Wednesday, July 08, 2020


With all the turmoil going on in our country, and the world, for that matter, and because I’ve been hunkered down in semi-quarantine for the past few months, I’ve had way, way too much time to just sit and contemplate.  Of course, the daily dose of strife, rancor and all-around divisiveness we see on the news all day, every day, only adds to the things floating through my otherwise fairly empty head…. and I worry.

OK, what do I have to worry about, right?  I have a great life.  I am married to the best, kindest, most patient, beautiful, loving wife.  I have lots of friends and family whom I love and I know reciprocate.  I have enough to eat - obviously! - and live in one of the finest places in the entire world (or so my in-laws used to tell us when they would return from one of their trips at exotic venues around the world).  I believe them.  But, I worry…

So, as I sit and contemplate this issue, I’m making a list of things that cause me anxious days and sleepless nights.  What you will read below is a partial list, sadly.  In no particular order, here you go…

I worry about the impact of this darn pandemic.  I worry for my wife and myself because we have our own special mix of issues that makes each of us more vulnerable than most.  I worry about our future if one, or both, of us contract this darn thing.  I also worry about our friends and family and the potential impact of this virus on them.  We have relatives and friends with compromised immune systems who have the potential for serious problems with it.  I continue to plead with folks to follow the official guidances and Stay Home, Exercise Proper Social Distancing, Wear Masks and Wash Your Hands and Use Hand Sanitizer.  Honestly, I HOPE I’m wrong about this!  I HOPE this pandemic is not as severe and long-lasting as predicted by some.  I REALLY want my friends and relatives to be able to say to me in a year, “See, Geoff - you were wrong!  All that angst was for nothing!”  I will be a very happy man if that happens… but I don’t think it’s likely.  So, I worry…

Because of this pandemic, our economy - the hottest one in my lifetime - went in the tank.  Yes, some of it is rebounding, only to be punched in the teeth again by what looks like a resurgence of the virus.  I worry about all the small businessmen who have done their very best to find a way to survive - many unsuccessfully - as we all deal with the isolation caused by this disease.  I worry that some of my friends simply may never be able to re-open their businesses, and how that will affect their families and employees and their families. I grew up in a family supported by a small business and I try to imagine the impact something like this virus would have had on it.  Very likely my father and uncle would have had to fold it up, putting 20 people out of jobs.  It’s a terrifying scenario to contemplate and I know it’s the real world for many, many Americans these days.  So, I worry…

I am VERY worried about what the future holds for our society now that we see widespread unrest throughout the country following the death of George Floyd at the hands (knee) of the Minneapolis police officer(s).  While I’ve never lived as a black man and cannot ever fully appreciate what life is like as one, I believe I do understand some of the rage being expressed by the mobs of demonstrators, which have morphed into looters and murderers.  As I watched the marchers walk down the street a block from our home recently, carrying “BLM” signs, and chanting, “Black Lives Matter!” quite honestly, in my head I was yelling back, “All Lives Matter”, because that’s how I feel about it.  Did I yell back at the marchers?  No, I didn’t.  I continued to watch and record the marchers and tried to figure out exactly how much those mostly young,  privileged, white kids actually knew about why they were protesting.  I worry that, after we (society) have permitted armed, angry mobs to take two municipal police stations in two of our proudest cities, and for them to claim seven blocks of one of those cities as their own, challenging the authorities to reclaim them, the line of authority may have been scrubbed from the pavement.  I worry that those mostly young violent protestors - people with nothing to lose except their freedom and/or their lives - may continue to misbehave in even more violent ways.  Yes, I worry…

A sub-set of my concern above is this movement to “defund the police” - to redirect precious budget resources away from traditional police activities to more social services.  I AM NOT saying that we don’t need more attention paid to those things where social workers can be effective given the time and money.  I am saying that to remove funding from already-beleaguered law enforcement agencies is a catastrophe waiting to happen.  This past weekend New York City was a perfect example of just what will happen, as crime sky-rocketed.  Yes, I know it was Independence Day weekend and that was a crappy metaphor, but it was accurate.  Crime will not disappear just because there are fewer police on the streets.  Do we need to look at how we train our cops?  Probably.  Do we need to hamstring them by taking away some of the tools needed if we expect them to perform their duties as peace officers?  Absolutely not!  Unless you have worn a badge or gone into a combat situation and faced an armed opponent you (we) really have no idea what it’s like.  We have no idea what it’s like for families to kiss their loved one good-bye in the morning never being sure they will return home to them any night.  So, yes - let’s look at how we train them.  Yes, let’s look at how we have them interact with the public they are sworn to protect and serve.  Let’s make adjustments where necessary to make them even more effective.  Let’s weed out those few bad cops - the ones who make every other cop look bad by their actions.  Let’s do all those things, and more, but let’s not strip our cops of their ability to do what their job really is - to fight crime and keep us all safe.  Let’s NOT do that.  I worry…

This is a really big issue for me.  It causes me to lose a lot of sleep every night. I’m an old guy - with any luck at all I will turn 80 in 13 months - and I’ve accumulated a lot of really wonderful friends over all these decades.  I have friends since we were 5 years old with whom I still have regular contact.  In my circle of friends there are childhood buddies, school mates, Army pals, work friends, close relatives, both through blood and marriage, and the many friends I’ve made writing this blog and elsewhere over the past couple decades.  I value every single one of them for their wit, wisdom, patience and just plain love.  I DO LOVE THEM.  And yet, over the past few months there have been fractures in some of those relationships.  I know the current circumstances mentioned above have created some of this - everybody is feeling stress from what’s going on these days.  I also know that some of the positions I’ve taken on some of those issues have created rifts.  I wish that was not the case, but it is, apparently.  Sometimes I’ve written on Facebook quick little blasts to provoke a healthy discussion of issues.  Frequently I will share something someone else has shared with me - a link, a meme or something I think is funny.  Sometimes those struck some of my friends wrong - a product of my insensitivity and a general thinning of skin in these times.  I feel bad when friends get peeved at me, but hope, at the same time, I have caused them to consider the issue at hand more carefully.  It seems not to be happening that way, though.  Circumstances seem to have polarized us and made us more willing to aggressively defend our position without considering others.  I understand that, but it saddens me to think that, after years - dozens - some friendships may dissolve.  I won’t like that, but neither will I stop expressing myself.  And, I worry…

Yes, I do lose sleep contemplating National politics.  As a lifelong Republican I was very disappointed when Trump gained the nomination in 2016.  There were SO MANY highly qualified candidates on that dais during the debates that I could have, would have, voted for.  Sadly, I doubt any of them could have defeated Hillary Clinton in the election.  The fact that Trump was the last man standing and that he did, indeed, defeat Clinton, caused me great concern about the future of our Republic.  I was concerned that our president - our highest elected leader and the most powerful man in the world - was a bully, who seemed to follow his basest instincts instead of listening to the smart people around him as he went about setting policy and making major decisions.  Those concerns were affirmed by his behavior following the election.  Quite honestly, I had not seen such bad, juvenile behavior since I was in junior high school.   It got so I cringed every time Trump opened his mouth or typed a Tweet in those early morning hours when he sought retribution against those who dared to criticize him.  It has pained me for nearly 4 years, and I can’t do a thing about it.  He will be the Republican candidate and will run against Joe Biden - a man nearly my age who seems to have lost more brain cells than me.  I cannot vote for Biden, but I might have voted for Amy Klobuchar.  It won’t make any difference if I vote for Trump, since any Democrat running against him will take my state, California.  So, I’ll probably just write in a name of a Republican I admire - it’s not a big pool -  on the ballot and never look back.  I will worry, though…

I am very concerned that my state has become such a liberal bastion.  Any good ideas that might come out of the Republicans in the Assembly or Senate have zero chance of being considered.  Our elected leaders in this state seem all too willing to simply give away our hard-earned wealth to any special interest group that whines enough about it.  A recent move to create a blue-ribbon (all liberal) commission to consider giving reparations to every black man and woman in this state for the perceived injustices they have experienced may just be the straw that breaks this camel’s back.  If that happens, and the liberal leaders of this state DO decide to provide cash to those who feel entitled to it - my tax dollars, that could be used for better roads and better education for all - it will force me to consider leaving this state.  Despite all it’s natural wonders and that I’ve lived here most of my life, and the fact that it is home to so many of my friends and relatives - it will have become no place for a person with conservative values to live.  I may just pack up my stuff and hit the road, probably following the moving vans of many companies who will do the same thing.  And I certainly do worry about this…

We have yet another watershed election ahead of us in Costa Mesa this year.  Four years ago we were among the many municipalities and districts extorted by a law firm in Santa Monica into creating voting districts to “create more equitable opportunities for minority residents to have their voices heard”.  In our case, it was to give a greater voice to the 37% of the residents who are Latino.  Because of that change, two years ago we chose our first directly-elected mayor and the first three council members to be elected by districts.  Ironically, the voters of this city gave the finger to the Republican-dominated council at the time - the ones who manipulated the system to attempt to stack the deck.  The voters chose Katrina Foley - who the previous council had ousted as mayor a year earlier just because they could - over multi-term councilwoman Sandra Genis, by a huge margin.  Even more delicious, the voters chose newcomer local woman and MIT-educated engineer Arlis Reynolds over feckless, divisive, multi-term councilman and former Assemblyman Allan Mansoor by a huge margin.  Youngster Manuel Chavez also defeated the old majority-supported candidates to represent the smallest, but most densely Latino district, where he grew up.  The voters also chose US Naval Academy graduate and successful Naval Officer, Andrea Marr over one of the old majority’s sycophants, also by a big margin.  So, the plan to snatch control of the city again by manipulating  the districting process backfired and our city ended up with not one, but three Latino members on the council.  It  was a great day for our city.  And, a year into their respective terms, the wheels came off with all those things I mentioned above.  However, the new council majority - those named above plus Mayor Pro Tem John Stephens - were out ahead of the problems from the start.  They took charge and, with new city management in the form of new City Manager Lori Ann Farrell Harrison, crafted policies and an organizational structure to blunt the impact of the virus and economic collapse.  We will not escape the impact of these calamities, but I’m proud of the way they’ve managed these tough issues.  The upcoming election will tell the tale.  Will this majority be joined by three new people of similar dedication and skills?  Foley must run for re-election - the term of the mayor is only 2 years - and Stephens must also run for a seat in his district, Number 1, where he will certainly face heavy opposition from members of the old majority.  I’m encouraged by some of the names that are surfacing as candidates in Districts 2 and 6. We simply cannot afford to return to the days when cops were despised by the elected majority, where ICE agents were invited into our jails, thereby terrorizing our Latino population.  We cannot return to the time where developers were allowed - encouraged - to run roughshod over our city.  I lose a lot of sleep contemplating this election, where candidate forums are unlikely unless they are done online and tons of Republican cash will pour into our city.  And, I worry…

For several years our city has dealt with a growing population of homeless folks.  Arrangements were made, through the cooperation of a local church and non-profit organizations, to temporarily house upwards of 50 such people.  The city will have spent nearly $10 million to acquire, refurbish and launch a new housing solution in a commercial area of our city.  This MAY go a long way to solve the issue, but it’s taking longer than expected and costing more… so I worry.

For a decade our city has become a haven for Sober Living Homes, many of which are operated by unscrupulous people who are simply in it to make big bucks.  Addicts are recruited from outside our state, moved here and placed in one of these homes in residential neighborhoods and are given only a minimal chance to succeed - to get clean and sober.  The stories abound about the mismanagement of these places and the tragic affects on some of the folks residing in them.  Our city has successfully sued several of them and hope that the other bad operators will get the hint and decamp for another venue.  Many of the failures that drop out of these homes end up on our streets as part of the homeless population mentioned above.  The current city leadership has made great strides in managing this issue, but I worry…

Our local school district, the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, which serves the children of both Costa Mesa and Newport Beach, continues to be in turmoil.  It recently lost another superintendent and it’s unclear whether they will attempt to rush the selection of a new one before the election, when at least a couple new faces will be chosen for their Board of Trustees.  Issues of equality of education throughout the district persist and flight by students to distant districts in neighboring cities continues to be a concern.  And, of  course, the issue of Distance Learning due to the pandemic is a real hot-button issue today.  The Board of Trustees has long been populated by well-intentioned folks who simply stayed too long at the dance.  New ideas were discouraged and out-right rejected and ignored.  It’s hard to make progress when new ideas cannot even make it to the floor for a discussion.  I worry about this, too.

So, my friends, this is just a taste of what’s on my mind these days - the stuff that causes me angst and sleepless nights.  There are other things, too, but this is one of those sleepless nights when it all begins to overwhelm me.  This is a start… Back to worrying…

NOTE: I amended my previous post, HERE, to correct the record regarding my writing about race.  A friend reminded me that I did, indeed, write about race as I jousted with another local blogger who, although has shriveled from the local issues,  continues to foul the ether with his vile pontifications.  I apologize, but he’s a guy most try very hard to forget.

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Saturday, July 04, 2020


Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the subsequent economic collapse and the civil unrest as a result of George Floyd’s death under the knee of the Minneapolis police officer, I’ve seen a significant change in civility in our society.

I won’t use the shift of tone on social media alone for this observation.  Every single night for the last couple months on the news - any news - we’ve seen the breakdown of civility all across the country, which is certainly exacerbated by the fear of the illness and compounded by so many folks being out of work and all the stress that alone brings.

What I have observed, however, is the willingness of some people to engage in nasty, vindictive, accusatory discussions with folks who express a differing opinion on some of the pithy social issues of the time.  I admit that I base this largely on my own personal experiences recently, but also of experiences shared - or that I have observed - as it affected others.  Sadly, some of those discussions have been between me and friends - not just Facebook friends, (I expect rancor from some on Facebook - it goes with the turf) but actual, honest-to-goodness long-time friends.  These real friends are those with whom we have never had these kinds of conversations in the past.  Our bond has been based on a shared life experience - growing up together and maintaining close relationships over the years.  Never in the past have we found the need to sit down and have a serious discussion about race relations in our country - it just never came up.  The discussions we shared revolved around the fun times in our lives, our siblings and parents and shared friendships with others.  We enjoyed hearing with great joy about the lives of their children and their accomplishments and families.  Never did I find the need to say to any of those friends, “I don’t know any black people, nor do I understand what their lives are like.”  It just never came up…. until now.

I have come to realize lately that, as an old white guy, raised in a life nearly completely devoid of contact with black people, my opinions are being challenged by friends and others for what they apparently feel is my inadequate background and understanding of  racial diversity issues, thus negating my opinion.  Since almost all of those people do not really know all of my background their condemnation of my opinions are, at the very least, disappointing.  We ALL are entitled to opinions on issues, whether we have lived them or not.

So, let’s talk about my limited background with black people.  Although I have known many Latino and Asian people in both my personal and professional life,  never knew a black person until I entered the United States Army late in 1963 - shortly after John F. Kennedy was murdered.  In Basic Training I had no “buddies” that were black, although there were a few in my training company.  In my first duty station, in the Army Pictorial Center in Long Island City, Queens, New York, one of my very best friends for the short 6 months I spent there was Hayes Manning, a black man from California.  He had a college degree.  His father went to Harvard and his mother attended Radcliffe.  His Aunt Joyce was married George Wein, the producer of the Newport Jazz Festival.  We used to jump on the subway and go to their home on Central Park West and just hang out.  We met legendary jazz musicians who wandered through.  That was the first place I ever smelled marijuana.  During that summer of 1964 there were riots in Harlem so Hayes and I, ignorently, decided to jump on the subway and go see what it was all about.  Huge mistake!  We stepped onto the city streets, recognized this was like a pre-lynch scene in an old “B” western movie and immediately left - both of us petrified from the experience.  He became a lifelong friend until his death in his early 50s.

During my time at the Pictorial Center I applied for, and was accepted into, the fledgling Warrant Officer Rotary Wing Flight Training program - the  Army was gearing up for the need for more “bus drivers” in Vietnam - and spent the last few months of 1964 and early into 1965 attending an abbreviated Officer Candidate School and learning to fly helicopters in northern Texas.  I had no black friends during that time.  Although an eye ailment eliminated me from flight school, I was reassigned to the Advanced School at Fort Rucker (one of those bases the angry masses now scream about re-naming) and spent the remaining part of my enlistment at that location as a company clerk while my classmates completed their training.  87 men in my class (of the 142 who began) graduated in July of 1965 and all of them, including the 80 assigned to the legendary First Cavalry (Airmobile) Division at Fort Benning, GA (another of those bases the screamers would have us rename), were in Vietnam by September.  Six of those men did not make it through their first tour, having been killed in action in Vietnam.

During my time at Fort Rucker the Watts Riots occurred back home in Los Angeles.  My very best friend in life was a rookie cop with the LAPD at that time and was involved in that chaos.  In fact, he was doubly involved because he was also in the Army National Guard and his unit was activated and assigned to riot control at the very location he had been working at with the LAPD.  Yes, I was interested.  And, I saw that societal event change things at Fort Rucker.  Before that event men of all races would mingle and enjoy each other’s company in our company Day Room - a place with television, pool tables and a library plus comfortable chairs - a kind of living room for our barracks.  When the Watts riots occurred I saw a polarization occur - blacks sat with blacks and whites sat with whites.  When the television showed blacks looting stores in LA, the blacks in the Day Room would stand and cheer.  When the National Guard fired  on them, the whites would cheer.  Nothing was the same on that post from that time forward in the summer of 1965.  In fact, three weeks before I mustered out in December, there was a cross burned on the lawn of a black sergeant, where he and his family lived in his on-post housing domicile.  Keep in mind that Fort Rucker is located in the armpit of the South, where the “N Word” was used in casual conversation by the civilian populace.  In Dothan - the biggest town near our post - there were drinking fountains marked for “coloreds” and black folks were required to buy tickets at the local theater on the outside of the ticket booth and take an outside stairway to the balcony - they could not sit with the white folks downstairs.  Yes, this was a tough time to be a black person in the South.

As my best friend from flight school and I drove from the Primary School outside Fort Worth, Texas to the Advanced School in Alabama we drove past Philadelphia, Mississippi, the location where, just a few months earlier, three civil rights workers were murdered.  Also on our route we crossed over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, the day before the big march.  We were clueless about that stuff, but did wonder why there were 200 State Police cars staged on the north side of that bridge.  We found out the next day after we arrived at Fort Rucker.

Following my military service I worked for a national insurance company in progressively responsible assignments that took me to Los Angeles, Santa Ana, Hartford, Houston, Hartford and San Francisco over a period of seven years, until I resigned and we returned home to Southern California and bought the home we’ve lived in for more than 46 years.  During that time, and in subsequent jobs I’ve had, I had very limited experience working with black people.  I had no long-term relationships with any black people during that time.  The only significant experience I had with black people was during my time in Houston when we attempted to hire young black women - graduates with liberal arts degrees from all-black Texas Southern University - into entry-level clerical jobs to which they had applied.  We were unsuccessful.  These women showed up woefully unprepared for the jobs and it is likely that the societal chasm they found themselves in made it hard - impossible - to achieve success.  My first day at that office, where I held a senior management position, I heard the “N-Word” spoken in casual conversation by the woman who worked for me and did most of the applicant preliminary screening.  That was the last time the word was spoken in my presence.  Regardless, it was indicative of the systemically hostile environment that young black women were exposed to in that office.  I tried to overcome that terrible bias by working hard with supervisors and managers, but was unsuccessful in single-handedly buffing off a century of racial bias.

In my last assignment with the insurance company I worked in San Francisco and lived in Concord, in the east bay.  Our next door neighbors were a mixed race couple.  He was a black man and a Captain in the United States Navy.  We established a relationship that has lasted for nearly a half century.  Both parents are gone, but we still have a relationship with their kids.

In subsequent jobs I had virtually zero exposure to black men and women.  The companies I worked with were mostly white, with some Asians and Latinos in the population.  I did not seek them out because of that lack of racial diversity - I just never considered it in my job searches.  Most of those assignments involved some part of the recruitment process.  We never specifically targeted any racial group when trying to fill positions, although occasionally we would hire black people.  When I struck out on my own early in the 1980s and created a consulting practice that specialized primarily in Executive Search, the issue of racial diversity never came up.  In no case did a client company charge me with finding a woman or man of color - nor did we sort any out that appeared as a result of that search.

During the past couple of decades when I wrote this blog and wrote commentaries elsewhere, none involved specific issues of race.  During this time I got to know a couple black Costa Mesa officials.  Judge Karen Robinson was a terrific leader, our mayor for a time and is an effective judge.  Rick Francis was a really good Assistant City Manager and just a good guy.  But that’s about it.  My focus has not been about racial issues.  Is that good or bad?  It is what it is.  

NOTE: A couple days after I published this piece an old friend, who has followed this blog from the very beginning, reminded me that I did, indeed, address race.  He reminded me that in my frequent jousts with another blogger in town who has written extensively on racial issues - I called him a racist, but he defined himself as a "racialist" - I did take the issue on to refute some of his putrid prose.  He has shriveled into insignificance locally, but still fouls the ether with his drumbeat of intolerance.  Sorry for the misstatement - he is something most are happy to push back in to the corners of our memories.

So, as I read back over this essay I realize that, although I’m a pretty smart fella, I DO NOT have a background with any depth of experience with black folks.  I DID see how blacks were treated in the deep south in the 1960s - a pretty awful experience for them.  I have had a solid relationship with a couple black friends, but none lately.  A friend asked me the other day if I had any black friends - my answer was NO - not counting the Concord neighbors mentioned above since we only hear from them once a year.  As I contemplated that fact I realized that I don’t have any particular remorse about not having any close black friends - I don’t have feelings about it one way or the other.  Does that make me a racist?  If you think so I’d like to hear about it.  Because I’m ambivalent on the issue, am I considered a racist?  Because I’m VERY angry about the behavior of the current crop of demonstrators, those who are threatening to burn down our society, do you think I’m a racist?  How is it wrong for me to want to protect those I love and their personal wealth?  I don’t get it.  Is it wrong for me to refuse to just step back and say to those rioters “Go ahead - take everything I’ve worked for just because somewhere in your history - four generations ago - there may be slavery in your ancestry.”?

Recently I listened on the radio to an excellent discussion moderated by my friends, John Stephens and Tom Johnson, with four black men of a variety of backgrounds, but each with a local connection to my city, and came away with a much better understanding of their plight.  I have a better understanding of “systemic racism” and want to learn more.  I understand a little bit better about how things like red-lining and inequitable school funding have so adversely affected black men and women in this country and I want to learn more - to more fully understand the issue and what possible solutions there might be.  If you feel the urge to educate me on these issues, go ahead.  I’m a good listener and sometimes actually ask good questions.   Otherwise, please keep your caustic, holier-than-thou comments to yourself.  If you don’t like what I write, just don’t read it.  If you think you can offer constructive observations, go ahead.

But that doesn’t mean I’m willing to have my state, California, decide to use my tax dollars to pay billions (trillions?) of dollars in reparations to every black man and woman in this state for alleged mistreatment of people of their race generations ago.  There is a move afoot to create a commission to study that very issue and I don’t like it one bit!  I didn’t do it and I don’t want to pay for it.  If that happens it will be the final straw.  It will mean to me that California - the state I love for her natural beauty and as the home to so many of our relatives - will become unlivable for a guy with conservative values.  I will just pack up and move elsewhere - look out, Texas!  

Do I want to see that systemic racism eliminated?  Of course!  Do I want to hand the fruits of my lifetime of labor over to someone who just wants it because he thinks he’s entitled to it?  Nope - not gonna happen!  If a mob shows up on my porch demanding possession of my home and all I own, I will do all within my power to resist that criminal act.  When I say all, I mean ALL!  

So, that’s a couple thousand words about how I feel on this issue.  I don’t really care if you like it or not - it is what it is. You cannot comment here - comments are disabled.  If you want to rant about it you must go to my Facebook page HERE.  Or, you can communicate with me privately. It’s your choice.  

In any event, I wish you all well and hope you are having a wonderful Independence Day holiday.  How’s that for irony - Independence Day in the middle of a catastrophic pandemic, economic collapse and social unrest not seen in this country for more than 40 years?  Oh, well…

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