Thursday, March 25, 2010

Photo of the Day

Pretty Veggies. Can you believe this sort of high quality, healthy product is thrown away in enormous quantities every day?

Sorry for the bad, grainy quality. This is cellphone camera technology here.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Just Living

I haven't been posting much recently, merely because I haven't had that much to say. I've just been doing the usual: serving the residents of Skid Row, protesting the wars, riding my bike, reading books and dumpster diving with the love of my life. Thinking deeply about life and all it entails has been a part of my recent activity, but I don't really know how to translate that into words at the moment. I also got a nasty sunburn from riding to the beach on Thursday, but who wants to hear about that?

Perhaps I will get the inspiration to write my thoughts soon.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Comments on My Last Post

I just wanted to say that, after I posted my last blog post, I thought back and noticed the hypocrisy there. In the first line, I mention that I was "hit with a traffic ticket". A few days earlier, I had posted a rant about the insanity of cars. So, I am a hypocrite of a cyclist... yes, I drive. I would like to defend myself, since I do try to take my bike or public transit as often as possible. However, I realize that I'm more likely to ride as often as is comfortable. :( We all get sucked into the culture of our enviroment, however much we try to go against the grain.

Enough beating myself over the head.

On a more positive note, I would like to post an update about Homeboy Industries. On Tuesday, I went to an event at their headquarters. Father Greg Boyle, the founder and head honcho of Homeboy, has just written a book. The reading and signing was well attended and inspiring. I picked up a copy of the new book, "Tattoos on the Heart" and had it signed for the LACW community. I have only read the first few chapters and would already recommend it to readers of this blog. It's a collection of stories from Father Greg's more than 25 years of working with the gang-involved youth of Los Angeles.

Peace out.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Homeboy Industries

Recently I was hit with a traffic ticket (ugh) and was assigned community service to pay the fine. Because the Catholic Worker is not registered with the government as a tax-exempt nonprofit (see second half of this post), I could not do my hours at my normal "job" (which is itself a community service). So I chose Homeboy Industries, a nonprofit I only knew a little about. The most I knew was that a branch of Homeboy makes all the T-shirts and keychains for the LACW.

I learned much about the nonprofit in my four Mondays there. It's a gang intervention program and much more. Here's a little snippet from the "history" section of their website.

Homeboy Industries traces its roots to “Jobs For A Future” (JFF), a program created in 1988 by Father Gregory Boyle while he was serving as pastor of Dolores Mission parish in Boyle Heights. Begun as a jobs program in 1988, offering alternatives to gang violence in one of the toughest neighborhoods in the city, the program soon grew beyond the parish.
With the addition of a small bakery in a run-down warehouse across the street from Dolores Mission, JFF had its own business, one where it could hire the most challenging, difficult to place young people in a safe environment. The hope was that they could learn both concrete and soft job skills, to make them stronger, better prepared candidates for permanent employment. A tortilla stand in Grand Central Market downtown solidified the evolution of JFF into Homeboy Industries.

Today was my last day of community service at Homeboy, and I was a little sad for it. I feel like I just started to get to know the place, in its many facets, and the great group of people who work there. I heard a testimony of one of the homeboys this morning, who told his life story with passion. It's still "therapeutic" for him, he told the group of white students he was leading on a tour of the huge Homeboy headquarters. He spoke of his childhood and his journey from there to gang-banging, in and out of jail and, eventually, to Homeboy Industries, where he was offered a job and a chance to change his life around. It was an inspiring story, to say the least. But Brian is just one of the hundreds of such stories to be heard at Homeboy. Kudos to the work of Father Boyle.

There are so many issues, so much pain in the world. What can we do to make some kind of small difference where we have the chance?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Among Broken Glass

I wrote this poem months ago in response to a dream I had about rejection and being homeless.

Among Broken Glass
Merrick Street, my old friend,
you house my feet as I queue
for the sustenance I once served
Joining the many other tattered souls,
whose collective  suffering is a heavy brick
crushing my ribs and imprisoning my breath

Tonight I will crawl into a concrete bed
with the smog as my only blanket
and the door of a trash bin's cage as my wall
The dumpster - no longer my playpen,
but my home
Rejection is the foul stench
making my heart ill

On my hands and knees among broken glass
strewn about the sidewalk
(my wilderness)
Slivered shards of lonely desperation
penetrate and pierce my deepest soul

The irony of loneliness jeers at me
as I am surrounded by numerous other "unfortunates"
whose smiling spirits often outshine their pain
I am still an isolated castoff
Overlooked by the crowds (just "surviving")
as I drown a dry emotional death

a gentle brush of skin on my skin
shifts my focus
And I am tumbling upward out of this hell
into a soft bed
where an undeserved love lies unmoving
undisturbed by my dark internal struggle
His eyes locked safely behind his eyelids
unable to see the nightmare from which I have woken.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Why Cars?

Last week when we were doing our weekly anti-war vigil procession around the downtown federal building complex, I decied to count cars. I counted for about 10 or 15 minutes while we were walking. My estimated tally of cars driving down Alameda Blvd in that period is 300. I counted around a dozen buses, 6 Metro trains and 3 bicycles. That's 1 cyclist for every 100 motorists. Most of the cars held only the driver. It made me hope for a day when cyclists outnumber cars. Motor vehicles are so big and need so much more fuel to power than a bicycle does. Why do we need cars anyway? They take so many more resources to create and to function.

I am reminded of Cuba in the 90's, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Cuba's source of fossil fuels was drastically cut off, and so they had to adapt. The country's agriculture changed significantly to reduce the use of petroleum products. Cars were forsaken and traded for bicycles. The face of transportation was transformed simply because there was no longer a source of cheap fuel. Check out the documentary "The Power of Community" for more info about that page of Cuba's history.

Someday the rest of the nations will have to face that same situation. I say we adjust now, before we are forced into an unfamiliar lifestyle by circumstance instead of choice.