The Cost of Coastal Living.

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As a born and bred Houstonian,There were certain times of the year when weather became more than a throw away topic of discussion. When paper grocery bags had hurricane tracking charts on them. Pin point landfall was a science fiction. and those folks in the lowest geographic areas would have parties. Darwinism awards were given posthumously.

It was also when Houston hadn’t swallowed the entire landmass of Harris country with unbridled development. When Highway 290 ended at Jersey Village. When my aunt and Uncle built their house on the Katy Prairie. Off a dirt farm to market road with dodgy street signs.  One of three house on the vast expense of flat nothing except cows, barbed wire fences and solitary trees. The late 70s and early 80s planted the seeds for the man made disaster Harvey caused.

Watching it all unfold from Michigan has been hard. I still have family there. Seeing streets you’ve driven on many times flooded. Knowing the depth because the geography  was a familiar background in the writing of  the mundane historic record of your life. Twice in twenty five years have I returned to the city of my younger years. The sense of foreignness was greater than my return from three years overseas in the Navy.

A time of isolation. There were no great plans of striving or even a promise of help from my family for employment. Having a close knit family like where my home is now, is impossible with time lost in Houston traffic. Being an Ex pat in experience but not location set me apart. Both of my trips revolved around my elderly mother. The last anchor to that chapter of my past. The one constant thread for all those that followed. Familiar landmarks still existed. The context was changed. all the personal meaning was gone.

The fourth largest city in America has suffered three 500 year floods in three years. Add the stationary hurricane that dumped millions of gallons of extraordinarily warm Gulf water in a vast region where all the natural retention area had been paved. There will be a political reckoning. It will start in the neighborhoods of the poor and working class. Nothing new there. Inner city residents. Immigrants. Those nameless faceless minimum wage workers that keep the economy together. Ignore them and they’ll go away. Move on to the newest celebrity event.

But this will be different. Harvey was an equal opportunity destroyer of  everyday comfort. The thing that ripped away the illusion of safety. The middle class neighborhoods saw deep water. Those areas near the reservoirs that stayed dry got flooded by the release of the spillways to prevent dam failure. All the water from up stream funnels into the natural low spot, Buffalo Bayou. Along which Houston’s downtown and early neighborhoods are built. All that water flowing back into the Gulf from which it came. Carrying a toxic brew of chemicals and debris that will slowly change the waters of the world.

It will take a decade or more for The Houston Metroplex to recover. An area of 8929 square miles. Detroit and Southeast Michigan, in comparison is 1337 square miles. That’s a factor of 6.5x larger in area. Also leading contributor, other than oil, to the GDP of Texas, inc. the 10th ranking economy in the world.  And that where the battle will be waged. Michigan has a strong centralized government. Elected officials can and are held accountable.. Texas is run by business interest. Nameless, faceless corporation concerned about their bottom line. It’s good business to care about the public. Those they make money on. But. Their driven self interest will rebuild what? At what cost to all those systems nurtured slowly over decades to help those most vulnerable to this type of sudden destruction?

They torn down the public housing in New Orleans. Housing that suffered no water damage from Katrina. Privatized the public schools. New Orleans and Louisiana are a shining example of corrupt and incompetent state governance. Complete with the cronyism of generational political machines ensuring business as usual to the benefit of the few. Sins smoothed over by the economy of Houston.

The election of 2016 has exposed the wounds America has never dealt with. Intolerances hidden by classism and economic segregation. Harvey has done the same to the unrestricted and arrogant greed of Houston developers. I have nothing against growth or capitalism. But it has to offset by some rational degree of common sense. Fort Bend country watched what Harris country was allowing and said not us. Building codes demanded natural retention pond. That in turn became valuable green spaces home owners were willing to pay a premium to live near. Imagine that. Regulations that saved catastrophic destruction and made private business money.

I hope my family members can stay in the place were they have built their lives. The ripples from all the man made problems will effect them. No way around it. By choosing to live in a state that has struggled with a stagnate economy before 2008 and the occasional two to three feet of snow, I have found a place to call home. It is my hope that all those who call Houston home can find that state of peace again.

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Soccer in Detroit: Deep roots vs deep pockets.

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Sounds like a law firm doesn’t it. It does involve legal business motives and dealings. These first two gentlemen are the two billionaires that want to buy the franchise from the MLS, that’s where Garber comes in, for Detroit. Found in the trash of the Pontiac Superdome was a listing of all future Major League Soccer cities. We’ve been that list since the founding. About every three years or so some group has made noise a about bring professional soccer to the area. In fairness I must mention the Michigan Bucks of the PDL. The organization that been around for 25 years that no one knows. But they win championships.

All these acronyms. Quick primer. The MLS is the top division. Followed by the NASL(North American Soccer League). The USL (United Soccer League) recent also acquired Division 2 status. Mainly thanks to an affiliation agreement with the MLS. They are also the oldest professional soccer organization in America for all levels of the game. 1980. There isn’t a Division 3 at this moment. Next year. Maybe. Than there all the amateur clubs. Spread across the nation under multiple organizing bodies. Two are national. The Professional Development League(PDL) and National Premier Soccer League (NPSL). Both are summer leagues that help current college and former players stay in shape playing a sport they love.

The vast majority play in front of family and friends. Average attendance is in the hundreds. Some hit a thousand. Then there’s Detroit City Football Club. Average home attendance last year was 5500. In a 1936 inner city historic stadium in the middle of Hamtramck Michigan. An two square mile tax shelter created by the Dodge brothers to avoid Detroit’s reach. Once exclusive Polish. Now a melting pot of Middle Eastern and Eastern European cultures and languages.  And this is where Gilbert and Gores come back into the picture.

Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cavilers, is the property guy of the pair. He moved Quicken Loans from the suburbs to downtown Detroit and then started buying the beautiful old neglected buildings there. Built when Detroit was considered the Paris of the West. But you see there’s a hole in this home town boy’s empire. The Wayne Country jail site. (I’ll let you read the reporting on that.)  Necessary infrastructure to pull all the scattered pieces together. The perfect location is right by the interstate on your way onto downtown. Oh the shame. Can’t allow it. Says one Dan Gilbert.

Except the taxpayers of Wayne county sold bonds to build it. He wants it dimes on the dollars. For the 8th or 10th time. Add Detroit’s rabid sporting culture of Iconic brands through Tom Gores, owner of the Pistons. Coupled with the recent announcement of their move downtown to share the new Red wings arena and the fastest growing sport in America, soccer. Done deal. Except that Wayne County Commissioners are listening to the taxpayers. Then there’s Detroit City FC and their supporters. The Northern Guard Supporters.  The NGS.

Soccer supporters aren’t like any other fans. Except maybe hockey. Tribal. Passionate. Tattoos for their club. Not team, CLUB. A culture of ownership. You live and die with your club. Standing for 90+ minutes in the searing heat or driving rain. (Yes I’ve done both.) Inhaling the clouds from the colored smoke sticks after every goal. Emotional drained after every match. And can’t wait to do it all again. In 2012, five local business owners decided to start a team. It all happened over beers in a local bar after a recreation coed neighborhood based soccer league started by one of them. With the original idea sketched out on a bar napkin. Hell it worked for the Marines.

Found the league. NPSL. Found the stadium. Cass Tech high School. One end framed downtown Detroit. And there wasn’t a running track in sight to separate the pitch from the Terraces. (Field. Stands.) 500 through the gates would be success. The NGS brought the noise. The season ended with an average home match attendance of 1200. Next season, 1800. 2500. 3500. We gotta get a big place. Historic Keyworth Stadium. Needs Love. Bunches and bunches of TLC. Heard abut that new law? Invested $750,000 to rehab it. Opening match, 7400. Average attendance last season, 5500. Comparison. More than the the 3/4 of the USL. All but three of NPSL. All of PDL.

Our first international friendly against FC United of Manchester. Glentorran FC of Northern Ireland. Venezia FC of Italy. Raised thousands of dollars for local charities.  2017 Alternatives for Girls. 2016 Freedom House. .A refugee transition service. 2015. A LGBT teen half way house. The Club sponsored two teams, U10/12,  in the Detroit PAL league. Teams had to include refugees. Two supporters were married by another at half time with their supporter family in attendance. Forget mailing announcements.

All of this was driven by what the owners and supporters believe in. It’s what makes the Detroit sporting culture what it is. Intensely local. Detroit vs Everyone. Iconic simple  logos. Known around the world. Yes so is DCFC.  So what do Gilbert and Gores bring to this discussion after their closed door invitation only press announcement? Their organization bought every single version of the Detroit City SC domain name.

This was just reported by Crain’s Detroit Business on the 7th of this month. A year after it was done. Guess they learned. When someone registered the domain names they were using to boost the hype. Standard business practice? Maybe. Here are some numbers to consider. MLS franchise fee: $500 million. With a downtown stadium plan. To be built within three years. Design, Construction and land. Right at $1 Billion dollars. Unknown operating cost for players and staff.  NPSL annual fee, $15,000.  Detroit city operations budget $1 million. Players: free. Coaches: stipend. Paid full time employees, 5. Including GM and marketing. Full Benefits.

Will the MLS come to Detroit? Yes. The egos and money involved are too big. Plus the fact that some upstart amateur club supporters are giving you the finger every day simply won’t be allowed. Our stadium will be family friendly. That’s the sterile suburban soccer culture Tom Gores likes. Let’s create an atmosphere tailored to the TV crowd. Sure some MLS organizations get it. The supporters are welcomed. Dialogue to solve problems. All under the watchful ham handed MLS security apparatus.

The core of all this isn’t whether the MLS or DCFC win. It about the tension between the Romance of soccer and the business of the sport. Supporters see all seat stadiums has dangerous to them standing. The Germans figured it out. Hillsborough wasn’t the fans fault. Old dangerous stadiums around the world aren’t the supporters fault.  The MLS is not top flight football has judged by the world. Does it appeal to those who can’t bother with everything that doesn’t Major in the title? sure. Owning a sports team is difficult. And a money pit of epic proportions. It’s all about having your name on a trophy. But to start by stealing the identity of an established soccer culture is not only stupid but a sure way to being rejected by the culture unique to a place like Detroit.

I’m a romantic. The look of old football pitches inspires me. A rectangle of stands built over time to enclose the pitch were childhood dreams are nurtured. Life long friendships. Deeply held hatred for a rival on match days. Memories of bring your son or daughter to their first match are created. Moments to be shared with others. Yesterday I drove to Lansing to see City play it closest in state rival. We hadn’t won there in two years. A tie that knocked us out of postseason and a 3-1 beat down. We don’t like their supporter group. They don’t care for us. A clash of cultures both on and off the field. Started late. Caught in traffic. Got lost. Give me a paper map. Not one of these small screen can’t read shit on it phones. Arrived at half time. Pissed. Hot.  It all disappeared when I was among my extended foul mouth, finger raised, skull apparel wearing, no fucks given supporter family.  And that’s what no one understands.

For 90 minutes we are your enemy. Obnoxious. Loud. Dropping F Bombs every other word. Never sit down. Afterwards? We pick up our mess. Thank you for allow us our flags, drums and smoke. Are friendly with other supporters. Most. Not all. In the morning we go back to being firefighters. Teachers. Students. Business owners. Cooks. Kids on summer vacation. Retirees. All with Twitter accounts.

That isn’t allowed or wanted in Modern football with it’s sheikhs, Billionaire owners and multi-million dollar players. Packaging over passion. We have a chant with about Gilbert, Gores and Garber. The Fuck em all part is the loudest.

Letter to the Patriot Militias: The Alt Right Murders Veterans

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Whatever your politics, this a cancer that needs to be cut out. The Alt-Right are the creating the culture of the Brown Shirts. While don’t have the radicalized communities, like in Europe, we do have self selective enclaves where this is happening. Evil thrives when good people do nothing.

Anti-Fascist News

By Portland Antifascists

The alt-right is closer to power than ever, yet they have never been further from reality. The media portrays them as everywhere at once—from the beleaguered White House to your neighborhood street corner, wheat pasting fascist literature about “European identity.” Yet for all their online presence and in-real-life media attention, their assortment of “Kekistan Flags” and “Pepe” memes expose a dying culture of hatred. Using their memes to maintain an ironic distance from one another, as well as reality, they hope to supplant the modern world with their own jaded vision—one which we are sure you support just as little as we do. We ask that, when you see a Kekistan Flag flying, when you identify the ironic subcultures of Reddit and 4chan that bubble up to the surface of everyday life through the alt-right’s manifestations, that you refuse to look the other way. Oppose them…

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Coffee House Community

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It’s always the little things isn’t it. I’ve written openly about my mental health issues. Getting out of my apartment is a big one. A destination is critical for that first step. One of those go to places for the past 12 years has been a coffee house. Not a Starbucks or a fast food drive thru but a real European vibe, slightly funky public living room. A place where casual encounters could become friendships or a conversation that changes you. For the day or your life.

These places reflect the owner’s personality. Why did I feel comfortable at one and not the other? Something clicked instantly inside. An energy that meshed with mine. Those who have a favorite coffee house know what I’m talking about. It all started in Vienna. The cross roads of trade in the Austria Hapsburg empire. A western European version of the souk in Aleppo. Where neighbors had gathered for centuries to discuss trade, families and politics over strong Turkish coffee and tea. A bubble of quiet away from the chaotic energy outside in the market.

In the modern world, the ritual of the morning cup is used to sell expensive gadgets to brew one cup. Before getting in the car for the drive into work. To be fair to Starbucks, they pushed the demand for whipped, frothed, folded and mangled drinks with a nod to coffee as their base. Call me old fashioned, a cup of brewed coffee exposes the quality of the bean. (Don’t call a pour over or Americana real coffee. It’s like lite beer. It shares the name but nothing else.)  Tablets and phones have replaced books and newspapers over which time is spend.

One writer commented that he would sit in his corner neighborhood Starbucks where coffee was the excuse to spend time around other people. Not talking or acknowledging each other. But simply being in the same room where it was quiet. A community’s shared space. Many times these are places for business meetings. Where ladies meet weekly. College students hold study groups. That revolving  group of retirees  to start their day. All lost to gentrification and a new owner who didn’t understand that owning a coffee house is more than a business.

How does one go about killing the soul of such a place? First remove the local artists work. That cheap public gallery where the work is a little to edgy or unfortunately done with marginal talent. The focal point for the artist’s friends to met outside of their small apartments with too many roommates. Then paint the walls. Cover up all the small imperfections that convey that emotional sense of continuity encapsulating echoes generated by others that shared the same space in the past.  Next make it look your suburban Aunt’s living room without the clutter. Then wonder why it doesn’t make money.

OK this a highly subjective critique from the outside. For a self professed loner dealing with isolation issues in a new city, this situation really sucks. The grief cycle skipped denial and went straight to anger. Which fueled depression. To fair there are three other coffee houses in town. All catering to niches of which my comfort level is low. One is truly unique in ways almost indescribable. It’s one of those places that has to experienced to fully grasp the knowing of it.

Imagine a street in a historic downtown along a river. Old warehouses converted to antique shops and condos. Others removed in order to create a green belt. The outdoor seating on the wide sidewalk is inviting. Not in full sun until late in the day. Pleasant. Then you open the door. The very large chalkboard filled with all the drinks available could guide you to the hidden counter at the back. Hidden by the chaotic over abundance of everything 1960 or Beatles. The decade opened the door. Spewed that particular corner of pop culture effulgence everywhere. Then walked away.  Ceiling and walls covered in a confusion of eye searing technicolor interspersed with black and white or faded patches of newspaper quality posters. Good luck finding a place to seat your cup down. Anyone with brain issues should avoid the place at all cost. The charming lady who owns the place has a collector’s maniac focus on that one trigger event which drives obsession.  And is happy to share the story.

I was cut off from my loose community at the end of last month. Others feel the same way when we talk on the street. The business will carry on under the same name but will never be the same. That one died when she closed the doors. So here I sit in the library. Without a cup of coffee around. Knowing that this to shall pass. And understanding, it never was about the coffee.

Another Town hall

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One of the local Congressman left his townhouse in the swamp to brave the sound and fury of the Elitist mob. He stood on an auditorium stage smirking has the Liberals did their best imitation of the Koch backed Tea Party. A political circus short on substance. Long on usable propaganda reinforcing the narrative. What was different happened when it was over. The shouting continued in to the hallways. Empowered Trump supporters confronted the emotional pissed democrats.

Who won?  The Congressman will spin it as he bravely faced the turbulence of the unruly mob. The Liberal and Democrats will stay they exercised their rights to protest in the environment where that right is being curtailed. The Conservative feel all their deeply held beliefs were being attacked. Along with the civility of American democracy. It all makes for great TV. Who loses? Everyone.

I’ve tried very hard to not post or share any of the memes attacking the President directly. Do I agree with of them? For the most part. Those that are based on actual actions or deconstructing Tweets with facts. My attention has been focused on the powerful currents underneath the surface waves. The distraction ideologues live for. These folks operate best in the shadows. Away from the short attention span sound bites that push emotional hot buttons. One commentator called Steve Bannon the most dangerous man in the inner circle. A deep thinker on a crusade to remake America according to his narrow vision. The Neo Con playbook used so effectively to high jack Bush II first term. Undersecretaries in key position to influence policy are the Commissars of today.

Divide. Distract. Conquer. That’s the plan now. What About all the rest of the non Senate appointment he could make? Trump answered why should he. Reagan had the final say on every single one of the 2500 or so. They were notifies with a letter from him. Think about the loyalty that attention to detail engendered. Of course he had been a Governor of the largest state in the US. In spite of the economic poison he and his cohorts injected into the country, he was a very smart man. Reagan finished the job Nixon started with his Southern strategy. Conservative Southern Democrats became the ancestors of the Right wing single issue Republicans. Whose bastard children are the Tea Party and Alt Right.

Two days ago there was a protest at a mosque. A diverse group stood in front of the building. One that outnumbered the five or so small group of open carry white men were going to save America from the Muslim hoards. The difference this time was the third group. Members of the Black Block. A militant sub group of the ANTIFA movement. ANTIFA stands for Anti Fascist. They feel that any hate group of the far right has no right to have their message normalized by the media or politicians. Berkeley. Washington DC. Violence used has a protest against authoritarian or corporate backers of the extreme right. The leaders of the more numerous defenders of the mosque didn’t want them there. They wouldn’t talk to the media. They were there to confront the small group of what they considered white terrorists.

I’ve written before about the echo chambers social media creates and reinforces in our modern world. It has become a major talking point of social culture experts. There is factual data that America is more divided at anytime in our history. Those with economic resources have left the major urban centers. Fueled by a perceived sense of fear. Returning WWII veterans move to Levitt town. The rules blocked those of color with that option. All of the inequality Bernie Sanders railed about was normalized there. Elected officials represent the ones who vote for them.

All the recent remarks about the poor, sick and immigrants by Republicans are in many ways the core beliefs of their districts. Look a North Carolina. America in miniature. My community is becoming more Republican. The Blue wall is becoming a battle field for what America should be. The local town hall reflects the larger state and national politics. Protected districts. Will the smirking Congressman be reelected? Of course he will. Do you want Mob Rule? Remember the town hall where I was shouted down. They are denying your basic right of Free Speech. And he has a valid point.

The first amendment curtails the government from silencing individual dissent. For the citizen it allows you to voice your opinion. But that means everyone else has the same right. The Tea Party bullied that freedom. Liberals loudly criticized them. Turn about is fair play. The Moderates out number the Immoderates. At some point the Moderates will become the Immoderates. When that happens hopefully sanity will return to politics. Unfortunately I think the US will have to survive a national town hall first. It’s a verbal knife fight over fundamental visions of what America will be. In these type of fights, Everyone gets cut. It’s personal. It’s ugly. Which makes for great TV.

 

 

I’m a Soccer Ultra suffering withdrawal

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First you have to understand supporting a soccer club is a active form of fandom bordering on obsession. My Club. First and forever. Tattoos. Has one famous English manager once said.

“You don’t choose your club. It chooses you.”

It’s a mystic moment when the stars align. Down from the sky an invisible bolt of true blinding passion and devotion strikes. One where all the artificial mental barriers built on irrational fears can’t stand the force.

Mine dissolved on the drive down to Detroit on that beautiful sunny day. My association with the Beautiful Game had begun on a pitch of sand in a public park. Attending a centrally located Catholic college prep high school in Houston meant a sizable international presence enrolled. Add to that the Eastern Prep school kids relocated by their parents work. You have the instant making of a pretty good soccer team. One in which a first time player could easy fit without damaging the chances of winning. My position? Central defender. The one place where tough aggression mattered more than skills. And a good sense of timing when to use it.

Soccer still was just a sport I played. My theory of becoming devoted to any sport is that moment when all the skills you’ve been struggling to master click in place. It happened on a muddy field. The flattened, slightly trenched, middle third of the grass mound.  The alter of the Texas high school football that soccer was grounding allowed to trespass on. My continued frustration of getting the ball to go where I wanted was all lack of practice and mechanics. What seems natural is everything but.

On that cold February afternoon my foot connected just right. A twisting ball going away from the keeper. One he actually was challenged by. Finally praise from the coach. Someone who had played all his life. That was 1979. A year later Houston got an NASL team. My father got tickets when the Pele led NY Cosmos came to town. I saw the world’s greatest player the way most of the world did. Has a miniature figure on the expanse of green field. Without the crazed atmosphere cable and satellite would bring into the living rooms and basements from the worlds great stadiums from around the world. .

The cheap newsprint half sized soccer magazine arrived every month for two years. By than the Houston Hurricane had moved to be re-branded in another city. Where they failed once again. That was also the state of my soccer experience until the World Cup in 1994. The mutation introduced into my system on that muddy field lay dormant until 2012. Modern soccer followed the pattern sat down by the other American sports. Baseball had radio. Football and basketball used TV. Soccer lives on the internet. Following links I discovered Detroit had a club. Five minutes later my season ticket and scarf package was ordered. The very cool credit card size season pass is still a treasured item. Not knowing if I would get to a match.

In the 20+ years since moving to Michigan, there had been no desire to see Detroit. The city’s troubles were reinforced by my in-laws prejudice towards it. A bigger part for me was my Navy years had been on a ship overseas. Perth Australia during the Americas Cup. Hong Kong. Singapore. London with the reserves. After growing up in Houston, American big cities were ordinary in comparison. Detroit City FC give me reason to break through many reason for not exploring once again. At the time three were supporter groups. All had Facebook pages. The Northern Guard had the in your face attitude I liked. They became my destination.

My first match started with a paper map for the confusing Paris inspired spoke and wheel pattern of streets out of downtown. DCFC played at Cass Tech. A small high school stadium that framed the skyline where I-75 cut through the heart of Detroit. The exploring soul discovered in those foreign cities took me the length of Woodward Avenue from 8 mile to Harry’s. Where from the upper deck you can see Ford Field and Comerica Park. With the collection of Art Deco skyscrapers built when Detroit was known has the Paris of the Midwest.

America’s Road takes you through landscape of every major urban metropolitan area in the nation. Every major boulevard, sunken interstate or train viaduct created a  stark snapshot of  decay or prosperity.  My two experiences with the streets named MLK reflect the state race in America. A shiny facade where it crosses major arteries leading somewhere else. Behind are long stretches of poverty and neighborhood sliding out of the middle class. A left turn took my journey on a unguided tour through those blighted lands the world sees Detroit has. But also the ignored spots of hope where people stubbornly refused to be defeated.

All the talk of the dangers of Detroit echoed until I got out of the car. Parking by the school puts one in the microcosm Detroit exemplifies. The homeless or lost in the central park.  Where the intricate craving of every style on the exterior of the largest Masonic temple in the world anchors on side. A block long multistory castle wall facing empty graffiti covered buildings. The modern glass and metal high school by extensions of Wayne State’s footprint. Past, present and future. A continuum hidden by distance in many urban areas.

Asking directions from those wearing the rouge and gold I found myself on Henry Street. It was in that instant when my past became my present. Olongapo City with wider streets. Years of domestic living fell away. The awareness honed in foreign cities gave me confidence. This was the same way I had seen other countries. Not from the safety of all inclusive resorts or cruise ship day trips. Behind the facades are bare concrete block and tin roofs. Outdoor cooking and trash. It was in this comfortable state of mind I first encounter what would become my other family.

The large home made flags that have become the hall mark of the NGS lined the metal fence. Defiant. Profane. A battle cry refuting the family friend suburban soccer culture so dominate in America. Screaming skulls. Skeletal middle fingers raised to the world. The Northern Guard had taken over the upper deck. The open fronted covered space where beer was served in plastic cups. Food was sent up from the kitchen below. Standing echoed the terraces to follow. The first person that greeted me was a tall thin black man with a full beard wearing a black cap with the Detroit Tigers D. It was has if a long lost family member everyone know of but had never met walked in the door. What followed was introduction to many I would come to know over the course of the short season and social media. Every where was inclusion. The tattooed and professional. City and suburban mixed in the intoxication of being part of something they had only seen on TV. An emptiness being shared.

Then the drum. What would become a shared heartbeat. Learning the chants no longer used. Along with those that are the soundtrack of soccer tailored by each supporter group. Sarge’s pre match speech. The March to the March. Smoke and flags. The gathering behind the main stands. An unabashed or apologetic dismissive in your face attitude toward the day opponent. Detroit vs Everyone. Filling the Visitor stands. Flags placed along the back supports. Where the wind would display them to full effect. The touchline separated from the raucous roiling supporters by a mere four feet. The NGS choir singing the National anthem to the flag and the downtown skyline. A flag that earlier had flown on fire bases and outpost by a supporter in Afghanistan.

By nature a writer is an observer. A detached presence while still occupying a position in the crowd. Mental recording not just sights but the underlying emotions. To be later translated in the imperfect medium of words. The world in which I live. Except that day. A conscious decision to join. There is being part of the crowd or being the crowd. The temporary subjection of the self to be part of something more. I entered into the joy of being the crowd. Joining the celebration of emotional release.

When the final whistle blew, I was exhausted. Details of the match were unimportant. Couldn’t even tell you if we won. What happened on the aluminum bleachers of a typical high school that day was some much more than a sport event. One voice. One heartbeat. Total surrender to the atmosphere unique to the soccer culture. There have been other great moments in my relationship around Detroit city and the NGS. But nothing close to that match.

For that season and the next, I found myself making every weekend home date. The uncertainty of the bottom tier of American soccer saw teams disappear with every off season. The time before the new schedule was released was and is, a time of anxiety. The tension of will those vacation days still be available for the away matches. Then my life rudely disrupted the summer manta of Soccer. Kids. Everything else. Such is the way the drug of soccer dominates ones life. One by one the touchstones of that first season have fallen.

The supporter created Rust Belt Derby between FC Buffalo, DCFC and AFC Cleveland has fallen victim to the growing number of teams in the region. The hatred of Ohio has shifted to certain Michigan supporter groups. The natural extension of Detroit’s relationship with the rest of the state. On this first warm day hinting of the coming Spring and the DCFC season there is the reality that I will once again be able to be in the terraces of Keyworth one time. It will be another soccer bucket list match. Fifty years to the day that Glentorran FC of Northern Ireland played has the Detroit Cougars of the 1967 American Soccer League.

Living outside Detroit during the season is the only drawback to the peace of living where I do. For 9 months out of the year, my children come first. In all things. During that time following my natural inclination of spending large chunks of time alone doesn’t matter. With every announcement or event on twitter and Facebook, my withdrawal gets harder. To the point of depression. Being an Ultra for your club isn’t fun. Some of the joy is shared misery of on the field performance. Or the following of favorite players doing well in their pursuit of the dream of professional status. To love a lower tier club is to invite disappointment into your life. To understand the quality of play isn’t what you watch from the comfort of your home.

The difference is being part of the atmosphere only experienced by being there. The sun beating down. When attending a match is a trail to be endured. One that will leave you sore. Disheartened. Affect your performance at work the next day. One you willing welcome with the coming weekend. Not paying the rent to attend the match. Scarf collections. Checking the bank account every time merchandise is announced. Yes it is my Addiction. One for which the fix can be had during a very small window. One that is dependent of a schedule you have no control over. All the planning done means nothing if work or family or something else conflicts. Even the online stream is in conflict with my schedule.

For all this I gladly suffer. MY CLUB. It needs me has much as I need it. Realizing you have an addiction is the first step in solving it. My solution is finding the circumstances in the rest of the year to attend every match during the two months of the season. No I don’t want to be cured. Or manage it. I want the damn lottery.

Russian Democracy American Style

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America has had two great exports. Democracy and our Culture. That’s why our history is filled with supporting dictators, warlords and rebels against democratically elected governments we didn’t like. The American Empire. For all that the US still had an apparently viable two party system. A counter balance to the totalitarian Communist Soviet Union. The driving  policy of post war lost it way when free market Capitalism won. Democracy spend across the former Warsaw countries.

Great we won. America won the gold medal. But just like on D-Day and Gulf War 1, there was no plan for after. The British had these weird attachments or specially designed vehicle to defeat the hedgerows. The American generals rejected them. They actually put all the bolts and cables on their purposely built dock extending out for supplies. The Americans had one. Because they didn’t. The Get it done and get it now mentality got it was destroyed in the first Atlantic storm. . The Gulf War? But my country is so large, we must have helicopters to get around. Please? Ask the Kurds how that worked out.

Then those ungrateful countries created Democracies that reflected their historic and cultural past. Filled with sectarian or religious prejudices. Tribal alliances at there worst. The baby steps of democratic institutions corrupted before they could become strong enough to resist. The CIA was instrumental in bring the Shah to power in Iran. The former Persian Empire of Xerxes reborn in the modern world. That conflict between modern and ancient directly caused the 1979 Revolution. The birth of the Islamic Republic of Iran. A limited Democratic Theocracy.  One supported client groups to fight the Saudi backed Sunni factions. All the while export a very conservative form of Islam, Wahhabism, with America never challenged. Gotta keep the oil flowing.

Both branches of Islam hate the Kurds. History lesson. Sal al-din, proper spelling, was a Shia ethic Kurd whose crowning achievement was the capture of Jerusalem in 1187.He had the personality to  juggle all the various factions of his combined polyglot force to achieve that goal. Guess what fell apart afterwards?  Following WWI, Kurdish land was split between three countries. Eastern Turkey, Iran and Iraq. All majority Sunni. the Brits have a long memory. Lesson done.

Americans tend to forget that we considered ourselves British until the Revolution. Even then many still did. Economic status. The colonist carried in their DNA English Common Law. A Parliamentary government. the Magna Carta. The privilege of Empire that didn’t include them. Democracy meant for the landed gentry. The last two are alive and well in the former Soviet states. Ukraine is the current example of our revolution without the institutions to support it.

Now a slim minority has elected an inexperienced Con man whose claim to fame is his self supported Cult of Personality. A man who brands everything in GOLD LETTERS. A self aggrandizing brand that rode an angry populist wave to the most powerful position in the world. And who does he admire? A second rate Authoritarian former KGB officer who played a part in scamming Reagan during his visit to Russia. A modern Czar in all but name. These events didn’t magically appear. They have been decades in the making. Nameless unelected political operatives for both parties whose only purpose was winning have brought us to this point. Party over Country. Any difference in basic party motivation is a smoke screen for a desire to win. By winning they have power. Absolute power is the theme of this President.

The genie in Aladdin got it right. “Absolute power. Itty bitty living space.” In this case its the Constitution and our bodies of laws. The Bill of Rights enshrine individual rights. Not limit them. That is still unique in the world. Demanded by the people to ensure Governments couldn’t run roughshod over individuals or groups. It’s taken a century or decades for those ideals to be fully realized. The struggle still continues for many. And one election puts it all in peril. Luckily Trump can’t throw his opposition in jail just cause. His lack of mandate and general thin skin works to unite the 3/4 of America who didn’t vote for him.

Start working towards 2018. Replace his single party majority in Congress. Or put a serious dent in it. That’s America Democracy in action.

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