thing I didn't like about this village was that there were so many older people and no young single people. These older people were generally British. And I felt like I was stuck in a really large convalescent home.

The lady at the souvenir shop says she loves the British, because they're well mannered. She disliked Israelis and Russians the most. 

True. They were well mannered. But I didn't like the culture of these older British people. They were extremely self-absorbed and had lost their purpose for living a long time ago. They were there to get a few more years of excitement out of life, even though they couldn't do much, because their bodies were failing them. And then they were going to die. How sad to witness all this.

The only reason that they could travel was that their British Sterling Pound was strong, and once again, they had lost their purpose in life. Had they been earning Hungarian Forint, they couldn't travel. So, it wasn't anything special that they individually did to have more money. They were just benefitting off the British currency.

They reminded me of the trashy old Americans you see in Loreto, Mexico and throughout Cabo. It's not a good thing to lose your purpose to live and then try to extract your senior years in some beach town only to then die.

Russians are no longer allowed to the European Union. But I noticed a party illegally got through through Turkey. That was interesting. And they were typically Russian, wanting to show off their wealth.

* * *

Later in the week, I texted Ianis and Marina, remember the Greek couple who showed me incredible hospitality and told him where I was. Ianis picked me up. He came from the South and finished his business. The drive was three and a half hours. 

Ianis looked tired. Marina was tired. They had worked all day. They picked me up and we went to sit at a cafe on the coastal rocks, overlooking the Mediterranean sea during a red sunset. It was nice we were continuing the relationship.

They ordered ice cream. I ordered a glass of red wine. We talked. We caught up. There was small talk and bigger talk and everything in between.

After Ianis ate the ice cream, he looked so happy. He woke up and became more alert. He also adds: "I really needed that."

Ianis then tells me to meet him on the island of Santorini tomorrow. I have to wake up at 6 in the morning to do it. (Everyone who knows me, knows I'm not a morning person.) I agree. I'll do it. He says I only have to pay for the ferry ride, which is actually dear.

I wasn't planning on going to Santorini. I heard it was expensive. I remember it was an Instagram paradise. Why not?

Ianis paid for my wine. I say I'll see him soon. We say goodbye.

He texts me later not to come, because Marina will not come. I told him, I'll still come. I sleep early. 

I ask Nikitas if he ever went to Santorini. He says he has not.

I ask Yiannis, the computer scientist, if he ever went to Santorini. He says, "No. Never. I heard it's expensive."

I slept earlier. Well, I was going to Santorini tomorrow. I didn't know it then, but the Lord was with me wherever I went in Greece.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Former City Attorney, Robert Tafoya, Suspected of Orchestrating Bribe Payment Scheme to City Public Officials

Former City Attorney of Baldwin Park, Robert Tafoya, is suspected of orchestrating bribe payments of at least $70,000 to former city council member, Ricardo Pacheco. Yesterday, the FBI arrested former Compton City Council Member, Isaac Galvan, who was also being held in prison for charges of election fraud. Allegedly, Galvin was the middle man to bribe Pacheco with $70,000 of Yichang Bai's money. Bai bribed Pacheco so that Pacheco could vote for him and his company to receive a license to sell marijuana in the City. Bai was also arrested by the FBI. You can read the details of the arrest from the Department of Justice here.

According to Roger Hernandez, former California Assemblyman, around December of 2018, Galvan learned how to conceal the bribe payments from Tafoya. Galvan would sit in Tafoya's office, and Tafoya would mastermind the scheme in order to conceal the bribe payments to Pacheco. Tafoya then directed Glavan on what to do.

The DOJ reports that one way this would be done is as follows. "Bai collected checks from third parties who owed him money and then – at Galvan’s direction – gave Galvan the checks with blank payee lines. Galvan then gave the checks to Pacheco, who then arranged for them to be cashed, either by him or third parties."

Hernandez said that Galvan and Tafoya would also wine and dine clients, like Bai, at luxury steak restaurants like Morton's. On average, the cost of dinner for one person at Morton's is a $120. 

Pacheco, who has already pled guilty to bribery, has had his sentencing date continued by 9 months. The continuance suggests that the FBI has increased their list of suspects. The previous Department of Justice press release accused Council Member Monica Garcia and former Mayor Manuel Lozano of also being involved in the bribery scheme. It appears that more arrests will be coming soon.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Radical Greek Hospitality: A Mirror to My Own Flaws

1:45 in the morning. Heraklion, Crete, Greece. The owner of the hotel slams the door in my face and tells me that if I don't leave soon, she's calling the police. They don't have 24-hour-reception. I woke her up. She tells me I don't have a booking. I tell her I do and that their must be some mistake. If she would only give me the WiFi code, we could sort it out. She repeats herself, if I don't leave, she'll call the police. I tell her, do whatever you want. It wouldn't be the first time people needlessly call the police on me. I didn't know it then, but the Lord was with me.

I think to myself, Why the Hell did I chose to come to Greece? What a mistake.

I have luggage to drag around and no place to stay. I better look for a hotel and try to figure out what happened. 

I'm tired. It's a three and an half an hour flight from Amsterdam to Crete. Think about the time to get to the airport and check in. I think checking into the airport takes a lot more energy than I realized. 

I also flew on some budget airline. They crammed us into the small seats like sardines in a can. I sat next to a fat Aryan guy, perhaps Dutch, perhaps German. His body fat spilled over into my space. He was eating a lot of potato chips and licking his fingers after eating enough of them.

Anyways, trying to figure things out, around the corner, I see a couple, who seem to be enjoying themselves. One guy is in his 40s and in his underwear and hairy and cheery. The woman is dressed in a sleeveless bright blue dress. She's blonde with brown eyes. She looks like she's wearing an ancient Greek dress. Both of them radiate happiness and cheer.

I knock on their door and say, "Excuse me. Do you speak English?"

The guy says, "Yes."

"Can I get your WiFi code? My hotel says I don't have a booking. I need the WiFi to see if this is correct."

"I'll get you the code. Come on in." 

Remember; it's 2 AM. They found me on the street.

The woman studies me. She can see I'm agitated and anxious. She hears about me not having a hotel and how the owner threatened to call the police on me. She says, "Don't worry about it. We'll find you a hotel for the night."

They offer me a drink of strong and fine alcohol in a shot glass. I down it. The host tells me, "Don't do that. Too fast. You have to enjoy it."

"I'm sorry. It's stressful."

"Don't worry. We're here now. Everything will be ok."

They call around to find me a hotel. They can't find anything.

They say, "It's ok. We'll bring you some bed sheets. You can stay on our couch tonight." 

Wow - I think. You barely met me. It's 2AM. You found me on the streets.

The guy says, "Have a drink. Relax. Everything is ok now."

We talk until 3 AM. His name is Yiannis (John in English) and her name is Marina. Yiannis makes wine and is a jack of all trades, which include driving buses, cars, fixing brakes, and producing olive oil. Marina owns a hotel. I give them Korean noodles, the one that's popular with Korean actors and K-pop stars. I tell them it's not regular instant ramen. I would've given them my Californian wine, but it's missing from my bag.

We wake up the next morning. Everyone is tired. I apologize to Marina and say, "I'm so sorry to inconvenience you." I feel so bad, when I see how tired they are.

She hugs me and kisses me on the cheek and says, "Don't you worry about it. We all need help some times."

I feel shame. I feel humiliated. I know I wouldn't be happy if someone made me lose my sleep. And here I was, a stranger, knocking on the door of people, at 2AM in the morning, on the streets. Her response confronts me with this thought: You need to rethink your values on being inconvenienced. Anyone can be hospitable when it's on their terms. Real hospitality can be real inconvenience.

* * *

The Jewish and Christian people tell this story. Around 3,400 years ago, Hebrew spies visited a Gentile prostitute named Rahab, who lived in the city walls. Could the spies imagine someone less clean? A prostitute. A Gentile. An outsider.

Rahab was clearly an outcast by her own people. She couldn't even live in the city. That's why she lived in the border of it, in a wall. But like so many outcasts, she was an observer and understood how people thought.

When the Hebrew spies arrived, God has already told her to protect them. She tricked the soldiers looking for them by hiding them on the roof, under bundles of flax. The spies promise her, "we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the Lord gives us the land.” (Joshua 2:14, NIV).

After the Israelites capture Jericho, Rahab and her family were saved. She converts to Judaism and receives God's blessing. She ultimately ends up as ancestor of Jesus. So, an outcast gets a new family.

The writer of the Book of Hebrews exalts her as a saint, because of her faith. Goes to show you, we're all only one step away from living a life of faith, if a prostitute can convert to a saint through her faith and hospitality and through an act that saves the lives of the spies. Ultimately, she brings salvation to the City of Jericho.

* * *

The next morning, the three of us have coffee. I really need a coffee. They really need a coffee. We sit at a cafe on a small cliff, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The refreshing and salty sea breeze was blowing through the City, through our hair, through the cafe.

I pay for coffee.

Later on, Yiannis calls me in the late afternoon and tells me to meet him at a restaurant. He buys me a glass of sweet Greek wine. We chat. He tells me he's having a problem. He can't exchange his Norwegian money for Euros. 

He's in a hurry. He has to take a trip three and a half hours South of Crete. (By the way, Crete is a large island; the 22nd largest island in the world.) 

We part ways. Yiannis and Marina had to go South. I had to find a place to stay.

* * *

When I retell this story to the Greek people, their response is that they didn't think such hospitality was shown anymore. Perhaps, 20 years ago. They're proud to know that such hospitality is still practiced. I wonder, when they hear this story, could they see the Lord was with me? I didn't even know at the time.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Meeting Van Gogh and the Next Generation in Amsterdam

Photo shot by Max (far right)
Van Gogh allegedly shot himself in the chest after he painted some tree roots. He died two days later. The doctors couldn’t save him. What I immediately notice about the root painting, which I posted for you, is that it’s a lot more abstract and different than his other works. 

The Van Gogh Museum was booked out for 10 days. I was so sad to learn this. I came all the way to Amsterdam, only to find out I couldn’t get in. But somehow I talked my way into it. (That’s what lawyers do, right? Talk. Talk. And talk some more.)

I spent 4 hours in the Museum. Any longer, and I would feel fatigue and frustration. That’s all the processing power I have in me. I felt like looking at each of his paintings, that I knew something of the man and what he was going through. 

It reminded me too about how much mental health issues are also correlated with geniuses. I read once that geniuses suffer from a disproportionate amount of mental health issues, namely depression. 

I felt so sad that Van Gogh ended his life in the same year he was starting to become well known. I believe he would’ve made it big in his lifetime, if he kept going. It was tragic to see that even though he created all these beautiful paintings, he thought of himself as a failure. Horrible. 

 * * * 

Back at the hostel, young people are smoking weed in the smoking room. I meet Danish, French, German, American, and Israeli people.

I only kept in touch with one guy, a German named Max. He's only 18 and really tall and skinny and likes to do climbing and biking. He seems quiet but is nice and outgoing and enjoys photography. He tells me he's going to be an engineer.


Out of everyone in the group, he's the only one who wants to take a group picture. That gets my attention.

I don’t like the French guy. Well, at first, I kind of did. He was charming enough. But there’s this blonde American girl. Maybe 22. She would look prettier, but she keeps drinking vodka all the time from the bottle. Night after night. I feel so bad for her. She tells me, in her strong American accent, she has a problem but can’t stop.  

I tell her it usually has to do with trauma. She tells me that she has a lot to work on her past. She alludes to being abused.

She sits by me and tells me that she hasn’t had sex in so long. At that point, I thank her for her time and excuse myself. 

The French guy, a nerd, 22, engineer, scrawny and puny gets all excited by the opportunity. He takes her to the local park. 

When he comes back, he tells me that he’s a mighty Don Juan, because he had sex with the girl in the park. He also says he’s a knight in shiny armor, because he protected her from some black guy, who wanted to touch her. 

I was thinking, The only person she needs protection from is you. I was disgusted. Poor girl. 

A lot of the young people there just wanted to numb out. I didn’t get it. They all seemed to come from upper class families. I don’t get why they wanted to numb out. Another spoiled Western World problem and issues with the next generation.  

* * *

I ate seafood at a local Dutch, posh restaurant. I ate at the table on the sidewalk. Some Italian waiter gets me to order choice shrimp and crab and oysters. The oysters are fantastic. I really love the smaller Dutch prawns from the North Sea. They’re sweet and salty and smell fresh, like the ocean is still in them. 

The waiter is sly. He says that I need champagne to wash down my oysters and crab and shrimp . I tell him I’m on a budget. He says, “You’re on holiday. Don’t worry about it.” I ordered Italian bubbles instead. Isn’t life just one big negotiation? No champagne. But ok to bubbles.  

At some point, me sitting outside, and cracking crab legs and crab carapaces and peeling shrimp shells and sucking the brains out of the crayfish heads, while washing down my meal with bubbles, is bringing in a lot of clients. Some girl sees it. Likes it. Wants it. Sees the ritual of it all. And then convinces her man to buy it. Soon, I bring in 4 to 5 sets of clients.

The bill was a lot. I felt like I lost my arm. I ask them for a discount since I brought in a lot of clients. They laugh and smile. No discount, though.   

I tell myself it’s ok. I was eating nothing but pork and beef in Germany. So maybe, it’s ok.


 * * * 

The French guy asked what I did. I told him I ate a seafood restaurant. I asked him what he ate. He said just supermarket bread and jam. He looked angry and envious. I don’t know where he’s spending his money. But it’s not so hard to save up for a nice meal. So, I don’t feel sorry for him. I think this guy’s life runs on being angry and envious.


The next day, I eat at the seafood restaurant again. And they compliment me with 12 French oysters. They make a mistake on the bill. They accidentally gave me a free champagne they want me to pay for. I ordered bubbles, not expensive champagne. Apparently, it was from a fine French bottle. 

The shift supervisor didn’t seem too happy. And he told the waiter to not make that kind of mistake again in front of me. This is the Dutch for you. They’re super direct and sometimes it is cold and cruel, especially when all this is happening in front of me. See; there’s a dual personality about them.

I leave feeling guilty about the whole event. I didn’t want to leave it like this. They were a nice restaurant. They’re staff were wonderful. I didn’t spend much there that day. So, I made a decision. Not only did I make the decision. I made a decision not to rethink that decision. 

I walk back there during the sunset from my hostel. I give the staff all a big tip. They’re all smiling and celebrating now. 

I could have left and left it like that. I wasn't coming back soon. But that would be wrong.

I wondered if they picked up on the fact that it was a redistribution of wealth from the store to employees. Eh – who cares? Everyone is happy. I’m sure, even the house. 

* * * 


I got into a pissing match with a tall and young and know-it-all-German guy. He had this attitude he could push around some small, nice-looking Asian guy and reminded me of some Frat boy. (And in case you're wondering, I never had a problem with frat people in university. But he did have attitude.) Well, meekness is not weakness. Needless to say, he lost to me in the match. Hope he learned his lesson. He didn't know what he was getting himself into.


* * *

One shock I had was that Amsterdam was super expensive. It was twice the price of Germany. And I realize, wherever you hear a lot of Americans, the prices are going to be high. It’s because they’ll pay it. Americans create tourist traps, wherever they go;. I heard American everywhere. 

Oh, also, I met an Israeli guy. I helped him book his flight back home to Tel Aviv. He was so sad. He looked brokenhearted. I asked, “What’s wrong?” 

He answered, “I was supposed to have traveled 4 weeks. I spent all my money in Amsterdam in 4 days. I don’t know where it all went.” 

I nodded. Yes. Amsterdam was cruelly expensive, because it could be. I was happy to leave, because of the prices. I was sad to leave, because of all the kind and friendly Dutch people I met. I’ll remember all the Dutch people, who greeted me with their warm and welcoming smile.


Before I left, Aaron, an Irish guy, who works there, sits with me and chats and tells me about his life. It was very lovely and a nice way to leave Amsterdam and the hostel.

Time to decide where’s next. I found a cheaper flight from Amsterdam to Crete, Greece. I was going to Greece next. I told myself, stay on course. You made a decision. Stick to it.

Friday, September 8, 2023

Schizophrenic Amsterdam

A lady in a bikini, outside of a window, dances smiles and points and curls her index finger to tell me to come in. She smiles with her lips. But I can see, she's dead inside. They're from Africa, South America, Eastern Europe, but not from the Netherlands. The red light makes their skin glow. They're in the glass window. They wink. They smile. They ask you to come in. You can be Prince Hamlet tonight. She’ll make you believe you are. All for a price.

There’s a long line of people, who want to watch the live sex show. 60 euros for a full show. 5 euros for a quick show. The full show even gives you a drink while you’re watching. Did I tell you that there’s also a church right by the red light district?

Sin and repent. Repent and sin. Feel worthless. Feel worthy. Feel shame again. Then pretend that nothing happened. 

After about 30 minutes of walking around, we all find the whole thing sad and depressing. We leave to get a drink. Amsterdam has it all for you, drugs, prostitutes, arts, culture, and beauty.  

Every corner smells like marijuana smoke. There’s throngs of tourists. I hear Americans everywhere. For some reason, I find it annoying to hear that Yankee accent, so loud and clueless, all the time.

Amsterdam is the most Schizophrenic city I’ve been to and so clearly so. There’s pink and red flowers and canals and water. I can see why it’s called the Venice of the North. It’s beautiful and charming. But Amsterdam has such an ugly side to it. One wonders how these two personalities live side by side with each other.
* * * 

I came to Amsterdam, because I’ve never been to the Netherlands. My first proper boss in New Zealand was Dutch. I liked him a lot. He gave me a chance, even when I wasn’t confident I could get the job done. Because of him, I got my first full time job in New Zealand. Because of him, I became a resident of New Zealand. In fact, “Zealand” is a Dutch word. It means sea–land. My Dutch boss even gave me his family recipe for Dutch donuts.

I wanted to understand the Dutch better. So, it was time to go Amsterdam.

I took the 1 o’clock speed train out of Gottingen to Amsterdam. Across me was a young, 22 year old, shy German guy, who wanted to talk to me. He wore glasses and had cool gadgets. He was going with his girlfriend to Amsterdam, just for one night. The German guy’s name was Lucas and he was a mechanic, who liked Lacoste designer clothes.

He did everything indirectly to get my attention. No one was taking my phone call back home, while I was riding the speed train to Amsterdam from Germany. So, why not? I bought an overpriced coffee at the train kitchen, introduced myself, and started talking to him and his girlfriend.

We talked about what to do in Amsterdam. They told me that they were going to stay near Anne Frank’s house. Her diary was mandatory reading in junior high, and I think even high school.

I asked them about their favorite countries in Europe. She was from Poland. So, they told me Warsaw. I still had no plans as to where I was going.

You know when the train gets into the Netherlands. The buildings are softer and cuter and friendlier and more cubish. It was like Pablo Picasso was their architect. German roofs, in contrast, announce that their German. They’re a dark blue and made of metal and so austere and strong and tough. They tell you, they can weather any storm. I’d say the Dutch houses are much more inviting.

* * *
Five hours later, about 290 miles away, I arrive into Amsterdam Train Station.

A friendly and lovely Dutch lady tells me she makes her fried dough with love. She takes the time out to help me find my hostel. I check into my hostel. It’s in Uptown. Uptown is lovely and charming and nothing like central Amsterdam with its red light district. I’m by the museums and the art galleries.

After, I sit down by a river at a bistro for dinner. The waiters are Dutch. That’s cool. I like meeting Dutch people. They’re all so tall. Did you know the Netherlands has the tallest people in the world?

They young waiters teach me Dutch words. I know a few. They’re so happy I’m trying to learn. They’re very warm. After eating an appetizer and amazing crunchy white bread, baked really crispy, they ask me to come back.

I’m in Amsterdam. Three more weeks of travel.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Germany's Mental Health Crisis

4 AM. Hanover Train Station. Trying to get some sleep in a hard, plastic, red chair. An African woman, maybe in her 50s, bad skin, bad hair, rotten teeth, cusses and screams at me in English, not German. She throws a McDonald’s cheeseburger against my left chest. I feel it hit my left pectoral. The red ketchup stains my cobalt blue shirt. I feel her rage. Searing. Intense.

A beautiful blonde German girl, with milk white skin, maybe 22, watches horrified. So does the German girl’s boyfriend. She comes to me. She hands me some tissue and some hand sanitizer to clean myself up. She says she’s sorry. I say, “Danke schoen.” (Thank you.)

Other Germans, all Aryans, all young, almost all blonde with blue eyes, are in shock this assault happened. They sympathize.

To be clear, I said nothing to this lady. I was just trying to sleep. I said nothing. I didn’t even make eye contact. I said nothing to her. She sat next to me for awhile, eating her McDonald's. I was trying to sleep. Some sleep. Any sleep. I’ve been traveling for over 20 to 30 hours without sleep.

Hanover Train Station doesn’t feel safe at this time. I see drug addicts, prostitutes, and Johns everywhere. It wasn’t the Germany I left 5 and a half years ago.

But maybe that was the problem. I refused to acknowledge her. Would I have, if I found her beautiful? Who knows? Someone who could validate us. But isn’t that what we do in our busy worlds, with time so precious. We just pretend that the stranger isn’t there. And maybe that’s now culturally acceptable, because strangers can find it weird when you try to strike up a conversation.

I think that’s why she threw food at me. First the French fries, which I dodged. Then the cheeseburger. Everyone found it clearly uncivil and rude.

I didn’t mean to ignore her. It wasn’t like I was doing it on purpose. I was just minding my own business. I was tired. I needed sleep and wanted sleep.

But I’m sure, being physically present but invisible, unrecognized, and unacknowledged, is and was painful. But some are mentally unwell. And this is what happens to them. So, she did what she had to, to get her acknowledgment. And she got it.

You might think I’m reading into it too much. But I don’t think so. Did you know in Zula, a South African tribe I met, they’re hello is “Sawubona!” It means literally, “I see you!” They believe we both and only exist, because we both acknowledge each other.

Well; in Germany and the USA, this has been erased in our minds. It matters what others could do for us. Time is money. Money is time. And you don’t want certain people in your space. And we all mind our own business. What happens to you is your problem. What happens to me is my problem. Am I my brother’s keeper? Definitely a clash of cultures ensuing.

 Another thing. When I tell this story. People ask me if it was a German who assaulted me and quickly point out it: See; it was a refugee.

I can’t say I’m above this. Maybe it was good thing it happened to me. It’s made me think about this issue.

About 30 minutes later, the mentally unwell woman came back with a lighted cigarette and its red hot ember cherry. Everyone around her moved and ran away. The police came this time.

* * *

I ended up in this mess, because of a series of things that went wrong, which seems to happen, when I start my trips. It's almost like a form of destructive compound interest. Story of my life. One thing that went wrong was that the Lufthansa flight was late, making me miss my last train.

Since the bankruptcy of Air Berlin – Lufthansa has become a terrible airline, with terrible customer service. The problem is that it’s the major airline from the USA to Germany.

* * *

I went to six hotels in Hanover that night. All of them were booked. The sixth one, the last room was booked by someone who got there five minutes earlier than me. He was so gleeful with himself.

I was irritable to have lost out. He was old and fat and middle age and balding and German. I wondered if he was also in Hanover for the prostitutes, which I saw many of. And there were many men like him too. He definitely looked excited to be there. He was no Prince Hamlet, wasn’t meant to be, and never will be.

There was a certain cruelty and ugliness about the John–looking–guy and the hotel receptionist. They didn’t care I didn’t have a place to stay. I was homeless tonight.

* * *

Later in the trip, I stayed at a hotel in Goettingen. There was a mentally unwell woman in our hostel. She was again in her 50s. She talked to herself a lot. She banged on my wall, when I talked on the phone. She screamed a lot. She knew she wasn’t well, but she couldn’t control herself.

At first we thought she was from Lithuania. It turns out she was a Ukrainian refuge. The Germans tells me there’s a lot of these Ukrainian refugees now. Allegedly, these refugees all know someone who’s died. The hotel kicked her out the next morning.

I told you. No one wants them in their space.

* * *
Germany definitely has a mental health crisis. Germany’s suicide rate is at 12.3 per 100,000 persons. “Of the G7 countries, the USA had the highest" at 16.1. New Zealand is at 10.2. South Korea is even worse, at 32.5.

In 2009, Greece’s suicide rate was only 2.9. Now, it’s at around 5.1. Still low, but has gone up. How did it almost double in 14 years? Regardless, maybe it’s time to go to Greece.

* * *  
Issues regarding mental health appears to be a theme in this trip. Hospitality, or the lack of it, was also becoming a recurrent theme.

Monday, August 28, 2023

Göttingen, Germany Again and Again.

This time, my favorite memory in Goettingen, Germany was riding bicycles through the German stone Medieval streets and buildings, streets that lead and lead you to some never ending question. And to be honest - I don't even know what that question is or the answer I should search for. I don't ask what is it. Let us go and make our visit.

The stone road lead to dirt roads through the dark German forest. We pass through scattered shadows and light. We cross wooden bridges, where some of the path is muddy and wet. Around us were flowing creeks, birds chirping, and the announcement that summer was here.

In the summer, the fire and fury of the soul burns and shines. Life and love are at its prime. The hunter comes alive. The lions roar.

The afternoon is spread out with an expansive blue sky. Around us was my friend Volker and his family. He has two young girls now with his partner Julia. After thinking about it awhile, I thought we looked like a strange group.

Blonde and blue eyes.    
Blonde and blue eyes.
Blonde and blue eyes.    
Blonde and blue eyes.  

Black hair. Dark amber eyes.

Not a usual sight. Thinking about it, we're tremendously fortunate to know each other. How many Americans can ride bikes through the towns and forest with a German family? How many Germans have an American guest that comes?

If you don't know about Volker, I've known him now for 16 years. You can read him on previous blog posts here - Göttingen (January 2012); Göttingen (June 2014) and Göttingen (Again) (December 2016).

 * * *

Volker takes me to the public baths. They remodeled it since I last came. It's full of bodies. Volker is already trying to teach his two year old to swim. She loves ice cream and can eat lots and lots of it.

I go to the adult area. I have shorts on. Some guy tells me in German to take them off. So, I do. Germans love their nudity.

I roast in steam saunas. I roast in dry saunas. I chill in an ice bath. My heart races. I feel a rush. I like it.

When I'm done, I recline outside in the sunshine. The garden has the smell of flowers. The sunshine pours over me, searing my skin. It feels warm and nice.

* **

Later Volker has a barbecue at his newly built house. I catch up with his friends. It's after all been five and a half years. I see the different directions their lives have taken. They see the direction my life has taken.  

Volker lights the fire pit, where there’s wood inside. The fire starts and eats away at the wood. Colors of scarlet and orange and smoke appear. We roast marshmallows. Funny, I was just doing this just a few weeks ago in Santa Monica with other friends.

Here’s what I noted about Goettingen. All of Volker’s friends left to work elsewhere, only to return to raise their family and children. Can that be said about Los Angeles?

I like how they have a tight community. One thing is everyone lives close to each other. So they can see each other often. In Los Angeles – we’re all so spread out from each other. And that makes community harder and isolation more bleak.  

They’re an educated crowd. We have a mathematician and a statistician. We have a process engineer and a school teacher. I don’t know what Nico does. Leona is something akin to a small claims advisor. And then there’s me.

Volker and his friends talk about the important things and the trivial things. The women come and go whispering about kids, jobs, the important and the trivial. Volker updates me on the friends not there. Most have kids. What about me?

There will be a time. A time to be single. A time to be alone and a time to commune. A time to create and to bury and recreate.  

I told the group I have no plans. This is true. I really don’t. No one in their right mind travels like me. I should have been organized. I had an incident in Hanover, Germany. Tell you about it later.

But then again, I’ve been to over 50 countries now. I don’t feel like I need to be anywhere particular. I just want to be far far away.

It’s clear who travels in the group and who doesn’t. The places that come up to visit are Greece, Portugal, Croatia, and Iceland.

We end the night. Nico gives me a warm hug, meaning see each other again in a couple years. I’m jet lagged. I need sleep. Guten nacht.

Monday, June 12, 2023

The Heresy of the 21st Century Interfaith Movement: A Call to Reject the Jezebel Spirit

A member of a small group, we’ll call him Mark, sent a group text questioning whether the representation of God in the movie The Shack was accurate according to the Bible. In The Shack, the main character meets the triune God, after his daughter was kidnapped and murdered. Mark finds out that God is really a woman and that she is tolerant of sin and won’t judge or punish it.

I already knew that the representation of the Shack’s Trinity contradicted the Bible, but as a newcomer, I didn’t want to rock the boat. Nonetheless, I felt uncomfortable that this was being taught. (For more information on the subject, there are articles by Tim Keller, Albert Mohler, and Randy Alcorn as to why the Shack is a heretical representation of the Christian God.)

So, I thought I’d ask the small group leader what he thought of Mark’s concerns. The small group leader, I’ll call Abe, said that nothing was wrong with his teaching and that the concerns should be dismissed. According to him, Mark is a young and immature Christian and that it was fiction.

I countered by telling him that fiction ia a primary vehicle to introduce heresy. Abe aggressively told me (in not so many words) to stop the conversation and said that I should just move on. He admitted that it was a mistake to bring up The Shack in the study.

The uncomfortable discussion brought up other memories. I initially ignored those issues, because I wanted to give the church a chance. I found the church members to be the most welcoming and warm Christians I ever met.

But I had concerns. For instance, during Easter weekend, the leader texted us all an article on Holy Saturday, the Catholic belief that Jesus rescued souls in Hell on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter. (This belief appears to be similar to purgatory.) Abe would also ask us to repeat these corporate prayers that appeared to written by another pastor in another church. This pastor refuses to publish his biography.

A flood of various and seemingly disparate and fractured facts flashed through my head, as I realized that this leader was trying to mingle all kinds of faiths. Was this part of his own spiritual inventory? It became clear; however, that this co-mingling of beliefs was also commissioned by Christian Assembly and many other churches.

I started investigating this interfaith doctrine, which I never knew was an intentional movement. I ordered the book Evangelicalism Divided by Ian H. Murray. According to it, the interfaith movement, also known as ecumenism, was propelled in Los Angeles by Billy Graham and Fuller Seminary between 1950 to around 1980. Ecumenism argues that all Christian faiths and denominations are the same, and we are all one. Unity is of the greatest importance.

Although on the surface, it appears to be a noble effort to reunify the splintered Church, ecumenism is heresy in disguise and amounts to false teaching. Christianity is separate from other religions in that it teaches that Jesus, who was both God and man, paid the judgment for our sins. In other words, an innocent God, in the form of man, paid the price we should have paid; so, we could be reunified to a holy and Perfect God to satisfy the announced judgment.

Ecumenism loathes this belief. It states that just because you call yourself Christian or just because you received a water baptism as an infant, that you are a Christian.

The problem with both ecumenism’s definitions are that it doesn’t define what a Christian is. A Christian is not someone born into a religion, though he or she is spiritually reborn later in life. A Christian is someone whose life is transformed by the Spirit, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the Truth of God’s Word. One was dead, but God resurrects the person from his old, dead life into a new one.

One needs to die to her old life and accept this new foundation in one’s heart, mind, soul, and strength to be renewed, transformed, and to become a Christian. Without doing so, a label, or a ritual doesn’t make one a disciple of Christ. Hence, the problem with the interfaith movement is that it confuses the people on what to believe or what to do to find or receive salvation.

So why the need for this interfaith movement? I can hear my close friend and editor state the Golden Rule of investigation: Follow the money.

In an age of mega churches, which hardly existed 50 years ago, the larger the audience, the more money the church brings in. The less people you offend, the more people can attend. The more people that attend, the more you can shake them down for an offering. And almost every mega church, whether they expressly endorse ecumenism or not, must practice it to feed the administrative machine.

Hence, the interfaith movement is a profitable church business model. It’s the goose that laid the golden egg for all the greedy pastors, who generally failed in their other professions, and for their church staff. Now they have a way to be fed, clothed, and housed, because they didn’t make it in the real world. Some live the high life.

Take for instance Christian Assembly, discussed above, which brings in more than $5 million a year and then appears to donate the money to nonprofits, one that actually uses two different names. (That practice in itself should raise eyebrows.)

Incidentally, I gave Christian Assembly another chance, after the uncomfortable discussion with Abe. But the theological pastor, Matt Price, refused to answer simple questions, which focused on fundamental Biblical beliefs, such as whether this church agreed with God’s judgment or whether it endorsed purgatory. (Given the money and benefits Price makes, you wouldn’t think it too hard for him to write back.) 

 I asked Price whether he agreed with judgment, final judgment, and Hell, according to the Four Square Assembly values. Price replied, "Please seek elsewhere for answers to your questions." Price also told me not to come back to the church, all because I asked these questions. 

 I responded, "I will assume your answer to be no then. Only you can provide me the answer to your . . . beliefs."

Sadly, a church that believes in this interfaith heresy is valuing money over people, profit over Truth, and worldliness over the Kingdom of God. Churches that want to expand the Kingdom of God must renounce and reject ecumenism.

And for those who don’t, Jesus decrees a judgment: “But this is what I have against you: you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a messenger of God. By her teaching she misleads my servants into practicing sexual immorality and eating food that has been offered to idols. . . . I will throw her on a bed where she and those who committed adultery with her will suffer terribly. ” (Revelation 2:20, GNT).

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Five Baldwin Park Employees Resign Amidst Federal Corruption Probe

From October 2022 to February of 2023, five Baldwin Park employees have suddenly resigned amidst an FBI investigation into a cannabis pay to play scheme. The employees are Greg Richie and Jose Martinez from code enforcement; Carol Averell from housing; Jesus Hernandez from finance; and Fabialo Zelaya-Melicher, from the planning department.

Residents suspect that the code enforcement employees resigned, because their director, Ron Garcia, was illegally having employees sign off on permits that failed to meet city standards and requirements. Garcia's been suspected of receiving payoffs from businesses to do so.

Further pressure has also strained city employees. Recently, a federal RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) lawsuit has been filed against a number of administrators, city officials, and employees. The former city clerk, Lourdes Morales, has been sued personally for fraudulently forging a notary transaction from a victim with cancer.

Suzanne Ruelas, a former finance employee of Baldwin Park, has filed an employment lawsuit against City of Baldwin Park. According to Ruelas - Director Rose Tam - has been misappropriating housing funds and co-mingling funds to achieve corrupt purposes. Finance employees have been refusing Tam's request to sign off on illegal fund transfers.

The federal probe was kicked off after Ricardo Pacheco was caught soliciting bribes from the police union. Since then, Pacheco has ratted out a number of local government officials and administrators for participating in a cannabis bribery scheme, which sold cannabis licenses to the highest bidders.

Since the federal probe, Council Member Ricardo Pacheco; City Attorney, Robert Tafoya; Chief of Police, Michael Taylor; and City Clerk, Lourdes Morales have resigned.

Saturday, January 7, 2023

2023 - Year of the Water Rabbit: Working Towards Peace

(c) Japan Times
According to the Chinese calendar, last year was the Year of the Water Tiger. This is the Year of the Water Rabbit.

Last year, I wrote that "[T]igers cross water, because they're on the go. And I think, this will be a year of uncertain transition for everyone." My words came true.

Thank you for everyone who's believed in me and supported me in my life. Together, all of us have crossed over into the Promised Land. It's been a long and hard and gritty and painful journey. I want to remind us of history, because it's repeated.

Approximately 3,300 years ago, God blocked the Israelites from entering the Promise Land, because they were too afraid of the future. The spies gave false reports to Moses of how the land was full of fortified cities and giants; so, that the people could instead stay in the wilderness and settle for living in known poverty. The people rejected the prospects of an unknown future and wealth; instead, they were content with fantasies of the past and the comforts of the predictable.

Only Joshua and Caleb believed that the Promise Land could be taken. In short - one tribe, and only one tribe - the Tribe of Judah - stood in opposition against 11 other families and knew the truth and wanted to act on it. 

And what happened? Sadly, the Israelite community believed the lies and rejected God's promise to Israel. All of the spies, except Joshua and Caleb, were struck down with a plague and died. Judah was spared and honored and blessed.

I feel like history repeats itself. There's something to be said about knowing the truth, acting on that truth, and having faith that God will fight the battles we cannot. After all, it is written, "The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace." 

He is the same God, a God that does not change. He is the God that organized the Israeli slaves, and through their leader Moses, against all odds, and with only a wooden staff, defeated Pharaoh and his evil kingdom.

Hence, 2023, will now be about building the foundations of a new city.

The FBI Captures the City of Baldwin Park

Another reason I haven't been blogging as much, is because Baldwin Park's corruption has finally become exposed. The federal government has finally intervened. And the City's ugliness and greed and evil is now seen by the people.

The FBI captured a former council member, who in turn squealed on the rampant corruption, which was rotting this city and its people into destruction. The federal investigation has brought down other public officials from other cities and counties, as well as the city attorney here, and numerous administrators. It appears that the ring was primarily connected to corrupt, Hispanic-run cities.

(I predict next on the chopping blog will be Baldwin Park Council Woman, Monica Garcia and former Mayor Manuel Lozano.)

One person who has finally been brought down is the City Attorney, Robert Tafoya. Tafoya finally filed his resignation as city attorney in Baldwin Park and the West Valley Water District in November of 2022. We've been in conflict since March of 2014. That's almost 8 years.

I don't want to rehash all the misconduct he engaged in, because it's behind me. But some misconduct included the firing of my friend who worked for the City to get back at me; forging my signature block in a case; and filing a number of temporary restraining orders against me, based on lies. My opponent reveled in lying and balking at any laws designed to hold government accountable.

I won my share of battles against him and lost some too. Those losses upset me, especially because of the foul play employed to win. (And, I'd get so frustrated at the courts that they would permit so much illegal prolific and unrestrained misconduct.)

I'm grateful, however, to Tafoya, because he gave me the gift of the enemy. Walter Wink, late theologian on confronting evil political systems, describes the gift like this: "The gift our enemy may be able to bring us: to see aspects of ourselves that we cannot discover any other way than through our enemies. Our friends seldom tell us these things; they are our friends precisely because they are able to overlook or ignore this part of us."

The City of Baldwin Park Proves the Evil of Our Governments.

So, in the end, my character was refined by Tafoya's schemes and still has a way to go. Probably a few years ago, I would have been overjoyed that he resigned because of an FBI investigation, but now, it tastes so bittersweet.

I feel like I'm witnessing a tragedy, not a happy ending. Will the public get its money back to invest in future generations? Will the governance in the City change, or will they continue on their way to be corrupt? (Already, it appears like the latter.) Will people like Tafoya change?

So now, I'm grieved. I'm grieved to see how the State's checks and balances have failed to prevent or stop this misconduct earlier. This goes all the way up to the State Bar, the appellate courts, the superior courts, and the State Controller's Office. If one City in California goes rogue, the way Baldwin Park did, how can it be brought back into line, when these agencies are not enforcing the rules against it? 

Well; the State Controller could have done a better job in being more thorough with subpoenaing records and enforcing that subpoena. Although a number of citizens knew something was amiss, and we asked for records, the court in the end failed to enforce the public records act against the City. 

Without court enforcement, the public records act doesn't work. That's it. It's just a bunch of nice words on paper. A public agency can withhold those records, because it knows giving them away, will cause them to be criminally prosecuted. 

So; tell me. Why would they ever comply with such a rule without the enforcement of the courts?

And sadly, the State Bar appears to not prosecute players who have money. The State Bar has been so egregious in over prosecuting black attorneys and under prosecuting corrupt players, which ultimately just promotes more corruption in our legal system. Again; it's tragic.

The leadership in this State needs to change totally. Currently, people in power could have a history of financial problems and still be in positions of leadership. If people can't manage their own personal finances, they have no business managing the public's money. Hence, there needs to be checks and restrictions.

And character and integrity have to start becoming traits that qualify one for leadership, and the lack of having them, likewise must disqualify one from holding such government positions.

My Father Almost Died at ELIM Silvertown, Los Angeles; Nonetheless, Verdugo Hills Saved His Life.

In April of this year, I saw my father dying in front of my eyes. He started shaking violently in front of me. He whispered, "Paul." His eyes were rolling the back of his head. He wasn't conscious.

And immediately, in my mind's eye, a flurry of images and thoughts and voices came into my mind to lead me to the ultimate conclusion; Dad's going to die!

I could feel my mind going sifting through thoughts and facts and ideas. What's going on here? What's happening? Paul, you can do this. You can figure this out. 

But how? In front of me, was my dying father, and for the most part that was the only fact I had. I never attended medical school.

Dad can't talk to me. Dad can't tell me what's going on, right now. I thought - What is this?! What the Hell is going on here?! I don't know. I need to know.

Everyone is telling me it's high blood sugars, but that doesn't make sense. The doctors in the emergency room can't even explain the biochemistry of what's going on here logically. Something is totally wrong!

And still and peaceful voice inside said - You know enough to figure this out. Yes, but how?

The race started in my mind. And Death spoke to me and said, "Time is running out, Counselor. If you don't figure this out, your father dies." 

Flurry and flashes of facts, thoughts, research papers, and past memories started flooding into my mind's eye. There were a lot of dead ends and roadblocks in my thinking. And it came. The knowledge, as bright as light, came to me. I knew why my father was dying and what was actually going on.

I took my father out of Good Samaritan Hospital to the anger and shock and fury of the staff, even the chief officer, there. The Spirit of Death was in that room, and I could feel it. 

And after taking him out, which felt more like a prison break, I drove him to his regular hospital in Glendale. According to sources, Good Samaritan reported me to authorities, even though I did the right thing. The nursing home he was staying at, ELIM Silvertown, tried to trick me into signing a waiver to not sue them. The whole affair was disgusting and egregious.

The second hospital, Verdugo Hills, saved my father's life. From April even until now, I've been doing everything I could to rehabilitate my father. He's not fully 100%, but he's improved greatly, so much so, that I can say it's a miracle where he's at now and how far he's come.

I beat Death again, at least for now. I don't know how many more times I can keep going up against him and winning. Not easy.

The following Monday, I filed an elder abuse report with an agency and life changed forever.

Conflict at the Boxing Gym; Hope Springs Eternal

Well, in November of this year, a professional boxer at the gym punched me. He denied it. And in my absence, and without being able to tell my side of the story, a number of people believed in the lie. It sent the gym into mass conflict and turmoil. 

It reminded me of what Winston Churchill once said. "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on."

For me - it felt like a clash of two kingdoms. And in general, isn't this the historic battle of every city? It's the conflict between Babylon and Jerusalem or Rome (the new Babylon) and Jerusalem. I feel like they're are two forces that are always fighting for the hearts of men and women in the City. And although everyone has the same universal needs, these forces offer very different promises for the people.

The Book of Proverbs (also known as the Book of Wisdom), tells us that Lady Foolishness and Lady Wisdom walk through the city streets. Both look for people into the City to invite into their homes to eat and drink. One offers wisdom. The other offers to meet your deepest and darkest desires. Stolen food and water are sweeter - Lady Foolishness says.

Returning to the punch-story. Well, the good news was that there was no permanent damage from the punch. And as many of my wise advisors have told me - that's the most important thing.

More conflict ensued during the twilight days leading to New Years Day. And I realized that my pursuit of justice was also deeply and sadly affecting all the members of the community. I've tried to make peace, and I think it's been reciprocated. 

So, we're all trying to move towards peace, hopefully. And regarding this boxer, I realize some of the mistakes I made, and I can still see good in him. So, I'm very hopeful.

Thoughts for Next Year: Strive to Make Peace.

The New Year brought me one Bible verse that hit home. It says, "The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” (Exodus 14:14, NKJV). For me, I've proven my points and had my victories in the past. Thus, this is the year to work towards peace

I end by saying, this is the Year of the Water Rabbit. I don't know much about rabbits or hares, though when I run in the hills I see plenty of them. They signify peace for certain. Are they in conflict with other animals? No. 

They're also fluffy and cute and happy. They're also very adaptable and prolific. They're fast and quick and can adapt to new environments. So; I think that's what we need to move towards - peace and adaptability and fast flow.

Happy New Year. Out with the old, and in with the new. I welcome the Year of 2023 - the Year of the Water Rabbit.