Posted in Travel

Times Square

New York City is great. Despite many innovations in technology, people come here to worship the electric light. They stand in Times Square, the place in which capitalism and marketing assume a fat wad of the third dimension, and take pictures of each other. True to form (because “they” is “we”), I took pictures of The Scout in action in Times Square last night.

The Scout in Times Square

The Scout had a tough time.   Scout’s frustration in Times Square

Posted in Around Town

Pasadena Police Seek Input

From the Pasadena Star-News:

PASADENA – Residents are invited to participate in a 29-item survey from the Pasadena Police Department to help form their 2008 through 2012 strategic plan.

The Pasadena Police Strategic Plan Survey can be accessed at cityofpasadena.net/police/home.asp.

The survey consists of 29 current trends that can be rated by participants. The entire survey should take less than five minutes to complete. (Comment: Feel free to really think about it. Take ten minutes!)

For more information, call Cmdr. John Perez at (626) 744-4547.

I know I said my blog would be asleep for a week…just a little insomnia, that’s all.

Posted in Green & Pleasant Land, Lakenheath

Is It My England Too? On Being a Third Culture Kid

I’m going to Washington, D.C. for my high school reunion. Yes, the mighty Lancers of Lakenheath High School, RAF Lakenheath, Brandon, Suffolk, England –well, we don’t know where we belong on this continent. So this year we’re going to DC (last year it was Vegas, before that San Diego, Dallas, St. Louis…).

RAF Lakenheath (<–that’s the Wikipedia article) is in East Anglia, or what I used to call ‘the ugly part of England.’ With England, it’s all relative. East Anglia really isn’t ugly, it’s just not as pretty as the other parts. Here’s a well-known local saying that sums it up: “Any fool can appreciate mountain scenery. It takes a man of discernment to appreciate the Fens.” [Harry Godwin – pollen analyst – circa 1932]

Here’s a link to what it looked like when I was growing up. Note: amount of sunniness not to scale. Really, would you fly thousands of miles for this?

I guess I would, and here’s why: I moved to England when I was 12 and left when I was 18. It is my home/not my home. It is English, and I am American, with an American accent and an Irish name. But because I was there for a long time during my formative years, I am marked by England forever. Along with many of my classmates, I’m a third culture kid.

From the Wikipedia article:

“Third Culture Kids” … integrate aspects of their birth culture (the first culture) and the new culture (the second culture), creating a unique “third culture.” Sociologist David Pollock describes a TCK as “a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture. The TCK builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership of any. Although elements from each culture are assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of a similar background. (emphasis mine).

So I’m going to DC, to see the people who’ve lived what I’ve lived. I’m excited and nervous. I haven’t been sleeping. I’m one of three people on the planning committee. The other two have English mothers. That’s no accident.

Here’s what I’ll take with me the next time I go to a therapist:

As Third Culture Kids grow up they become Adult Third Culture Kids (ATCKs).

Some of them come to terms with the tremendous culture shock and loss that they have experienced. They gain a broader understanding of the world through their varied experiences, while others spend most of their adult life trying to come to terms with those same issues.

Many Third Culture Kids face an identity crisis: they don’t know where they come from. It would be typical for a third culture person to say that he or she is from a country but nothing beyond their passport defines it; they usually find it difficult to answer the question.

Now I feel as if I’ve just shown you my knickers. George Orwell to the rescue to explain the English (second country) side of the equation: (from
this essay, written in 1941:

Yes, there is something distinctive and recognizable in English civilization. It is a culture as individual as that of Spain. It is somehow bound up with solid breakfasts and gloomy Sundays, smoky towns and winding roads, green fields and red pillar-boxes. It has a flavour of its own. Moreover it is continuous, it stretches into the future and the past, there is something in it that persists, as in a living creature. What can the England of 1940 have in common with the England of 1840? But then, what have you in common with the child of five whose photograph your mother keeps on the mantelpiece? Nothing, except that you happen to be the same person.

And above all, it is your civilization, it is you. However much you hate it or laugh at it, you will never be happy away from it for any length of time. The suet puddings and the red pillar-boxes have entered into your soul. Good or evil, it is yours, you belong to it, and this side the grave you will never get away from the marks that it has given you.

Meanwhile England, together with the rest of the world, is changing. And like everything else it can change only in certain directions, which up to a point can be foreseen. That is not to say that the future is fixed, merely that certain alternatives are possible and others not. A seed may grow or not grow, but at any rate a turnip seed never grows into a parsnip.

I’m putting my blog to sleep for the week. I’ll report back on the reunion next week. Nighty-night.

Posted in Cool Stuff, Writing

Born Too Late: A History Meme

My initial reluctance about memes has disappeared…now that I made one up myself. (Here’s a guy that defends the meme as an effective social networking tool.)

Here’s the meme: If you could go back to any time in history (for a visit, or you can stay if you really want to), what time would you go back to?

Make a list of four. Name the place, year(s), and event and/or person you’d like to see first hand. In the fifth item (optional) you can put your four honorable mentions. Then tag four people, and send them an e-mail to let them know you’ve tagged them. That’s it!

Here’s my list:

1. New York, New York – 26 September 1957 – Winter Garden Theatre
The opening night of West Side Story. That music (love you, Lennie ). Those voices. That dancing. One of the most electric nights in Broadway history.

2. Pasadena, California – some time in the 1920’s
It would be fun to see the old girl back in the day. BTW, I learned some cool stuff reading Wikipedia’s Pasadena entry.

3. Akron, Ohio – 1854 – Ohio Women’s Rights Convention
To meet Sojourner Truth and witness the “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech.

4. Brooklyn, New York – 15 April 1947 – Ebbets Field
Jackie Robinson’s debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers. MLB is going to honor him every year.

“There was never a man in the game who could put mind and muscle together quicker and with better judgment than Robinson.” – Branch Rickey

5. Honorable mentions

a. The Classic Period of Mayan Culture – c 250-900

b. London, England – 1602 ish
So I can meet Shakespeare and have a drink or two. Oh, and see a play.

c. Hollywood, California – 1918 ish
To meet Charlie Chaplin and ask him questions about his childhood.

d. Dublin, Ireland – 13 April 1742
To attend he premiere of Handel’s Messiah

I’m going to tag more than four people. I’m tagging Susan (who got me blogging in the first place), Bill (who tagged me), Lara (who also tagged me), Jill, Aaron, and Miss Havisham (firmly ensconced in the past already?). Oh, and KP, who doesn’t have a blog (but you can post your responses in the comments section if you like).

Happy time travel!

UPDATE: I meant to tag Rhea.  I had a feeling she’d like this one.  So Rhea, you’re tagged, and you don’t have to tag anyone else if you don’t wanna.  To the rest of ya’ll, go read about Rhea’s colonoscopy adventures.  And vote for your favorite celebrity baby boomer.

Posted in Around Town, Current Events

Shockingly Familiar

The recent violence in Pasadena, as shocking as it is, should not come as a big surprise to anyone who is familiar with this community. One could say the police (check out the flash on their web site!) have been successful with gang suppression–this does not equal eradication. We all have our theories about why violence occurs. My hope is that our philosophical disagreements about the socio-economic causes of violence do not get in the way of taking steps to prevent it. I hope the cause does not get boiled down to just one reason, such as certain people getting out of jail and re-entering the community (as mentioned in the 28 July 2007 LA Times article by Janet Pope Givens of the Pasadena Police Department).

Violence in the community is not just the problem of the police. No single institution can make up for lack of parenting, rage fueled by substance abuse, and the violence that accompanies illegal drug-dealing. Neither the police nor the school district are equipped to deal with the the complex problems that lead to violence, yet these problems present themselves to the people who work in those institutions every day.

Both PUSD and the Pasadena Police take steps to deal with issues that may technically be out of the purview of their missions, yet very relevant to their work. For example, the County of Los Angeles has been funding mental health services at Pasadena Unified schools–this is critically important and should be continued (and funding increased–my anecdotal information indicates the need for services is great).

Also with funding from the County of Los Angeles, the Pasadena Police Department has established the HOPE team to deal with the homeless mentally ill in Pasadena.

The police play a critical role both in law enforcement and crime prevention, and they deserve community support. However, I am aware of a couple of situations that help me understand why some community members have difficulty trusting the police.

On one hand, I have known a 2nd generation gang member who served time prison and was really trying to turn his life around and support his kids. When he got out, he was harassed by the police who wrestled him to the ground and then arrested for assaulting an officer. He and his family ultimately left Pasadena (which is what the police probably wanted). I saw first-hand how hard it was for the kids to be uprooted, to leave extended family, friends and teachers.

On the other hand, I have known some characters who were clearly were engaged in illegal activities, but the perception on the street was that these individuals received protection from the police in exchange for information.

Now the police have the difficult task of mending community relationships while trying to pursue the perpetrators of the recent violence. The City needs to support the police department by funding activities that keep youth engaged and off the street. Not just sports, but arts programs too. The Summer ROSE (Rewarding Opportunities in Summer Employment) program for teenagers has been reduced over the last 15-20 years, and that trend needs to be reversed.

The Temptation to Start Something New
After the 1993 Halloween murders, the Coalition for a Non-Violent City was founded. It was well meaning, and for a while it was well-funded. But it never truly engaged community members, and where is it now? I tried to find the organization’s web site through Google but no luck.

Google did tell me just how well-funded that Coalition was. Almost $150,000 from the federal government and another $50,000 from the Weingart Foundation (for a program coordinator and a development consultant). I think the Coalition received another $50,000 from The California Endowment too, though yesterday’s link has become today’s mystery. The City of Pasadena coughed up Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) money for a capital project. I’m not sure about direct connection of this project to the Coalition’s work. (From the Council Agenda – March 6, 2000):

AGREEMENT WITH COALITION FOR A NON-VIOLENT CITY FOR THE IMPROVEMENT OF MOUNTAIN PLACE

Recommendation of City Manager:
(a) Authorize the City Manager to enter into an agreement with the Coalition for a Non-Violent City for the City to provide engineering and construction services for the improvement of Mountain Place.

(b) Amend the FY 2000 Capital Improvement Program to include the Improvement of Mountain Place and approve a journal voucher to recognize receipt of and appropriate up to $100,000 of Community Development Block Grant Funds from the Coalition for a Non-Violent City into new Budget Account No. 73119 for this project.

So around $350,000 was devoted to the work of eliminating violence in this community, and we have little to show for it. I haven’t been down to Mountain Place to see how those improvements are holding up.

Hopefully, we won’t start something new this time. I hope we use the institutions, organizations and community groups we already have to create the atmosphere of trust and respect for community members to engage in a meaningful way.