Dynasties are broken systems in democracies. Hero worship, assumed candidacies, party machines, these all were power black holes.
We didn’t need answers, we just needed to crack the door open for the answers to develop. That’s what Granny D inspired me to do. That’s the wisdom I was going to hang my hat on, what was left once I stripped out all of the emotion and bullshit.
Pull the weeds and the garden will recover. Sunlight will cure the rot. Or as I put it in my press release, you can’t fail at democracy.
Failure is in not trying.
So I ran for governor, as a write in candidate of course.
105 videos containing 11 hours of footage interviewing around 35 people including city mayors comptrollers artists and librarians, as well as a half dozen animals including a toad, some peacocks and an emu.
It was a hot mess of raw content on a dysfunctional website I was teaching myself to build while also trying to edit the footage down AND create our shot schedule every morning.
While living out of a Honda Civic with my young love and about a thousand dollar budget that was supposed to last us four months.
Yeah the project had quickly spiraled out of control. To begin with, I still hadn’t changed my name legally. So though I was going around introducing myself as Shazz, I had an internal conflict not to mention the illogic of running, even symbolically, for candidacy under a false name.
We were using couchsurfing heavily to take breaks from sleeping in the backseat of the car, where most nights than not we’d pile our clothes to a flattened mound and make a nest for two. Then in the morning we’d grab a cup of coffee somewhere with wifi and I’d outline a rough idea of where to find our shots;
-give me the top and bottom couple addresses in this local real estate market
-give me whatever art scene they have, collective, museum, gallery, whatever
-what industry is historic here?
-that kid walking down the street looks interesting, get the phone out let’s go
It was just too much. After the last “loan” from the folks to keep us going, and after the last blowup with friends to crash on their couch – interrupting their very real responsibilities with our delusions of populist uprising – we called it quits.
My girl went back to Manhattan to regroup and myself, I went back to my parents house in Southern California without Sancho Panza. My insanity had returned and then abated once again through poverty, but taken hold deeper in my psyche for the flare up.
I became a loose canon grabbing at political straws for any writing project I could conceive of to crack through the noise.
This video is embarrassing, but not because I’m running around in my underwear putting on a bad cholo accent.
My folks were working at the time to save their business and house through a deepening historic recession while my head was in the clouds. I bummed around and refused to work. Yeah I explored some interesting ideas, but at the cost of those around me. I was taking a lot and giving back little.
When I reflect upon what it means to be a good man I think about this time and what those decisions cost us, what other decisions could have helped us avoid as a family.
I continued to invest in my own story, the small truth, by exploring the Mexican American experience deeper.
And I also tried to contextualize the broader American citizen’s struggle against oppression through literature, discovering multiple new layers to one of my favorite authors while also starting to resonate with anarchism, a concept I once thought too far out there.
The low water mark was probably when I was living out of my car in San Francisco on the few dollars I had left.
A cup of coffee and a boiled egg from a local cafe were luxuries. My friends in the Bay Area were no longer taking my calls. I was showering at the nudist beach on the north shore in view of the Golden Gate bridge, walking into the ocean with my wash cloth and shampoo on sunny days, and otherwise reading about the pirating exploits of London’s childhood.
At one point Jack imposed himself upon his sister, making her support him as well as her own children while he tried to make it as a writer. I lived with this arrogance, but with less support, until I got it in my head to walk in front of Nancy Pelosi’s office downtown for the distance from Iraq’s gulf border to Baghdad, symbolically tracing the path of our invasion.
War had become my ultimate injustice, my cause. And Pelosi, the daughter of a congressman who had worked her way up the democratic party through her fundraising acumen, was the perfect figurehead for an entrenched, corrupt political class.
Remember when the Democrats had total control of government in 2008 and a mandate to end the war?
I would spend over five hours a day for about a week pacing in front of that federal building in my BDU’s (military camo pants) with a strip of American Flag tied around my ankle.
In other words, I fit right into San Francisco’s homeless population. And then my knee started to swell to the point that I couldn’t walk anymore.
I called my mom and asked her for the gas money to drive back home.
Before my political rabbit hole, that once innocent honest inquiry that had now consumed my life, I did have other plans. Like Jack London I always envisioned myself as an explorer of the world.
Raised in the desert but with my dad a beach kid from Costa Mesa, I loved the sea and warmer climates. So in 2002 I sent away for an information packet on Fiji. Apparently there were good deals on land there, Clint Eastwood even owned some property and he has good taste – if you doubt me just visit Carmel by the Sea sometime.
So a life of island paradise was always in the back of my mind. It just took a call from a friend who had moved to Puerto Rico to make it a reality. Closer to the beginning of empire, closer to my heritage, further away from responsibilities and failures.
I surprised my friend on Valentines Day with her bike as a gift from California and the need for a place to live. I left my books though, and luckily that first week my laptop was stolen so I couldn’t write.
New beginnings, new lessons in the wild.
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