Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Dear Representative Jeff Denham (Again)

I have contacted your office by phone call, text, email, and fax.  And although your staff have been considerate, I have not received a response from you.  And I fail to understand your continued support for this tax reform legislation.  The only thing with regard to this bill that seems of any value to me and my friends and family is the label of "tax reform."  I agree that our nation desperately needs such a thing.   But this bill does not do the job.  It is a boondoggle for the very rich, and at the expense of everybody else-- an overwhelming majority of people that you purport to represent.
I cannot justify supporting this bill.  I have not met someone in my community who can justify supporting this bill.  How can you?  I want to hear your words.  Please carefully explain to me your justification for supporting this bill.

How much do you stand to benefit from the passage of this package?  I can tell you that I do not feel represented by you.  You are failing me and my family and friends.  Does that matter to you?

You have a job to do, and so do I.   I'm interested to hear your rationale.  And you must make your vote as you see fit.  But do not forget,  Mr. Denham, for whom you are voting.  As there will soon be a time for me to vote as well.


Thursday, December 14, 2017

What of This Stone Mountain?

Some thoughts to develop... Why did my relatives want to visit Stone Mountain?  Did they have a deeper understanding of what it represents?  Did they just want to see it because it was a monument in their home state of Georgia?  Were they impressed with the monument itself?  What did they think of the mountain that had been carved into?  Was there any talk of plantation life and/or slavery, or the contributions of slaves to the culture that the monument celebrates?  What were they most impressed by in visiting the monument, and taking the tour of the Stone Mountain Memorial?  What do they recall of the history of our nation with regards to this monument and the events and accounts surrounding it?

My intent here is not to drag anybody out into the open and ridicule their views or beliefs.  I am trying to understand.  That's all anybody wants-- to understand, and be understood.  But I can remember my relatives going on a trip to Stone Mountain, and when they returned, they had much praise for the experience.  But this movie puts it in a much different context.  It speaks to the defiance of failed movement (at least, one that was conquered and surrendered to end the Civil War) that continues to the present day, insidiously, cached in the argument of "history" and "fond remembrance of a forgotten way of life."  Not everyone sees it this way.  But I do.  I see the white supremacy movements as hateful.  I see people championing a history that is washed "clean" of all negroes, and casts them as shadows, relegated to the background.

But there is middle ground, I believe.  We don't have to disintegrate each other to attain it.  We need to integrate ourselves, and own our history.  Together.  We have to embrace each other, smile, and get on with understanding ourselves and each other.

I cannot do this alone.  I cannot know what you are thinking unless you tell me.  Write to me.  Comment on the blog, or send me a post card.


Check out the link to the movie below...

Stone Mountain (Shaun King Videos)

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Reform Your Tax Reform

Dear Mr. Denham:

Thank you for considering my input.  As I understand it, the tax plan which you will be voting on soon has a provision to dismantle or undo or repeal the Affordable Care Act.  Please do not accept this provision.  It has nothing to do with the tax code and should not be attached to a tax reform bill.  In addition, it seems that the tax reform that this bill is proposing will benefit primarily the extremely wealthy and corporations, while actually diminishing the benefits and services for citizens like me and my friends and family.  I do not think this bill would improve conditions for the majority of Americans,  and should not move forward.   Any tax cuts should go to what remains of the middle class and the poor.  Study upon study has shown that over the last several decades there has been a saturation of wealth at the very top of the income brackets, as money and services have been bled from most Americans and earmarked for a precious few.  This is a trend that must stop.  It is suffocating our nation, and we are losing our direction.  Please scrap this bill.  Vote no.  And work harder to make all of America great again.

Sincerely,

Michael J. Andrade

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Honoring the Passion

So a new day has dawned.  Well, technically speaking.  It's 12:02 am now, and Wednesday is officially in production.  And so is my blog for the first time in 2016.  Ham and cheese Felipe Alou ya.  (Somewhere in my brain, I just thought of a really creative way to say hallelujah with added colorful metaphors.  And then I put it down in electronic ink for you, my dear avid reader fan.  You're welcome.)

It's been so long since I wrote for the sake of writing.  In an effort to communicate my innermost thoughts and tickle the muse's belly.  Or just to share a concept or observation, and get it out of the para-reality of my mind and manifest it in the written word, and in the greater physical world.  So welcome back me.

Since some time in 2007, I think, I've been sharing musings and photographs and political memes through the Facebook interface.  And it's been mostly fun reconnecting with folks from my past, or just having a common place to go try and connect with people I know, even if some of them I've never actually met in person.

But oftentimes, I was left disappointed by the interaction with people on Facebook.  I had numerous friends from high school that live relatively close to me.  But actually finding time to meet anyone for coffee or a meal or just to chat-- to actually manifest a meeting-- just didn't seem to happen much.  And I have a large number of people that I exchanged contact information with, but didn't end up getting the conversations going or receiving the mail or email or texts that I had hoped.  I was constantly chasing people, it seemed, and not finding what I was looking for.

And I stretched myself to try and get out there more, to broaden my invitations and perspectives so I could better my odds of finding some friends to share my life with.  I was more accepting of people who have opinions counter to mine, and I wanted even to converse about these subjects to hone my own opinions and search for common ground and solutions to the difficulties that we could agree needed our attention. 

But often I found myself making sacrifices and not having my needs met.  I felt like an outsider, like I didn't speak the same language as the others whose friendship I sought.  Continually, I would try to interact, but I would not receive the interactive engagement that I was seeking. 

But some of that is a part of my psychosis.  I tend to take things very personally, even in situations where there was no intent for such thinking on my part.  And it is often hard for me to identify this automatic, distorted thinking at the moment where it occurs.  Oftentimes, it isn't until several hours later that I'm able to reassess things and discover my egregious misunderstandings.

That being said, there also seems to be no shortage of unkind, rude folks out there in cyberworld.  And a strategic encounter with one of them at the precise moment when I am in the throws of a symphony of distorted thinking, well... it can lead to some regretful behavior on my part.

Or, I can withdraw, and initiate a pattern of avoidance that initially feels better, but does nothing to address the issue.  In fact, it ends up exacerbating the problem, because it doesn't go away just by me avoiding it.

Anyway.  At this point in my life, I realize that I am a writer, and an artist, and if I don't commit a significant part of my life towards exploring one or both endeavors, I get sick.  Mentally ill.  And I have been neglecting this in my life as of late.  Even though I think I've done some good work and made inroads on several other fronts in the last year.  It's not enough.  I realize that.  But I also realize that I don't have to fix it all.  I just need to keep trying, as well as acknowledge that I am doing the best that I can, and that that is good enough.  I don't need more pressure to produce some desired results.  I will be my best self by honoring my passion and listening to my heart and intuition and trusting those that I love to help guide me where I need to go.

So basically I'm upbeat and hopeful as the summer is wrapping up and we transition into summer overtime here in the Central Valley.  I have hopes of securing funds that will allow us to initiate plans for our yards and bring a bounty of fruits and vegetables and nuts and spices.  I still hope to have an outdoor movie before the warms evenings have ended.  I have many dreams.

How about you, kind audience?  Can you engage me with your dreams?  What does September hold for you and me?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

To Brazil and Back

When I was 17 years old, I gave my varsity home football jersey to my girlfriend at the time so she could wear it and I could be extra cool, showing off that not only was I a varsity football player, but I also had a really cute cheerleader for a girlfriend who liked wearing my name on her back.  But as high school romances sometimes go, it was short-lived, and I was faced with the task of somehow getting my jersey back from an ex-girlfriend.

She seemingly moved on quickly, whereas I was troubled.  I had high-standards for who might qualify to be my girlfriend.  I only had crushes on about eighty percent of the student body.  But the names changed daily.  Naomi, Kim, Jan, Carrie, Heather, Jenny, Jill.  Michelle, Missy, Theresa, Dawn.  So many beautiful flowers, and me buzzing quietly, scheming to slurp their nectar.

But that was high school.  Which, looking back now, went very quickly.  Didn't seem like it at the time-- I hadn't witnessed the speed of a workday at a job that I hated.  Talk about eternity.  Made those econ classes seem like bad commercials.

The perspective was different because the experience was different.  The chemistry was different.  There were lots of firsts going down-- first kiss; first "tongue," "first time." And everyone's was different.

I wasn't able to communicate the importance of that football jersey to my ex.  So even though I asked her several times, I didn't get it back.

She had living with her that year that we dated (for all of three weeks) a foreign exchange student from Brazil.  Flavia was her name.  And though I never really felt attracted to her, I knew people that were.  That doesn't mean by some mathematical transitive property I was actually attracted to her.  But I noted that she was, well, feminine. 

She was very different from the kind of girls I liked to "fall" for-- how she did her hair, and what she wore.  It just wasn't my thing at the time.

But Ang had seen me in the hallway between classes, and she had come up to me and hugged me, and she smelled so good, and everything was so good from that point on.  She was my first love, and she taught me how to kiss with tongue.  It was exhilarating!

So I had started, almost immediately, about planning the rest of our lives together.  Where would we be married?  What will I do for a living?  Where will we live?  Ang was adamant.  "Um, slow down!" she told me.  "Let's enjoy right now."

In our free time we'd find some privacy and make out for what seemed like hours, just reveling in the emotion.  It felt like time would never end, that we'd always be together loving each other in eternally renewing, freshly exhilarating now-ity.

I experienced significant growth and emotion then, and looking back it seems like there are strands connecting me back to those few weeks that stretch out over times throughout the rest of my life.  I'm still so connected to those threads.

Nowadays threads take on different meanings.  There are conceptual thoughts strung together in social media, conversational threads that string thoughts along.  And there are so many thoughts out there, it's easy to think that it's all a mangled mess of knots and chaos.

I had felt an obligation to get that jersey back, not just because it was of much sentimental value to me, but also because it had cost my parents a lot of money and I felt guilt to that end.  But most of all, I kind of saw it as the final stitch in the relationship. 

Over the years, a lot happened.  I fell in love many times, got hurt many times, made some bad decisions, failed some classes in college, struggled with drinking too much and not studying enough.  And some nights, when I was particularly lonely, I thought about Ang, and how maybe we were meant to be together again someday.

Many years have passed.  It's been almost 30 years since I was on the varsity football team.  I've been married over 17 years to a real hotty.  And we're very happy.  It ain't perfect, but we're doing good. 

I've reconnected with Ang through Facebook.  She's married, got a kid or two.  We exchanged a couple friendly messages when we first reconnected.  But it's not like we're pen pals.

I still have those moments when I'm feeling particularly lonely.  Especially because my wife is living away, with her mother, during the week, working in Santa Clara, and I'm here in Escalon.  Weekends just don't last very long.

So I've been known to get on social media and try and drum up some entertainment.  Always looking for conversations.  Funny, how it's usually when everybody else is sleeping.

So on a total whim I looked up the exchange student.  I had heard over the years that she had taken my football jersey when she had returned home to Brazil.  And my mind just couldn't and wouldn't let it go.  So I sent Flavia a note, asking if she knew what had happened to the jersey.

And she responded.

Yes, she did.  In fact, her brother had it.  She sent a picture, and there it was, looking like it had been frozen in time.  29 years-- had her brother worn it at all, or just kept in in cold storage?

She sent it to me and I received it earlier this week.  My number 81, the same as Oakland Raider great Tim Brown, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame earlier this summer.

What an honorable thing, to preserve this jersey.  Thank you.  It brings me much pride.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

What Gets Your Goat?

So, hello sportsfans.  It's been many moons.  Well, the same old moon, but many different appearances in the sky.  Waxing and waning.  About a year, really.  Since I posted last.

So I'm trying to get 'er done.  Get back on the horse and ride a bit.  Hope she don't buck me.  And sift towards the sunset.

Lots has changed.  Like my location, for one.  I'm back in Escalon, the town where I graduated high school.  The town where I had my first sexual experiences.  The town where my parents have owned a home (mortgage) since 1981.  Well, not exactly true.  They've since paid off the mortgage.  But it wasn't always so financially expedient.

We moved here (to Escalon) in the summer of 81.  I was excited because the girl I had been crushing on for the better part of my sixth grade at Creekside private school in Modesto was from Escalon.  I somehow derived what street she lived on (via the phone book) and took to riding my ten-speed bike over to her neighborhood regularly.  Alas, we did not ever chance an encounter.  I wonder where she has ended up in this great wonderous world.

My parents originally faced great odds-- they had a mortgage rate of more than 20%!  But through the years, the house has serviced the needs of the family.  A brand new home, it was completely unlandscaped.  And had a punch list of items to be corrected as a stipulation of purchase.  But we made it through somehow, and I left my room for Grinnell, Iowa at the end of the summer of 1987.

So many things have transpired since then.  For instance, mom and dad moved out and rented the place for a few years, while they relocated to the Bay Area, following better working conditions (and better pay).  But they're back now, and they own another home that they are quite fond of.  My sister and her family live in the original house now.  My room is housed by my youngest nephew, named after me.

So I wonder now, what's the point of this exercise?  Well, I'm hoping to get back in shape, writing wise.  I want to take advantage of the situation I'm in and make some inroads towards what I want to do ultimately with my life.  I'm still searching for the perfect turn of phrase, and to write a complete work.  I mean, besides my other efforts to date.  (Note the existence of The Raging, Flaming Goat of Samos, available on Amazon dot com and Barnes and Noble dot com.)  I still hope to do a memoir recounting my experiences in Greece and the ensuing journey through the mental health spectrum.  So stay tuned.

Truth is I'm a bit scared to try and get all this shit down.  I'm afraid of succeeding in gaining an audience.  I don't want to have to field questions about this shit.  I just want to get it down so that others might enjoy experiencing through me what it's like to go mad.  To be suicidal.  And to live to tell about it.

I don't purport to have any answers or parables or shit.  I just am trying to figure it out my own self.  To get at the basic components and ride the wave, glistening, on the edge of destruction.  I feel an obligation to revisit my fears and make some sense of them.  I want to find the golden ore in the shifting granite.  I want to elicit the elixir made of shed blood and broken spirits.  I want to lay down the coronation blanket to comfort the fragile infant.  I wish for understanding.

There are bits of it in music-- songs from my childhood, and from other chance encounters-- and there are pieces earned by suffrage and yearning for a greater good and balance.  We must not give out the white flags.  There is glory in continuing the struggle.  There is nutrition in the stone and dirt.

I don't know why or how.  I only know that I want to know.  Do you know what I mean?

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Loving Giving

A state of the union address, from the state of my own head.  How am I doing?  I think I'm doing very well right now.  I have been compliant with my treatment and have stopped drinking.  I'm in an intensive outpatient program and have been attending group therapy sessions.  I'm being creative, making art and writing again.  I'm a pleasure to be around.  (tee hee) I'm making progress on my yards and garden.  I'm helping out with the chores around the house.  I'm cleaning up and organizing the office and garage.  I'm blogging again.

I'm not dwelling on my mistakes.  I'm not dwelling on my expectations, even when they aren't met.  I'm just doing what I know how to do, little bits at a time, so I don't get too overwhelmed.  And it's working.

Whaddaya know.

Is this how it's supposed to go?  What say you, universe?  Is the secret not so secret?  Am I living at the speed and timbre that all things living do it?  Is there really a thing called control?  Or is it another ghost we created in our attempts to be all of it at once? 

My blog is for me and those who know me, primarily.  Others may stumble upon it and maybe even enjoy it.  But I am not going to actively pursue methods of marketing it.  Because it drags me away from the writing, it drags me away from my well-being.  It drags me away from what I'm really trying to do. 

I'm trying to find universal truths here, however I can.  I'm only one tiny spec of perspective in this huge dust cloud of a galaxy in some larger entity's vacuum cleaner.  So I'm gonna play as best I can.  I'm gonna practice and try to give birth to a symphony, and may it be played and lead to more symphonies, if not a whole school of music.  May these songs be sung and played and manipulated and regurgitated like nutritious syrup and enlightened kibble.  May the violins streak naked sonnets across soft meadows of heather and jasmine.  Strings, yes.  Reeds, yes.  All of them, holding hands and playfully galloping over rolling hills.  Maybe even Julie Andrews would be there, before the nodule.

I hope to have more regular attempts writing down some of these endeavors.  I'd like to write a musical.  I'd like to write a song.  I have already written lyrics.  Here they are, to be set to music someday, of course:



“give love”


Love like a painted nickel
Love like a whirling game
Love like it’s meant for nothing
Love by its every name

Give all that you can muster
Give like the southward wind
Give like it doesn’t need you
Give all that you can send

Love one and love another
Love it all and once again
Love like fathers and their daughters
Love whether or not sane

Give to all that fight to matter
Give to all there is no greed
Give to each and every lover
Give until there is no need

Give your love to friend and neighbor
Give your love to everyone
Give your love to foe or stranger
Giving love is never done


I like that song.  I kinda have a way of singing it to myself, but I'm not sharing yet.  I think I might try and write a melody with my nephew this summer.  He's quite musical and creative.

Thanks for reading.