View from the Bottom of the food chain

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“The smallest prison in the world is the 8 inches between your ears.”                                      Vietnam POW asked about how he survived.

The two things that separated me from the rest of the men in the shelter was being a Vet and having a car. Being a Vet meant a room with three others indoctrinated in the military culture. If you or your family aren’t military, the weight of the last sentence is lost on you.  Walking or the bus were options for me. Try this. One day leave your car parked then use a bus to get somewhere.  Simple becomes very hard. Remember that first taste of freedom a bike allowed? Heady. Fast. Scary. No parents. Friends only.  Age or responsibility slowly erode the time. When was the last time you rode your bike? America is built for cars.

Delayed repairs became immediate ones. When the mechanic’s first words are, “Have you thought about getting another car?” The world shifted under my feet. I’m in that majority group of Americans where a sudden emergency will led directly to crisis. That extra credit card offer doesn’t get thrown away. Family loans. Hey do know anyone who can do the work for ___$.  With kids back in school living close with the ex, being car less doesn’t help. Anything. At. All.

The subtle stress of being on government programs is a daily burden. The oppressive heat in a converted attic apartment  doesn’t help. Or the fact bright sunny days aren’t good for my moods. Those were manageable. The possibility of seeing my kids kept things stable. Freedom to fit their schedule. $800 might has well be $10,000. Rebuilding my life at 53 sucks. Knowing tech and society has no role for me double down.  It still easier being poor in a poor region. Part time jobs are the norm. So is having two. Or three. All by the closed connections of friends and family.

Why don’t you move? Cost of living comes to mind. It takes money to move. First and last months rent. Public transportation? Answering the question, how are you doing? gets honesty not fluff. I awoke up. Starting low some days is easier. Then it’s where? The South? Been there, done that. They balance their budget by NOT using money for social support services. Finally, I’m lazy. All the effort expended to get out of bed or leave my apartment, leaves little for anything else.

This blog is the only form of therapy open to me. The struggle to find the words is a diversion from the world inside my head.  That’s all. thanks for reading. Can’t promise regular posts.

Being a Friend….

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My friend is dying. MS is robbing him of life. It’s the first time I have faced the death on such a personal level.  There is nothing I can do but watch. Late night calls for rides to the ER have become common. The doctors ask what he needs. They have no clue. Specialists are few and really good ones book appointments months out. Late night companionship to escape the depression and isolation are something I understand. Intimately. His guide through the darkness.

Time doesn’t matter when you find a friend. Eighteen months ago we met in a homeless shelter. Both of our lives had hit rock bottom for different reasons. Circumstances that radically changed how we saw the world around us. Relationships with those closest changed. My friend has young children. Divorce and work made it hard to be there for those milestones parents cherish. We are both economically redundant in a changed economy. Growing older is a daily mediation on legacy.  There will be no great buildings or memorials.  That was never to be. Being a good Dad. Striving to become a decent human being. Living an ethical life every moment.  Those are worthy goals. A luxury he will never have.

Two years of waiting for his disability hearing has finally happened. His lawyer is confident. Now they  have up to 40 days to finalize the decision. Can you wash dishes? When we met he weighed 160 pounds. Walking wasn’t a problem. Mentally still sharp. Now he’s 140 and struggling. Walking is slow shuffle at times. Exhaustion hammers him at odd times.  It’s hard watch.

His family is working their way through denial. Everything won’t be better. That’s what his father wants. One of their children will die an unpleasant death. And they have to watch. So will I. It is something our modern society has become isolated from. Modern medicine can cure everything. The reality isn’t so neat or tidy. Considering I started writing this 2 month ago. Have come back to it many times since. Staring it the screen wondering if I could find the words.

My friend is dying. There’s nothing I can do but be a witness. The Jewish faith believes that  as long has one person remembers your name, you still live is what I’ll do.

 

Built in America,

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House and dog sitting for the 4th. Binge watching the few shows worthy of expensive cable. Road racing yesterday. Classic car builds today.  Guys working in metal. Using their hands to turn what they see in their mind into works of street art. Skills that built the nation we celebrate tonight with fireworks. By others who mastered a set of skills used to amaze the child in all of us. I’m thinking the popularity this genre is watching men at work.

Let’s face it, an idea puts in motion a series of actions we will never see the end of. Sense of accomplishment? Start to finish? A tangible result? Sure a project gets done. Then you go looking for the next one.  It’s not like driving a car you fixed. Or watching the kids play on the tree house you built. I know that feeling. The primal satisfaction of leaving a legacy in the world. The wealthy can put their name of buildings. The rest of us patch drywall. Small victories.

College has been sold has the only route to the good life. 2008 exposed the fragility of that. Then there’s those whose intelligence or creativity is expressed through manipulating materials in 3d space. In a my youth, it was luck or family history that directed you into a career path. An ill fit for many. Technology expanded the possibilities. Still very much of the family and neighborhood but exposure to the wider world can become a way out. Or a life absent of dread that is work.

Don’t get me wrong. Work is still work. 80% of it is drudgery. Parts of the day to push through. No very satisfying. Then there are those days. Wow. The goal is increasing the wow. If that means needing a shower at the end of the day rather then after the gym, OK. The world has enough lawyers. The critical need is in the skilled trades. Computer controlled machines need climate controlled clean environments. Plus knowing complex math and programming. Not the old pictures of endless rivers of men entering the maw of sprawling manufacturing plants. One last thought. America still out manufactures the rest of the world combined. Fewer men and women outproducing the world in a global economy.

Have a happy 4th.

Trenches

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The way of modern warfare during WWI caused the evolution of trench warfare. Both side built elaborate complexes of interconnected small towns. The Germans did it better. Many still exist has historical tours destinations. All to preserve soldiers. So they could kill their opposite number. Those soldier who endured that wet sloppy hell adapted. Mentally and physically. Their struggles to move past that trauma is mirrored by today’s returning Vets. What was a private condition is now a national debate. To date it’s been a national disgrace to those in power towards those in uniform.

I’ve created my own trenches. Decisions made in times madness and stress. Reinforced by behaviors that seemed to keep me safe. All of which left me sitting in a bunker looking up a narrow slice of sky. Grey days are preferred. Bright sunny days reveal all the flaws in construction. That place doesn’t need remodeling. It demands dynamite. Then the question that stays my hand is what’s next?  Maybe I’m missing that section in the self help books. Where the author describes all the dark hard days. Weeks. Months. Failures. Before they turned the corner. Experience has taught me that’s a process. The Journey not the destination. An daily exercise of new tools or thoughts. Always aware the old ones are waiting in the tall grass to pounce.  All presented in a slick wrapper of success American style. Where’s the guy in jeans and tee shirt talking about his book? That audience doesn’t buy self help books discussed in hotel ballrooms.

Question. How does someone that has a physical need for quiet and space surround themselves with positive people?  Self knowledge is a bitch. Those of us struggling depression are rumored to see the world more clearly. Someone studied it. We tend to discard those options with smaller percentages of success. The absence of unbridled hope. Old patterns. Tall grass.  Which brings me to a point that only a small group of humans deal with. Whether by nature or nurture, I’m a loner. At this point it doesn’t matter. They’ve blended into one.

That doesn’t means anti social. Or reclusive. A danger to myself or others. At the most basic level personal interactions drain me. Being bipolar makes it worse. Multi person conversations? Large groups? Extreme noise? Not gonna happen. Can’t read the body language or follow fragments of bland conversations. Which has contributed my current isolation. Growing up an only children helped develop my skills to cope. My personality enforced it. More of my type live in the bigger cities. They created sanctuaries to combat the overload. Found professions catering to their strengths. Well done. How did you get there?

My current job is cook. A more eclectic group of folks never existed. Hot cramped kitchens filled with odd personalities creating sublime works of art. Or in my case, good solid food those eating didn’t have to cook. Still the question remains. How did you get there?  Self Help books are always on the best sellers list. I could print all my various scattered blog post. Work hard not to kill myself reading the inarticulate ramblings gathered in one place. Then edit. Edit. Edit.  Might take the rest of my life. A work in progress. I’ll leave it there.

Thanks for reading my whatever this is. It helps me and hopefully helps someone else.

The Empire has fallen

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Brexit won. Not in Scotland. I see another referendum there. Look the EU is the result of those countries trying to recreate a modern Roman Empire. Put one map over the other. Tell me what you see. Just as Iran still culturally thinks of themselves has Persians. Who were once a global power. Before it collapsed. Turkey has the fundamental mindset. Nationalist sentiment trumps an open society when rabble rousers exploit the fear of Others. The common currency took the ability of officials to manipulate their currencies to quiet the mob.

Let’s be blunt. the UK just royally Fucked Itself. The thing about Empire is giving foreign outlying nationals citizenship keeps the flow of resources back to Home country happening. A restive population ruled lightly by a popular limited monarchy. That is until those of different skin colors, language and belief start exercising their rights to create self rule. London and Paris have the same problem. Agreements for peaceful transfer of control granted dual citizenship. The Empire came home. And they didn’t look like us.  Integration of  the Others. America saw these with the hollowing out of the cities following WWII. A rising economic tide floats all ships. The result of Jim Crow was and still is a clustering of second class citizens.

Funny thing was those prosperous blacks who moved into white or ethic urban communities shared the same values with those that ran away.Except for the color of their skin. The Other. Fear. the UK never could integrate the West Indians and Jamaicans. Pakistanis. Indians. They all did what immigrant communities do in a foreign land. They clustered. Entire cities became culturally different. Mostly where rents were cheap. Economic depressed areas where unemployment was high due to the collapse of traditional industry. Michigan and the auto industry. Those with resources. The young creatives moved. Those with skills. All moved. Leaving who?

Immigrants are the problem according to the Exit pundits. We see it here. The urban centers are majority Dems. The rural areas are gerrymandered Reps. Their are no Purple states. Forget elected officials not seeing the change in the world economy. Forget under funding the schools. Reinvestment in job retraining? Forget about it. Those people don’t vote for my party. Rabble. Let em eat cake.

The hub of world trade. Banking. Shipping. Culture. The British Empire. Guess what. You aren’t the only game in town anymore.The winners forgot or don’t care the world is now interconnected by all those factors. The Congressional sit down protest carried on Periscope. Sure London was a great Financial center. Enforcement of contract law and all that. Watch all those institutions leave. Hong Kong. Berlin. New York. Paris. Say hello to those high paying jobs. England is at the back of the line once the trade deals expire. And all those Brits living aboard? Collecting better benefits than in Jolly Old? All coming home. Net loss.

The home of Shakespeare, Chaucer and 1 Direction has overnight chosen 2nd nation status. Well done. But hey, you still have the best football league in the world. For now. The faded glory of an island empire. Enjoy being JUST an island nation. Until Scotland tells you to bugger off.

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This is mashup account of last night’s match between Detroit City FC and the Michigan Bucks in the first round of US Open Cup match. Social media and my experience at the first two US Open Cup allow me insight to the craziness. Being NGS helps.

Wednesday was the first time the NGS would gather following the MLS announcement by Gilbert and Gore. A beautiful Michigan evening sat the prefect stage for the return match between our beloved City and the Tin can Bucks. Social media had shown the depth of shock or disbelief that a summer league club wouldn’t roll over for the MLS. Dan Duggan, the Bucks longtime owner, had expressed his disdain since 2012. All this swirled in the eddies of conversation around the other rocks that dot our lives. Love of the beautiful game. Kids and our lives. Our club. Whatever happened tonight Friday would see the first match played in our new home. Keyworth. A phoenix rising once again through the hard work and money of some of those gathered.

Anticipation had grown palatable. A tragedy in Canada transformed the sky into a glorious backdrop for the emerald green expense of the field. An English factory worker would have felt the same joy when his gaze fell on the expanse of impossible green. Concentric circles carved in the carpet of dreams. Nature had been shaped to heighten the ordinary into a temple. A flat stage for one event. To be witness by those lucky enough to be there. A shared into history. Mythic figures would grow from the very Earth tonight. Soccer’s special appeal stretching back through time.

The NGS knows pageantry. Noise. Drums. Flags. All on the uneven grass slope of Oakland University. I will leave the details of play to others. For those details are important for others. Not to those in the heart of the beast. Honesty forces me to recognize the quality of the Bucks on field quality. A team built for just such a moment. This one match will be the largest crowd they will play in front of all season. Caesar tactics proved that respect. Absorb the attacks. Look to counter. The first 15 minutes are critical. No quick goals this year. Nil-Nil at half time. Pressure. A contested battle in the middle third. Division 1 players v Division 2 or true amateurs playing for the love of a game. Internationals challenging our Block M Keeper. Our success has attracted national quality. Former foes became allies.

Tension concentrated the already laser focus on the importance of this match. Breathless anticipation with every touch close to net. Weighing the unknown members of the City squad in the crucible of battle. A connected series of minutes. Special for the ones on the pitch. A childhood dream achieved. Playing in the most famous tournament exclusive to American soccer. A national stage. The mystic appeal of Detroit City’s passionate support pushed them this night. No score at Full time. Extra time. The world’s game on US soil

Evan Louro made at fingertip save to keep City’s dream alive in the 97′. It came down to PKs. 120 minutes of hard work. The imposition of wills. Desperate seconds. Waiting for one mistake. We’ve been here before. RWB Aria in our first appearance. And just like then, the NGS did a shambling migration to the goal end chosen by our opponents. City up 3-1. Bucks tie at 3-3. Joyous hope surging through the faithful. Expelling past disappoints. Then Brett Nason steps up. A shot into the upper right corner of the goal.

Insanity. No stewards. No fences. Anticipation built since childhood exploded. Pitch Invasion. The mad rush highlighted by smoke bombs. A celebratory cleansing. One more communal first in a world where such moments are rare. The only rival to the birth of my children is my first experience at Cass with the NGS. Shaping words to describe the emotional tsunami of  last night will take years. Such times are meant to be experienced. There was a sign at Cass tech. The narrow field that changed the world. Changed indeed.

Wednesday capped a year that started with uncertainty. What would Keyworth mean in the history of City? We answered that with overwhelming success. Before we ever played one match.  The Open cup slot came from the instability inherit to 4th tier soccer. The prepared make the most of the opportunities when they happen. Men of note will raise to the occasion. Two more are added to the list of Detroit City lore.

Evan Louro and Brett Nason join the lineage of City history. Josh Rogers. Kieth Lough. Adam Bedell. Will-Mellors Blare. Kofi Opare. Knox Cameron. Kevin Taylor. Cryus Saydee. The stuff legends. That day will come when their children will ask who’d you play for first? Detroit City will be first on a long list.  DCTID.

Addendum. Best quote. “Man I’d love to stay but got tons of Accounting homework to get done.” DCFC player.  Thanks Sarge. Welcome to 4th tier summer soccer in America.

 

April 24, 2016

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A milestone day for the soccer world. A coroner inquest finally ended 25 years of lies. There is justice for the 96 Liverpool supporters killed at Hillsborough. The police systemically covered up all their actions that led to the deaths. Men, women, children and young people.  The ripple effects of blaming drunk ticket less Liverpool supporters for the tragedy changed the fundamental course of the football world. All seat stadiums replaced standing terraces. The supporters, ALL Supporters, are hooligans. They can’t be trusted to behave. Hillsborough. The bigger the TV contracts became. The harsher the controls in the stadium. Packaging of the game into something safe.

The MLS is a product of this world standard. Determined not to make the mistakes of the past failures the organization adopted a control culture. Twenty years on clubs have approved Supporter Groups. Codes of conduct. Top down enforcement that varies from club to club. Year long banning order for lighting a smoke bomb but show that in their corporate ads. Treating supporters like criminals by videoing supporter tailgates before matches. The home club’s SG. Doctrine set by on the British police model. Hillsborough.

News report. Dateline Detroit. The owners of the NBA Cleveland Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons are bring the MLS to town. Dan Gilbert moved his company downtown when it wasn’t cool. He owns half of the downtown skyline. MSU graduate. Michigan guy. Tom Gores. Same. Except they’re both basketball guys. Where does that leave Detroit City FC? My club.

Those two words define the difference in the cultures. Soccer is a working class game. Sushi and WIFI are foreign to a food truck and beer culture.  Unlike other American sports there are not breaks in the action for plays or TV timeouts. Casual conversations happen before or after the match. Not during. A sport played during any weather. The supporters standing through it all. That’s what Detroit City is. It’s who I am.

Twenty four hours has passed. The Northern Guard Supporters, NGS, are unapologetic in the way we carry ourselves. When the NGS have a social media coordinator, haters gonna hate. All those critics that have taken shots at the NGS for the Detroit attitude piled on. Your club will fold. It can’t survive a professional team being in the same town. No one going to your poxy little stadium by the tracks.  Serves you right for being such assholes to me before. Never forget they wrote off Detroit before.

DCFC is a global brand. A 4th tier summer league club of current and former college students rank higher than some MLS clubs in social media coverage. NGS 989. NGS 517. NGS Flint Outpost. DC and Portland. Those are just the one I know of. Every year there are stories about where will soccer expand to next. Detroit been at the top of the list because of DCFC. Winning on the pitch. Where players love the atmosphere created by the NGS. The owners and the supporter culture on the same page. Why? Because it’s what they wanted watching the Bundesliga or Serie A or EPL growing up. They played soccer. It’s their sport.

There are two Detroits. The City itself has been in the national headlines. No need to say more. The towns surrounding the city core might has well be on a different planet. Affluent. Thriving. Nice houses with landscaped green lawns. Newer cars. Good schools. And want nothing to do with the city or it’s residents. Go to see the Lions, Tigers and Wings? Sure. Leave has soon as possible. It’s not just in the suburbs. Where I live it’s the same. 90 minutes north or across the state.

Detroit City FC is a culture formed by the immigrants from other states and the world.  A generation without a history in the city. Others whose family moved out, have returned. The Urban Cores are becoming chic again. Money is flowing back in. Displacing those that stayed.  The G2 news release sited growing numbers of youth players in SE Michigan. It begs the question of what audience they want.  Family Friendly proved such a great success that no one uses it anymore. Bucks. The MLS want to have another Portland, Seattle and Kansas City. Owners are in charge of that. Working with the SG to let it happen.  The German way. Not the EPL. NOT Hillsborough.

Standing terraces are making a comeback. Modern soccer has become sterile. English clubs have asked their supporters if they want safe standing areas. A resounding Yes. Keyworth will have standing terraces in the supporter section. Where smoke will billow from when we score. Where the drums and chants will be loudest.  F Bombs will ring across the pitch. An atmosphere into which I found myself. For the first time in my life I felt part of something that would influence anything for that point on. Only the birth of my children rank higher.

You club finds you. Its the place we feel most alive. What gets us through the hard times because of the deep friendships made there. Father to sons and daughters. Child born to the Rouge and Or. Marriages. Buried in the same. I bought season tickets in 2012 five minutes after discovering Detroit had a team. Would I make any of the Matches? Didn’t know. Now my greatest fear has come true. A millionaire Boys Club could steamroll DCFC.

Here’s what I know. Attendance has grown every year by double digits. We outgrew Cass Tech. $750,000 has been raised to renovate an old school stadium in the heart of the most cultural diverse city in Michigan. FC United of Manchester is coming on May 28th to play Detroit City of the NPSL, not the MLS, in their first international match. The people of Hamtramck are welcoming us with open arms. The offices and store are there. The first item sold was to a little girl from the neighborhood. The Northern Guard will always be club first. If the Gores/Gilbert group ignores all this, DCFC will survive. Summer only soccer. Fine.A working class sport in the heart of the city that defined what working class means.  I am City Till I Die. In Ink and Blood. Forever Rouge et Or.

 

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