Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Cuban Story

Their toes sink into the thick sand and the crisp night air rushes past their faces as they frantically carry their escape raft across the beach to the Cuban shoreline—only 90 miles separate them from freedom. Ninety miles is the distance between San Francisco and Sacramento. Ninety miles is the distance between Baltimore and Philadelphia. Ninety miles is the distance between Socialism and Capitalism.

Arms tired and grips slipping, the group lets go of the raft and it falls towards the dark water which is the convergence of the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. As the raft smacks the water for the first time all they here is a loud CRACK. It is not the sound of metal slapping on water; a rock has just punctured a whole through the bottom of their vessel.

Among the group is a stranger. His name is Leonardo Martinez, he is 21; this is to be his first escape attempt from Cuba. The other members have been a team for years and most are on their seventh or eighth escape attempt. Lucky for Leonardo they are experienced and will persevere past the rock wound—nothing will stop their retreat from Cuba this time.

Martinez said the boat that would take the group to freedom was contracted out to be manufactured by an illegal boat builder. The cost for each person who would make the trip was $800—a small price to pay considering the alternative is a $10,000 cruise aboard an offshore racer whose plan was to simply outrun the US Coastguard and the Cuban Police. Once he had paid, it was an undercover game of cat and mouse as each member of the group had to complete assigned tasks to make the operation sail smoothly, while dodging the Cuban Police.

With his brother’s help, Martinez, wearing a basic brown coat, said, he had the job of delivering materials to the boat builder. The two brothers would leave their Havana neighborhood of Santa Fe at 4am and take spare parts and scraps from construction sites on the outskirts of Havana and transport them in the back of their green 59’ Chevy pickup to the boat builder. Martinez said they would leave so early to lessen the chance of a Police run-in. If they were caught, the chances of going to prison for upwards of 15 years were outstanding.

Leonardo and his team, under cloak and dagger, slide off a deserted sandbank west of Havana in a grey and white boat measuring around 13 feet in length. With him are six other men, one woman, one GPS unit, and a turkey for good luck. As the team drifts away from the shoreline, Leonardo takes sleeping pills and watches the Havana lights become fuzzier and fuzzier until his eyelids became too heavy and he himself drifts off. The date is January 29, 2006; it is 10:30pm.

Within a month of arrival, Martinez said Cuban immigrants—granted they pass the criminal background check—have a social security number and papers to live in the country for eight months. He said this system is unique to Cubans, no one else. "Its politics," he said, "If Cubans come illegally its easier to stay forever." After eight months Martinez said, if refugee Cubans can to prove they have a job and can support themselves, they can stay. After one year of arrival, they can apply for permanent US residency. On February 1st, 2007, Leony will apply for his permanent US residency.

When Leonardo wakes up, the sun is shining on his face and no land could be seen—no Cuba, no US, no Mexico—only water. It is his turn to shovel water out of the boat along with another one of the men. They take lengthy eight hour turns of two to keep the boat from filling with water. This is day one. There will be no eating on the boat no matter what, even if things get bad—they can only pee a bottle and dump it overboard. There is no number two.

When Leonardo is fully awake, he notices the sole woman onboard is hurt. The previous night when a rogue wave gave the boat a violent jolt, she had slipped, fell, and cut her leg open on the jagged metal protruding from the puncture wound on the bottom of the raft. Her leg is wrapped with part of a t-shirt—the bleeding has almost stopped.

In Cuba, Martinez says, the government pays you next to nothing for any occupation you have. Martinez was a student and would sell his own underground hip-hop CD’s to American tourists or whoever else would buy them. He said he would sell his CD's for $10, $8, $5, or whatever he could get out of the tourists. “You have to hustle to survive; the government would let you starve.”

Martinez said Castro, in his security caravan, would pass through Santa Fe on his way to public speeches and demonstrations in Havana on how the economy was being ruined by the US. “That is bullshit,” Martinez said, Castro has many houses throughout Cuba and his Swiss bank account is rumored to be among the top 10 richest in the world.

Sea sickness has set in for most of them. Throwing up over the side of the raft is all they can do. Throwing up evolves into dry heaving and then into sorrowful moaning. They have no retreat from the boat, only the retreat from Cuba.

The boat’s engine, made from a transformed lawnmower motor, is weak and against the current the team makes slow ground. Being slow increases the time in the water and the risk of being caught. To lessen the chance of running into the Coastguard, they head diagonally into the Gulf towards Texas and Mexico. After a day and a few hours, they change directions and head horizontally towards the Key West. The journey is long and hard.

Cuba is his love, Martinez said, but there is no future there. It is hard to live in Cuba for so many reasons—for instance there may be free doctors, but there is no medicine. Castro shuts off all the lights one or two days a week to conserve oil. “Cops in Cuba are bullshit,” Martinez said, starting off a story. Once he was driving with his American girlfriend in Cuba and a police officer pulled them over for no reason. Just because he was seen with an American, Martinez said, the cop questioned him about if he was trying to leave the country or if he was harassing the girl he was with. Martinez said the officer threatened him saying, “If I find anything wrong, you are fucked. You are dead.”

On the boat, space is too tight to walk around. It is day two. Taking turns sleeping and shoveling water out of the raft, the group of eight must sit still. The turkey, which is a traditional religious figure in Cuba for good fortune in the coming future, roams free among the passengers and causes some uneasiness when it spooks. Also on board for luck are oranges and bananas. They can’t be eaten, only a small amount of water and milk keep death away from the refugees.

Leonardo is going crazy on the inside. He tears at his clothes and rips off parts of them to cope with the heat. His head pounds from dehydration. He thinks to himself as his legs yearn to move, “I don’t care where I land. Mexico, Cuba, America. I don’t care, just get me off this boat.” He is about to jump out into the shark infested water inches away from him when he remembers. He becomes as calm as the seagulls that float overhead. He reminds himself he does not leave Cuba only for himself, but also for his mother. He endures the risks of leaving Cuba so that she too may share in any fortune that comes his way.

Ten months later and 16 days later he is in a car driving to Oakland. Leonardo says he has never been on a plane, but he says he dreams the first time will be flying home to Cuba to see his mother. Leonardo says sometimes when he goes to bed he dreams he will wake up in Havana. He longs to be in his house with his mother, but there is no future in Cuba. “I miss my mom so much,” he said, staring off somewhere in the Bay. He hopes to put on a hip-hop concert in Cuba one day on that same plane trip.

Martinez said he writes to his mom letters to tell her how he is doing and tries to call as much as he can. But it costs 89 cents a minute to call Cuba and ten dollars a phone call adds up. He said on his last phone call to Cuba he found out from his mom that one of his best friends was caught in an undercover boat building house and might go to jail for as much as ten years.

The victim was his DJ friend Adrian who partnered with Martinez to make their first Cuban album. The Cuban hip-hop record, Martinez said, is still generating underground buzz in the socialist country.

During that same drive to Oakland from SF, Martinez looked out the passenger window and laughed, “The girls are better in Cuba. There are more 10’s there,” then he turned and smirked, “But no strippers in Cuba.” Martinez found his first strip club in Oakland. America, the land of opportunity. But, he related the girls of Cuba and the girls of the US to the two’s respective climates—one is simply all around hotter than the other.

“Weed is the best in San Francisco,” said Martinez as he smiled. He said in Cuba, weed is brown like garbage and it can barely get you high, “When I smoked in here, it was like smoking for the first time.” He said he was curled up in a ball and could barely move; after that first blunt he said, he just fell asleep. Now, he handles the high better, but he said English is near impossible when he smokes. Martinez said his New Year’s resolution is to stop smoking cigarettes—not weed though.

Back to the boat. As the morning sun rises, the group sees a faint shape in the distance. Land ahoy. The date is February 1st, 2006; it is 8:00am. As the boat touches the Island of Key West, Cuban American relief workers rush to the group’s aid. They first take the woman whose wound is now approaching three days old then three words are called out that Leonardo will never forget, “Welcome to America.”

Meanwhile in Cuba, Leonardo’s brother is brought into the Police station for questioning. The Police ask him if he is leaving too. They ask him if he knew his brother was leaving and how he left. They are brothers though, he denies everything.

Life moves a lot faster in the US said Martinez, “I blink and it is next Saturday.” He said in Cuba a person pays nothing to live and does little work; here in the US, a person has to do so much to survive. Martinez said it takes money to do everything—to buy a house, a car, food, entertainment— “If you are smiling, you had to pay.”

After they land, some US government officials confiscate the boat to put in a museum. They take the GPS and all refugee IDs are handed over. Since secrecy is so important when leaving Cuba, only a few people know when someone is going to leave. In Leonardo’s case, only his mother, his brother, a few friends, and the boat builder know that he is gone. Since no one tells of their departure, Leonardo has no idea how many people came over illegally, he thinks they the only ones today. However, a relief worker tells him that 32 are in today, 23 were in yesterday, and they expect around 50 tomorrow.

Martinez said he now knows these figures are produced by an unknown man who tracks weather conditions and Coastguard patrols. He informs Cuban boat builders and escape organizers when the best time is to leave and then he lets relief workers know on the US side how many Cubans to expect day by day. He plays a crucial part in every Cuban refugee’s escape, said Martinez. In the 80’s, without this extra help it was a lot easier to die or get sent back. Back then, it was a guessing game whether or no you would die, now it’s a different case, “I never thought when I left I could die,” said Martinez.

From the Keys, Leonardo is shuttled to Miami in a ferry which takes a few hours. Once there, he lives off of $180 a month from the US Government and finds work doing odd jobs for three months.

Martinez said he hated Miami because all the Cubans there are crazy, materialistic, and all they want is for America to take over Cuba for them. “Don’t think I’m for Castro. I just don’t want Iraq in Cuba. I want Cuba for the Cubans."

Martinez said he also struggled with his family in Miami. When he was in Cuba he had no contact with his Miami step-father and his family for 10 years, then when he arrived they welcomed him in a ‘now your one of us tone,’ trying to okay the forgotten past 10 years. Martinez said during that time he had to go into three eye operations in which he and his mother were ignored by his successful Miami family when they requested money, help, or anything. “My mom called them and wrote them saying Leony is sick, but nothing,” he said-- suddenly the scar under his left eye becomes unrelentingly noticeable.

Martinez said he looked for a way out of Miami and when is girl friend said she might go to San Francisco he jumped on the bandwagon.

From Miami, Leonardo and his girlfriend board a Grey Hound bus and travel from Florida through Alabama to Mississippi. They transfer buses there and pass through Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and into Colorado. Leonardo doesn’t want to worry his girlfriend, but in Colorado he thinks of how tired he is, how bad he wants to work, and how he has nothing.

They finish the four day journey by busing through Utah, Nevada, over the Sierras and into the Bay Area. They stay with a friend of his girlfriend’s for two months till they break up. Within one day he is on the street. Leonardo has no place to go and is about go back to Miami to live with his step-father and brother who has just escaped Cuba as well—his trip took one day because of a truck motor rather than a lawnmower motor.

However, Martinez said, it was here I was saved. He said his DJ friend convinced him to stay. DJ Jhawasel, who spins at Club Milk in San Francisco and Club Six in Oakland among other places, was his first real friend in San Francisco said Martinez, “He has my back. We are rappers together.” He moved in with Jhawasel and his wife and he was introduced to a Cuban named Camila Nieves.

Martinez said Nieves, 26, is now one of his best friends. He said she helped him find is first legitimate job at McCall’s Catering and taught him the ins and outs of the Bay Area, like where to go for Cuban friendship, where cheap rent was, and who he could turn to in the community for help. What she had taught him, he said, was that he could turn to her for help.

Nieves worked as a cultural guide for him and even introduced him to me. She became our link and a kind of interpreter for us for a short while.

When Martinez came to the US he almost lost his nickname Leony, but when his brother came out from Miami to visit it caught on again. Now, having moved on from McCall’s Catering, his new boss at Whole Foods calls him Leony along with all his friends.

Leony moved out from Jhawasel’s and now lives on 29th and Martin Luther King in central Oakland, a neighborhood that is considerably less safe crime wise than the Havana suburb he grew up in. He says he does not fear the area as he puts his fingers on his sideways turned hat and flicks them off in an act of pure confidence. Leony said the only time he has to worry is when the 29th and MLK residents think he is white, in which case he says jokingly, “I tell them I’m not white, I’m Cuban Mother Fucker. I came in the boat.”

Entering the two story house—in which Leony lives with his African American roommate Jaime, who owns a small skateboard company—the living room, which is cluttered with skateboard decks and wheels, is on the right and an empty kitchen is on the left. In the middle of the two, a stair case leading to the bedrooms winds up to the second floor. Leony’s room is nearly bare. Besides a bed, a small TV that rests on a white plastic lawn chair, and some clothes hanging in the closet, the only other occupant is Leony’s quiet non-materialistic sense of reason. He says he is saving for the thing he really wants—a better life.

Martinez said he would rather move out of Oakland and live in SF near the Haight district as he did when he first came out to the west coast eight months ago, but it is too expensive.

Leaving the house, he said he doesn’t spend much time in the street here—not nearly as much as he did in Cuba. In Cuba, he said, people play dominoes, music, and games everywhere in the street, in front yards, and in the back of their houses at all times of the day. Here, he said, people go from their house to their car to their work and back without ever stepping on the ground. But that’s the way people make it here in the US, Martinez said, they work. “The only time I go out back [and play] now, is with my girl’s son,” Leony said.

Later, at Martinez’s girlfriend’s house, one can see he tells the truth. From the moment of arrival, the six year old boy clings to Leony’s side, only letting go if it is to back up and charge full force in a tackling attempt. Leony is his protector, without him, the boy is not let outside to play.

Leony’s girlfriend, Sherekhan Weinstein, named after the devious tiger from The Jungle Book, is an African American Jew with blue eyes. “She is perfect for me,” said Leony, he himself bright eyed. He said he will love her all his life for all the help and support she has given him in getting him on his feet. Leony said sometimes when he is overly frustrated at his family in Miami or at the condition of Cuba she is there to say, “You are here to help, you need to relax.”

Weinstein, 35, was born to an African American mother and a Caucasian Jewish father. When Leony is around her family, he cannot fall back on his Spanish and must speak English for all communication. He said this helps him greatly.

“My plan is to learn English to go to University,” Leony said proudly, “I want to keep the dream going.” Leony has spurts of near perfect English, but at other times he struggles, unsure of the exact pronunciation or word. At a family dinner party, Sherekhan’s family’s love for Leony can be seen in vivid detail. The second Mrs. Weinstein sees Leony she gives him a warm hug and a kiss on the cheek. She turns to me and does the same.

Beyond Sherekhan, Leony said his life’s undertaking is his music. Leony said hip-hop is independent, that is why he loves it. “I am a survivor in a strange land,” Leony said, with the temperament of lion, “This is not my country, my language, my people. But, I am making it.” Leony said his music is underground Cuban hip-hop with some salsa beats which protests the world, street life in Cuba, Cuba the country, and Castro. However, Leony said, he tries not to be too strong in his protest so that his music in Cuba is not outlawed by the State.

Recently, Leony said, a Cuban hip-hop documentary threatened the very existence of hip-hop in Cuba. He said he loved it but it spoke out very strongly against Castro and strong words usually create banning. He said he tries not to focus on the bad in Cuba though.

He said he has to keep moving to find opportunity—he has everything he needs, but he wants more. “I want a house, a computer, turntables, more, more, more,” he said as he snapped his fingers with each word. With a wishful look in his eyes, like a kid reading his Christmas list to his parents, Martinez said he wants to be a record producer in the future, “Music is my passion.”

Leony listens to Cuban salsa and New York style hip-hop which includes artists such as the Roots, the Wu-Tang Clan, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, and the Dead Presidents.

Currently, Martinez said he is working on a new CD with four fellow Cubans. His newest song is about the history of Cuban escape and the boats that they take, including his own.

Picking Leony up from a downtown bus stop one day, we decide to grab some fast food. He said he wants pizza but we can find nothing in the Financial District. Heading across the Bay Bridge and into Emeryville to a Burger King, Leony grins and asks, “Did you know you can’t kill the cow in Cuba?”

He went on to say in Cuba, Castro has made the cow sacred and nothing short of permission from the state allows you to legally kill one. “The cow is Castro’s god…I have friends in Cuba who have gotten five years in prison for murder. I know people that are doing 15 for killing the cow.” At Burger King we order some double cheeseburgers.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Run-Around

Getting permission to interview a firefighter is harder than getting a hold of the president.
Here is the run-around I received from the SFFD. First I went down to station #12 planning to be in and out in a matter of an hour or two. Wow, was I wrong. I knock on the door at about 2pm on a rainy Sunday afternoon thinking I would receive an interview with one of the many fighters they had on duty. In response to my request of the station chief I was told I needed the Division Chiefs approval who was at station #5. I call station #5 and get a hold of Division Chief Lt. Lopez, if I recall correctly, and he gives me permission to interview one as long as no personal facts on a specific fire such as victims names and things of that nature are divulged. I have no problem with this so I knock on station #5's door again. I enter and tell the station chief the news. No longer is the Division Chief's approval good enough, I must now receive permission from the City Fire Chief. Let the fun begin. On Monday I call the City Fire Department Headquarters and seek permission. However, upon talking to a secretary, I am told I actually need permission from the Public Information Officer. I call her and leave a message-- no reply. The next day I call again and ask to talk to her from her secretary who tells me she is out for the week and she is the only one who can give me permission. So, am I to assume during this week, firefighters are absolutely inaccessible by any media? I take her word and wait eagerly till the Monday. I call and she picks up! Finally... not so fast Jacob. Mindy Talmadge, the Public Information Officer, tells me I must submit a inquiry for permission stating my intent and the nature of the story so that the City Chief can approve it. Hmmm? I'm thinking to myself, why couldn't I just sent the email directly to the Chief a week ago? Oh well, I type my letter (which is posted below) and email it to Mindy. Three days pass and I call her to see what my status is. Oddly, we call each other at the same time and leave each other messages at the same time as well. The OK is in, now I can have my interview. Wait just a minute Mr. Marx... you now have to call Lt. Chris Cheung to receive permission as well as schedule a date and time to meet with Ken Corderro at Station #12. I get on the horn again and reach Lt. Cheung-- So Jacob, what time would you like to meet with Ken Corderro? Me-- I was informed I needed to schedule a time through you so you could send a notification to the station. Lt. Cheung-- you need to talk to Ken first to schedule a time that he is working. This does make sense, that is, seeing what time works for Ken before I get permission, again. But, this is not what I was told to do. Anyways, I call station #5.... no answer. Really? I call again and again and again and again... no answer. I call the next day at 9 am. I reach a woman but I'm informed Ken will be out till 5pm, when he will get back from training. I call at 5:07pm (that is today), he is not back yet. Here I am, it is 5:55 and I am about to call again, wish me luck...

Monday, December 04, 2006

Please, oh please..

An inquiry letter asking for permission.
To: Mindy Talmadge
SF Fire Dept.
For: Chief of Department
My name is Jacob Marx and I am a student at the University of San Francisco. I am inquiring today about receiving permission from the SF Fire Department to interview one of its firefighters, Ken Corderro, and do a personal profile on him. The profile will be positive in nature and focus on the many physical and emotional challenges firefighters endure on a daily basis. Some specific aspects will include how a firefighter copes with death, why he got into this line of work, and what he hopes to accomplish when he goes out on a mission. Other personal questions will be asked such as: how firefighting affects family life at home, what emotional baggage does the fighter bring to and from work, and what the hardest part of his job is.
Other parts of this feature will include a short personal history on Corderro as well as some historical information on Station #12 and the rest of the SF Fire Department. I will also ask Corderro to describe a firefighting situation that has greatly influenced or affected him—of course leaving out names of victims and addresses if that is prohibited. It is my intention in doing this story to show the public the ins and outs of a firefighter in his station, rather that the details of a specific fire. Also, in doing this piece, I personally hope to gain a better understanding of the SF Fire Dept.
The reason for doing this story, if it works out well, is to send it out for possible publication in local Bay Area magazines. It will also be posted on the USF online magazine Blogs on a Plane. A little bit about me: I am a junior Media Studies major, minoring in Journalism and Pre-Law. I have been news reporting for two years now and see myself continuing the trade in the future.
I thank you for your time and hope you will grant me permission to do this profile.
Jacob Marx

Privett Feature

“You would be an idiot to not know how to work the system,” said the silver haired priest, explaining why having single sex dorms wouldn’t limit the possibility of promiscuity.
Father Privett, 63, President of USF, is as down to earth as he is spiritual. He drives a Mini-Cooper; he says he watches no TV, gains no salary, and knows there will always be a place for Jesuit tradition.
On November 20, USF’s Journalism One class meets with Privett for a State of USF press conference and answers questions ranging from football possibilities to USF republicans.
The conference starts, the floor is open... silence. With sideburns creeping down his cheeks, Privett smiles at the room and gives the students an unspoken ok to ask some tough questions any questions. Still though, there is hesitation. What are they waiting for? Eyes wander and glances are tossed back and forth across the table. One student, a girl in green, almost goes for it but then retreats. Who will ask it?
Finally, the ice is broken. The opening question stumbles awkwardly out onto the table, reminiscent of a newborn colt, making itself vulnerable for the first time. The student reporter whom asks it also sits closest to Privett, on his left, making him the most courageous person in the room. Like a group of chefs waiting for a patron’s approval, the beginning reporting class stares silently at the President. The next few seconds feel like minutes amongst the young reporters. Then, almost anticlimactically, Privett calmly nods and answers accordingly.
One can tell Privett, has previously answered 90 percent of the questions the reporting students ask him, but he still gives the students respect and eye contact, purveying that he is a man of the masses and not just a figure perched high atop Lone Mountain.
The LM room we are in, inside the Rossi Wing, reflects the grandeur of the President. It is clean and unmistakably Catholic—two Jesuit paintings hang from the far wall. The conference table inside is long and oak with 14 black chairs surrounding the perimeter—students fill all but the three in the back. Privett is at the head with a glass wall to his right, a view of the city to his left and oak panels covering for what looks to a flat screen TV to his back.
The next question comes from the glass side of the room, avoiding the dreaded domino effect where one question follows the previous down the line and around the table.
Privett adjusts his wire frame glasses and takes the question to heart then laughs out loud. "Hell will freeze over before football comes back to USF," Privett says, humorously demolishing any lingering rumors or doubts. Privett, wearing a woolen blue sport coat, says only 13 schools in the country profit off of football and a new program carries $five-million in starter fees, two statistics that don't match up with his view of USF.
Looking to the back of the room, the three empty chairs are filled with the final three students in the class. Were they late because they needed their coffee fix or because they were lost in the labyrinth of hallways the Rossi Wing is?
Privett, in answering the questions, tells of his view for USF as one that has the university continually increasing its value. Whether that is hiring staff that best fits the university mission, rather than on their political ideology or informing students that it is not normal for a college student to drink every night.
Away from his words, Privett's hands tell tales of their own. They circle the table top in front of him—as he describes that he has no influence in USF's food contract with Bon Appetit–like jets hovering above an imaginary airport, waiting for the SF fog to clear so they can land.
When he explains why he would sell KUSF if he thought it no longer fit within the University's Mission, his hands distance themselves as they move away from his body, playing the parts of two sailboats racing in the San Francisco Bay.
Later, when he talks about the new Cabaret Theater Company in relation to Crossroads, his finger tips touch and his palms are apart, creating the outline of an ancient Native American Ohlone tee pee that could have stood on the Hill long before the erection of USF. Yes, his hands have many stories to tell, but so does he.
Privett is a maverick Jesuit President who isn’t afraid of going against the mold. He says he is unwilling to make USF abroad programs mere “American colonies” in other countries like Gonzaga has done with its Venice program. Instead, he operates at a higher level. He wishes to stray USF students away from the McDonald’s experience many students receive when they cross entire oceans, and instead immerse them in cultures that offer students an experience 180 degrees from a Big Mac and fries.
The first time Father Privett traveled out of the US, to El Salvador, the village he stayed in was bombed and strafed multiple times. After more time in the country he realized the US government wasn’t offering the aid they said they were and he learned that you must question and challenge established hegemony.
This is to be his most energetic point—acknowledging that the students themselves will decide what they do, not him. Specifically, as consumers fighting their own battle against Bon Appetit, as revolutionaries negotiating their own balance between the innovations of the internet and the intimacy of real contact, or their decision on the role science in religion and how they should intertwine.
Towards the end of the conference, J. Michael Robertson, Professor of the J1 class, opens the floor to some tuff questions. We can see a flare ignite in Privett’s eyes. What will happen next?
Hilarity, that’s what. The first question out of the gate falters and hits the table in a thud. The next question is seemingly ambushed. A representative of the USF Republicans, also a J1 student, asks the question about Republicans. Privett gives a sneering smile and replies, “As President they are welcome. As a person, they are kooks.” Here we can see the playful side of Privett. Next question.
One more and Privett is about tuckered out from the barrage of variance the students threw at him in the form of their questions. With arms crossed, he says thank you and goodbye.
As the class walks out, one more question comes to mind—how much would he sell his Mini-Cooper for?

Friday, December 01, 2006

Its been hard weeks long.

A journalist struggles often. Over this semester we have all had our hardships trying to get interviews and trying to make sense of the profiles we want to write. This past week I might have had my hardest "journalist week" yet. I have had an onslaught of problems reminiscent of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, complete with raining fire and brimstone. It started off with a cancellation of an interview I had with my Cuban.
Next was the run-around I received from the SF Fire Department. I received permission from the Division Chief after I was told I needed his "ok," only to be told on my return that I now needed the City Chief's permission. I called the main office to find that I actually needed permission from the Public Information Officer, who took the week off.
Beyond that I have writer's block. I don't know where that came from... Maybe from the 15 papers required for my "film" class or the nine papers required for my "acting" class. Again, that is 24 papers... Not pages. No joke, I have produced more pages in my movie and acting classes than two semesters of Written Communication. Don't get me wrong, I love to write, but there is only so much one can take. I seriously feel hung over from the kind of binge writing I have had to do.
The writing I enjoy is when it is purposeful. More like a glass of a nice cabernet with a steak than a keg of cheap beer streaming down the throat of an upside-down college student being held up by his peers in a dirty garage. I enjoy writing when it is either letting the world know what is going on with the world or when it is improving my actual writing. I consider these three things-- the cancellation, the run-around, and the writer's block-- the fire of my week, as they have burned away my patience. Now comes the brimstone-- just out right destruction.
Computers and liquids don't mix. Specifically, Dell computers and water don't mix. Simply put, it doesn't turn on and it smells like burning plastic. A stone might as well have burst through the ceiling and crushed the damn thing. Why a week before finals? I don't know, but I now have a part time residency in the UC computer lab. The chairs are a little stiff and the keyboards probably house a million kinds of germs, but other than that its cozy.
Everything in my flat is broken. This isn't directly related to journalism, but I feel it has a pretty negative effect on my life and that in turn inhibits my writing. The flat has two toilets, both broken. One shoots water out the side when it flushes and the other doesn't flush. The dishwasher is MIA. Well, not actually missing, just broke. But its washing capabilities are missing. The bathroom sink it clogged with my roommates afro-hair. Up until two days ago we, no joke, had no lock and no knob on our front door. Those had been MIA for, ohh, a week. The list goes on and on: from stained carpets, to a struggling oven, to the internet we pay for but have yet to receive. Oh, and the cable went out two days ago--sweet. My cell phone was in the same puddle of water my dell was. Its not dead, but we'll call it "limited." My room's light shorted out. Darkness past 5pm. I lost my running shoes. My roommate had an "experience" at Albertson's that for some reason got me banned for life from there. Trader Joe's is a much further walk.
Well, that was nice. At least I feel a little better now. Not sure what to do, but I'll tell you what im not going to do-- re-read this. I think I'll save myself the added depression.