Monday, July 18, 2011

The ‘60s Store

Fourth Avenue in Tucson near the University of Arizona is filled with shops that cater to the student population. There are import stores, funky coffee shops, a bookstore and a Food Co-op to name a few. I like going up there, sitting in one of the coffee shops, having a latte and writing or reading. A store that got my attention recently is called the Hippie Gypsy. The outside of the building is hand painted with rock ‘n’ roll musicians from the ‘60s. I assumed it was a record/CD store, but it’s not.
The other day after finishing my Latte and needing to get off my sore butt and move around, I walked over and checked the store out. I thought maybe I could find some old music, but the store sells everything but music--posters, tapestries, clothing, jewelry, buttons, eastern religious icons, lots of doodads with the peace sign and love written on them and those strings of beads you hang in the doorway. Every item was meant to look like it came out of the ‘60s, but none of it did. It was all new stuff.
I surrendered my backpack to the young man behind the counter and immediately a sales girl came up and asked if she could be of help. I told her I was just looking. She continued to stand there, so I asked her who was into all this ‘60s stuff. She said a lot of young people and she was one of them. “That’s why I work at this store.”  I asked her what she liked about the ‘60s and she said she loved the music and the look and everything. “Even my little sister is getting into it. She loves The Who.” She said her sister’s birthday was coming up and she wanted to get her something related to The Who. I suggested the CD and DVD of Tommy. She hadn’t heard of it, so I launched into a lengthy description about it; the first Rock Opera in the 70’s later made into a movie, how all the band members of The Who had parts in the film with Roger Daltry as Tommy, the deaf, dumb and blind Pinball Wizard. Elton John played his rival the pinball champ, Jack Nicholson was the Doctor. I told her I thought Ann Margaret won some kind of award, but she didn’t know who Ann Margaret was and anyway I think I lost her somewhere near the beginning. She was standing there being polite, but her eyes told me she was actually somewhere else. When I stopped talking she said, “Cool”. I began to browse around the store.
She showed up again as I was staring at a giant picture puzzle. The picture was a view of John Sebastian from the back of the stage as he looked out over the sea of people at Woodstock. 
John Sebastian at Woodstock
He was wearing tie-dyed clothes with an acoustic guitar hanging from a shoulder strap. She said, “Isn’t that a cool puzzle?” I agreed and asked her if she knew who the guy in the picture was. No, she didn’t? Well I couldn’t help myself. I launched into another informational lecture. Did she know that John Sebastian was not even scheduled to play at Woodstock? After Country Joe & The Fish finished their electric set, it had started to rain and the organizers feared the musicians might get electrocuted. They needed somebody to play an acoustic set, someone who could hold the crowds’ attention until it stopped drizzling. John was hanging out in the back with the other musicians. He hadn’t even brought a guitar with him, so he borrowed one from Tim Hardin, went onstage and played an unrehearsed set for half a million people. I realized I’d lost the sales girl again, but I felt this was such important information that maybe some of it would get through. Besides, I was on a roll. There was a little spark of interest in her eyes when I mentioned that John tie-dyed all his own clothes. I could have told her about the time I met him in Seattle, but I didn’t. It just so happened it was time for her break. She said goodbye, yelled to the guy behind the counter that she was going on break, and quickly left the building.
In a separate part of the store were shelves of hookahs, pipes and tobacco, a modern version of what we used to call a “Head Shop”. I recognized the small marijuana pipes, but none of the various shiny aluminum appliances with protruding hoses. The young man behind the counter explained that these machines added moisture to the smoke and made it real smooth, above us hung numerous posters of Bob Marley.
It was interesting to see which musicians were represented in this store. The main ones were Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, both sans their bands. The Beatles were all over the place, Mick Jagger, mostly without the other Stones, Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia and lots of Grateful Dead skeleton stuff, Frank Zappa, Stevie Nicks, who didn’t become popular until the late ‘70s and Janis Joplin. Bob Marley was heavily represented, but no other reggae musicians. Most of the merchandise represented the psychedelic era, but I saw no evidence of Grace Slick or the Jefferson Airplane and no Iron Butterfly, Vanilla Fudge or Pink Floyd. I saw no evidence of the folk scene except for Dylan, no R&B artists and no British invasion groups except the Beatles.
My conclusion is that the store is promoting a lifestyle and a look all about peace and love and smoking marijuana from an apparatus that makes it moist and smooth while listening to ‘60s music and reggae and maybe some late Fleetwood Mac, while putting a puzzle together of a cool looking guy in tie-dyed clothes at a really big concert and all while looking really cool wearing some colorful clothes with lots of anti-war/peace/love buttons on them.
It could be worse. Remember when they were all wearing spiked dog collars with shaved heads and body piercings and singing about violence, destruction and hos?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Latest Media Crime/Trial Extravaganza

I don’t know how many horrendous crimes there are in the US each year, but periodically the media picks out one and this becomes the big story. We all can’t help but follow it because it catches fire, making its way into all  media outlets. The latest one is the Caylee Anthony murder trial. This case proved to be typical of the cases that are played out in the media. It turned out to be frustratingly dissatisfying because we never find out what really happened.

This case is over now and but more  questions were left unanswered than were answered. I heard three different theories as to how little Caylee died. One originally told by her mother Casey, then the one presented by the prosecution and a different one presented by Casey’s defense lawyers. None of them were substantiated by hard evidence. None of them explained why Casey’s trunk smelled like a dead body, how the body got out to the woods and why  there was duct tape on the skeletal remains. These seem like pretty important questions that need to be answered. But getting down to the truth of what really happened did not seem to be a priority with either side in this trial.

Who investigated this case anyway? It certainly wasn’t Lt. Colombo. He would have kept showing up  asking questions and being such a nuisance that the murderer would confess just to get rid of him. And if Perry Mason were prosecuting the case, of course he would have had to switch from being a defense lawyer, he would have made sure that Casey Anthony took the stand so that he could verbally break her down until she blurted out a confession. During the trial, Perry would have sent Della Street out of the court room only  to return later with a critical piece of evidence that PI Paul Drake dug up somewhere. Don’t  Casey Anthony’s lawyers watch TV?

When I worked as a Sex Offender Therapist for a few years, we routinely subjected our clients to lie detector tests. It was an excellent way to keep them on the straight and narrow.One lie detector test was not conclusive proof however, but a series of them over time had a high rate of validity. We know that Caylee’s mother, Casey is a chronic liar so she doesn’t need to be tested. But if they gave the trial lawyers lie detector tests, this would help keep them focused on the actual facts of the case instead of wandering off into their own fabricated stories.

The other big media case that comes to mind is the OJ Simpson trial. OJ’s lawyer, Johnny Cochran, became so famous because of this case that he was the inspiration for a character on Seinfeld.  At the time of the OJ trial, I was teaching classes for perpetrators of domestic violence. One of my teaching tools was The Violence Continuum. On one end of the chart is verbal and emotional abuse and on the other is death. The theory being, if nothing changed in the relationship and there was no therapeutic intervention, the likelihood was that the violence would escalate over time and end with one of the partners killing the other. Statistically it was more likely that the man killed the woman, but sometimes it was the other way around. The OJ case was a perfect illustration of how the chart worked and I used it as an example in my classes. But the case didn’t end up like it was supposed to. Johnny ruined my teaching tool. The glove didn’t fit.

In his “tell all” book, “If I Did It”, OJ tried to cash in on the brutal murder by writing his version of the crime, but because of public outcry, it was never officially published. It was however  leaked to the media.  I read a synopsis on line and OJ portrays himself as sort of an innocent bystander at the at the death of his wife Nicole and Ron Goldman. He just happened to be standing over the bodies, holding a knife with blood all over him. Go figure, But like Johnny Cochran said “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.

I don’t think we’ll ever find out for sure what really happened to Caylee Anthony. If Casey Anthony ever writes a book, how could we believe it? Psychiatric experts have suggested that Casey probably has Anti Social Personality Disorder and/or Narcissistic Personality disorder. These diagnoses are similar in that the individuals do not have empathy for others. They live their lives like actors playing different roles as the situation changes. Without a stable integrating ego, they are totally self centered, motivated by unresolved childhood conflicts and trauma. The mistake many people make is judging others from their own frame of reference. If Casey is antisocial and narcissistic, she has an entirely different way of viewing the world.

After watching all the outraged people standing outside the courtroom screaming and holding up signs, I decided that Casey represents a side of ourselves that is repressed and resides in the shadow side of our psyches. Why else would we get so angry and want to see her punished. I’m not saying we all secretly want to kill our kids and go party, but there is a selfish side to our natures that at times surfaces when a child pushes our limits. Anyone who’s raised a teenager knows what I’m talking about. The majority of us are able to keep this dark side at bay, so in spite of how we sometimes feel, we continue to do the right thing and what’s best for our child.

Concerning the feeling of utter frustration these trials leave us with, maybe the answer is to withdraw from the real world into the fictional one. Even though Robert Parker died last year, I was pleased to learn that another writer will continue to write his Jesse Stone novels. I can count on Jesse to figure it all out and wrap up the case neatly by the end of the book. Peter Falk is also gone now, but I think watching some Colombo reruns might help as well, at least until the media decides what its next crime/trial extravaganza will be.

I still think Clarence Thomas sexually harassed Anita Hill?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Old Drivers in Arizona

In this morning’s paper is a picture of a big beautiful Lincoln ContSaturday Crashinental sitting in the produce aisle of our local Safeway. Somebody put the gear shift lever on D instead of R and stepped on the gas. A few people had minor injuries, but no one was seriously hurt. This is not an uncommon occurrence here in Green Valley. Not long ago a car leapt over the parking curb and destroyed the Red Box video machine in front of Walgreens--no first run movies for a few weeks.
Last month I got a ticket in Tucson for running a red light on my motorcycle. I had no idea I had broken the law until a few days later when I received pictures of myself in the mail. One of the many cameras planted around the city had captured me on video. There I was out in the middle of the intersection turning left with the traffic light above my head shining bright red.
Traffic violation pictureIn Tucson, most of the green arrows come on after the green light instead of before it. So those of us waiting to turn left against the traffic can be assured we will have an opportunity to turn left when the oncoming traffic is halted. Some lights however have a sign by them that informs “leading left turn signal” which means the left turn arrow is before the green. I’m not sure which one this particular light was and that was the problem,  hence the ticket. When the light turned red, the car ahead of me took off and the car to my side took off, so I took off as well. I wonder if they got tickets too?
I was informed that I had three options to rectify this ticket. I could pay a fine of $322, I could go to court and contest it, or I could take a defensive drivers class costing $218. By taking the class, the ticket is wiped off my record and I don’t pay the fine. There were two options for taking the class. The first, I could drive to Tucson and attend a half day session with other law breakers or I could take it on-line at my own pace and in the privacy of my own home. I chose the on-line option--big mistake.
The information in general is repetitive and boring and does not have the older driver in mind. It specifically targets younger drivers who talk on cell phones, carry babies around the wrong way in car seats and ingest lots of legal and illegal substances while driving. I did learn a few things from the course like not pumping the brakes in a skid with an Anti-lock Braking System. It took me the better part of a week to get through all the material. I could have been done in half a day.
My strategy for taking the course was to carefully read all the material with the hope of recognizing the correct answer on the multiple choice test at the end. The course had 5 sections and after each one was a 5 question quiz. Throughout the text were randomly planted pictures of objects that were totally unrelated to the defensive driving course material.The quizzes contained detailed questions about these pictures.I think the testers were making sure I was actually reading the material and not cheating somehow. 
I flunked the first 3 quizzes, all for the same reason, I ran out of time. While I was in the middle of reading question 4, time ran out. Thankfully these tests didn’t count towards passing the course, but I was beginning to feel anxious as to whether I’d have enough time to pass the final test, which did count.
To ease my anxiety, I called the contact number for the course and talked with one of the technical “experts”. She sounded like she was about 12 years old and didn’t have a firm grip on the English language. I told her my concerns about not having enough time to pass the final test. I asked her in a variety of ways whether the final was arranged and timed in the same way as the quizzes, but she either did not understand my question or didn’t know the answer or didn’t care. I assume it was a combination of all three. She repeatedly told me all the things I would have to do if I failed to pass, including attending the class in Tucson and paying additional fees. I thought that I would get some kind of reassurance by calling for assistance, but instead my anxiety level shot way up. I really didn’t want to have to attend the class and pay additional money.
I pushed ahead with the course. I needed to speed up on the quizzes and I came up with a few of shaving off a little time. I used a mouse instead of the two finger method on my laptop pad and I increased the size of the text for ease of reading. I did some deep breathing exercises before taking the 4th quiz and to my delight, I passed,  a glimmer of hope. But on the 5th quiz the unexpected happened. My cat jumped up on the table getting in my way and breaking my concentration.. I flung him on the floor, felt bad for doing it, and flunked the quiz.
For the final test, I made sure the cat was sleeping in the other room with the door closed. I had been warned several times that once I started the final, I could not get out of it until it was over. Before starting, I was asked to verify that I was really who I said I was by answering 5 personal questions. Oh and by the way, this additional process would cost me another $15. This personal identification part happened after I clicked on, the final has started. One question was about my current bank. I couldn’t remember the answer and had to go into the bedroom and look it up. The time was ticking. In the process I woke up the cat who was sleeping in there and left the door to the room open. I found the answer, completed the personal questions and was ready to take the final, but I wasn’t sure where the cat was. But the final questions were totally easy and I had plenty of time to finish. The cat appeared on the rug in front of me where I was working and gave me this look like, what was the big deal?
These testing outfits need to design courses with us older folks in mind. There should be questions about how to avoid running down pedestrians in parking lots and how to safely back out of a parking space without having to turn your head around. And questions about golf carts and maybe one or two about what type of cushion to sit on so that you can see over the top of the steering wheel. And if you happen to smash through the front of Safeway, are you allowed a discount on the fruits and vegetables that are strewn all over the floor?