Thursday, February 16, 2017

unpresidented

So the conundrum...I am actively trying to avoid ranting about Donald Trump and have deliberately not posted any spiels; you can find plenty all over the internet that are more thoughtful, interesting and informative than anything I have to say. On the other hand, this blog is supposed to be a record of my life and it isn't truthful to omit current events as though they haven't been overtaking my thoughts and concerns constantly.

The reality is that I am deeply troubled by the turmoil in my homeland. I don't want to jump straight into invoking Godwin's Law but boy are there some concerns about a president who undermines the intelligence community, courts favor from authoritarians, attacks the judiciary for disagreeing with him, and generally seems unconcerned about the United States Constitution.

SB and I were in the air, having launched our CNY holiday, when the executive orders regarding banning refugees, legally admitted workers, and visitors from several Muslim countries were signed. We entered the San Francisco airport to a surreal situation: the lights seemed to be dimmed at the international terminal just outside of the Immigration security point and there was a strange drumbeat reverberating throughout the area. We turned the corner and saw hundreds of protesters screaming with palpable rage while facing stony faced security personnel in riot gear. As we walked through the terminal we passed several hundred more people who were rushing to join the protest, carrying signs and shouting angrily, "Let them in! Let them in!"

I broke down, crying. I could not help but think of my own family, and how they were desperate, downtrodden, homeless refugees only 40 years ago. The US welcomed my family with open arms. I don't want to think of what would have become of the Tran family if the president had decided to ban refugees from countries in conflict with the United States. A ban against people from communist countries, or against countries at war with the US would have been a death sentence.

Later, I saw the Twitter account Stl_Manifest, which memorialized the Jewish people aboard the St. Louis who were turned away by the United States in 1939 and later died in the Holocaust. I broke down some more. I am sad, I am angry, I am in bewilderment and shock. I don't know what has become of my country that we can be so inhumane.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

let's talk about mental health

On the MTR, two men got into a huff because they were crammed into a packed train car and kept bumping into each other. There was a lot of yelling and gesturing but that was all. Outside of my neighborhood local, a drunk man tried to pick a fight with another drunk man and their friends stepped in to calm them down. I think about this a lot - that we experience annoyance and offense as frequently in Hong Kong as we do in the US, but somehow we manage to avoid going lethal with our conflicts. All too often, we hear about arguments escalating into physical confrontations or worse. We have police forces that arm themselves like Rambo but are so terrified of certain stereotypical people that they fall into shooting sprees at the slightest hint of discomfort. We have "stand your ground" laws that protect hair trigger gun owners for shooting anyone who they might possibly feel scared of, even unarmed, teenage boys that they chased down and tackled. Every day is another story on the news of another panicked or enraged American using their gun instead of their head. Couldn't you have stepped away? No, I must stand my ground.

I think that this very American attitude is troubling to the point where I wonder if it is a mental health issue. Surely we can't call people healthy if they have no ability to cope with conflict and are so indifferent to other humans as thinking, sentient beings that it is easy to dismiss their right to life? When did we become a society of sociopaths?

I'm not going deep into the gun ownership debate because I don't think it is really the problem though it is very much a symptom. I think that our failure to treat mental health is the bigger problem, however I don't think that we should be making it so easy to access guns if we aren't taking on mental health issues. I don't know how many more mass shootings we need before we start to take steps to provide better services to vulnerable and disturbed people. Almost everyone will need some help at some time in their lives. Everyone becomes sad, angry, stressed, etc. and we need ways to relieve pressure and work through it. We shouldn't stigmatize people who need help and I think that we have plenty of reasons why ignoring troubled people is a very bad idea.

.........

My friend Stephen was all over the news this weekend. He was a very fortunate man whose Macbook and backpack absorbed a bullet at the Fort Lauderdale airport. He gave several interviews discussing his concerns regarding mental health awareness and treatment in the US. In the end, he was a five second sound bite. He is understandably disappointed about this, so I will use my little blog to tell the story for him. Below are his words.

"What has disappointed me the most:
After that Friday of Fridays, I agree to a Saturday 5:30am pick-up at my hotel to chat with Good Morning America and ABC News. While no compensation too place, the handler/booker insists on my story's exclusivity (which seemed to have indicated a comprehensive story to my naive self) -- and we drive around the airport aimlessly in circles, with the driver pretending not to know where to park (Bueller, maybe where the 50 media trucks are lined up?), clearly eating-up time so that the competitors have less of a window to talk to me after the sun comes up. Then we arrive after the fourth loop at the obvious media lot. I then sit in the car to wait my turn on camera for way too long -- the engine running and car beeping because the driver was outside talking with a co-worker. (Do you know what that kind of beeping might do to a nervous mind who didn't sleep the night previously? Edgar Allan Poe Tell-Tale Heart kinda head games. I had to turn the car off myself from the passenger side.) I tell my expected story, including how I want both justice for the victims and their families AND more attention for our country's mental health care protocol. Total air time for GMA: 5 seconds. All that stress, mental energy at dawn, and expectations of exclusivity for that? I was told that a lot of content needed to be included, so sorry. Didn't you know that before you asked me for 10 minutes of story-telling? Lesson learned. This is how the game is played. The cutting-room floor is gigantic.
So in advance of any additional media requests:
(1) Yes, you need me to talk about the laptop. I get it... And we MUST lean-in and talk about our country's mental health needs for 60% or more of the interview. I am 17-year counselor yet will always be the son of a Chief Master Sergeant. In this and many ways, I know how to hold a set of opposites in each hand.
- OR -
(2) Please leave me alone. My uncompensated and wasted time in your ratings pursuit is time that I'm not on the phone with my mom, boyfriend, coworkers, friends -- or trying to sleep."

Sunday, January 1, 2017

back in the saddle

I didn't post much of anything regarding the Brexit, Trump, etc., here or on social media, but the same couldn't be said for most everyone else and as a result, I spiraled into deep fatigue at the close of this year. I've had to self impose a media blackout. Even now as I'm typing, I'm out of anything substantive to say. Looking back on this year, there were many things to be joyful about. However, at this moment I feel the shadow of losing first SB's beloved aunt D, then her sister A. And then there is a lawsuit that is about to take place which will be fought to the bitter end, being more about carrying out the last wishes of both sisters than caring about any monetary success. How happy I am to have seen the last of 2016.

So Happy New Year, everyone. May 2017 bring gladder tidings than 2016.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

trumped

I haven't felt this miserable since SB and I broke up in 2008.

I spent lunch staring off into space. I feel the need to call up my girlfriends and have an ugly-face cry over some overpriced chocolate martinis that someone fooled us into thinking would be the best of both worlds but are in fact disgusting and will leave you feeling mildly nauseous as well as heartbroken.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Friday, my favorite things 02

(source: HKDR)
Peak to Fong
Hong Kong Dog Rescue's largest fund raiser of the year, the P2F walk is a long meander from the Peak to Lan Kwai Fong, where entertainment for two and four legged animals is set up for the day. Our furbabies were rescued by HKDR and did some time at the Tai Po kennels where the staff and volunteers cared for them while they waited for their forever homes. I wish that we could adopt all of the hundreds of dogs but SB would have me committed. So the next best thing is to support HKDR's fundraising events so that they can care for and hopefully re-home all of their furry residents.



Super Moons 
In October, November and December the full moons will be closer to the earth than any other time of the year. October's Super Moon, the Hunter's Moon, rose on the 16th. November's Beaver Moon on the 14th will be the largest full moon since the 20th century. December's Cold Moon on 14 December will be the last of the Super Moons. Plan your night hikes accordingly.


(Source: Reuters/Bobby Yip via IBTimes)
Typhoon Days
While an estimated HK$5 billion loss in business is not something to laugh at, I will admit to delight at waking up to a storm signal 8 on my Hong Kong Observatory phone app. My work site was already flooded earlier in the week and both pairs of work boots are probably still drying out. I was more than happy to not have to slosh around with wet feet for the day. I took full advantage of the unplanned day off by... soaking a pair of trainers while spending time outside with the dogs. There is a difference between wet feet at work and wet feet at play, I swear! There were very few people about so we sneaked into a playground for a run around, and then pranced to Tai Tam Reservoir to have a look at the water. SB and a friend went up Jardine's Lookout to experience the wind and get pelted by raindrops traveling at gale force; the only other people on the trail were a couple of shirtless Australian men who kept waving their arms and cheering. Having not made any preparations whatsoever, we were forced to make do with a dinner of frozen Thai entrees found in the 7-11 freezer. I laugh thinking of my previous life in Florida, where a hurricane warning would clear out the shelves of a supermarket. Here in Hong Kong, 7-11 will remain open to any event up to a nuclear holocaust.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Super Moon, Hunter's Moon


Last night the moon was a Super Moon, at its closest distance from Earth. It was also the Hunter's Moon, or blood moon. The Hunter’s Moon is named so from the North American First Nations and follows the Harvest Moon in October usually. You can find out more about it here and here.


SB and I thought, what could be more romantic than a night hike under the Hunter's Moon with our beloved furbabies, who happen to be extremely prey driven? We could watch the moon rise while cuddling on top of a peak while Tippy and Elsie plunged down the cliff face after wild animals, yipping and yelping and trampling about.



We had a lovely hike over Violet Hill from Parkview, and enjoyed the sunset as we sat on the steps on the other side of Violet Hill, where the wind rushes through a small valley. The valley has an abundance of tall grass that Tippy enjoys sliding down; she will flop onto her belly at the top of the hill and propel herself forward with her front paws until gravity takes over. Elsie likes to stand in front of us, facing the wind with her tongue lolling while globs of drool are carried by the breeze into SB and my faces.


The next couple of full moons will also be Super Moons (November is the Beaver Moon and December is the Cold Moon). November’s Beaver Moon will be the largest full moon since the 20th century, so another night hike is definitely planned.




Sunday, October 16, 2016