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Welcome to A Bubbling Cauldron, a blog dedicated to the observations and opinions of this writer. Most of the time the subject will be local politics and politicians - those issues and/or people affecting the lives of those of us in Costa Mesa and Newport Beach. Occasionally, I might write about something obscure that interests me. Or, I may just launch off into some philosophical rant if the urge moves me. I might even include comments by others from time to time.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Contemplating Christmas
It's easy for those of us who create these little platforms from which we scream our opinions to get wrapped up in the subject du jour to the point of ignoring other, much more important, things in our lives.

We get so focused on the ineptitude of some of our leaders that we overlook those within arm's length who want and need our attention. We stand tall, trying to see the "big picture" and neglect those many little vignettes occurring around our very feet. We succumb to our desire to shout back at those yelling at us and forget that all that hollering has to pass through the ears of those close to us. We are so eager to give a stiff arm to those with opposing viewpoints that we forget to embrace those around us who share ours.

With the approach of Christmas - as I type this Santa probably already has his sleigh loaded and is feeding the boys before their long journey tomorrow night - it's a good time to reflect on the truly important things in our lives. It's time to throttle back a little and remember those people around us who make our lives so rich and full.

It's time to contemplate our families and friends, who provide love and support even though they don't always agree with you. It's time to think about our friends and neighbors who get involved in our community and make a positive difference, and to be grateful for their efforts.

In my case, in particular, it's time to think about those of you who take the time to read the opinions presented here and also take the time to respond. I do appreciate every single comment sent my way, even if you don't agree with me. These are, after all, only my opinions. If you think I've got it wrong, drop me a little email and let me know.

At a time when young American men and women defend our flag in dangerous places around the world and at home, I hope you'll find a little time to send positive thoughts for a safe return their way. This is a time when the phrase, "peace on earth, goodwill toward men", seems especially appropriate.

So, in the spirit of the season - whether you celebrate it before a cross or a menorah or don't celebrate it at all - I want to wish each of you much peace, happiness and joy. May this holiday season find you surrounded by those you love, secure in their embrace and encouraged by their patience and understanding.

10:45 pm pst

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

"Your Neighbor" Rebuts
A local resident, an activist who very much resembles my theoretical character "Your Neighbor", took me to task recently in something he describes as his "little newsletter". This subscription email rant is published whenever he feels like it or, as he puts it, "when we're irritated, which is often". I must confess, my motivation for the snippets you read here is much the same - I publish when I'm motivated to do so, too - like now.

In his tirade, this person uses up most of the word allocation for a normal lifetime attempting to refute comments I made in a recent letter to the editor in a local newspaper. Hatchet in hand, he frantically chops his way through my comments with somewhat less skill than that of a deranged woodsman, attempting to deflect attention from himself and his influence over some members of our current city council.

He attempts to refute the suggestion that the vision of some folks intent on "improving" the Westside of our town is racially motivated - denying the contention that "improvement", in their minds-eye, comes only with the expulsion of the Latinos from our city. Of course, as I've written about for years, the facts bear out that suggestion. This person has been the prime mover behind many, if not all, the attempts in recent years to create an anti-Latino environment in Costa Mesa. I've listed those items before. To refresh your memory, they included the pending closure of the Job Center, defunding charities on the Westside, dissolution of the Human Relations Committee, re-zoning the Westside industrial areas to facilitate loss of jobs held by Latinos and the unsuccessful attempt to shut down the Orange Coast College Swap Meet - a venue of low-end commerce and social interaction for portions of the Latino population in our city.

I was amused when he accused me of not attending meetings to "hear what people are really saying". On that point he is correct - we are very different in that regard. I do not attend all the meetings he attends, so I'm not privy to all the tittering and sniggering that goes on among his supporters out of camera range. I don't sit in the back of the auditorium, holding court for a covey of misguided admirers. I do not stand before the various governing bodies, read them the riot act and attempt to defame members with whom I do not agree by cranking up the volume on my rhetoric to spew inaccurate "facts". I do not take up valuable city staff resources with frivolous Freedom of Information Act requests and other demands for action and witch-hunting fishing expeditions. I do not demand, for example, under veiled threat of law suits, that the city expel the occasional soccer-ball kicking Latino man from a public park near my home because it creates a "hazardous condition". That little stunt was only one recent attempt to find a vent for his racial bias. No, unlike this man, the putrid bile of intolerance does not ooze from my every pore as I plot my next move to expunge the minorities from our midst. He is, indeed, correct - we are different.

While I do occasionally attend a meeting that promises to be particularly interesting, I usually simply watch the proceedings of most important city events via our cable channel, tape them and review them later - sometimes more than once - so I can accurately describe the activity later if I choose to do so. Recently I've begun using the streaming video our city provides to those of us with a broadband connection to watch meetings, too. I do, after all, have a real life, filled with positive interactions with friends, family and neighbors - and the occasional stranger, too.

One need only read a few of the hundreds of essays this man has written on any number of far-right wing web sites to understand the foundation of intolerance on which his actions are based. For example, when he writes in an essay bemoaning what he perceives to be the homogenization of our species into a "Tan Everyman" due to interracial breeding, you get a pretty good idea of how his mind works. When he adorns his essays with swastikas, it gives you a pretty fair idea of his underlying philosophy and which characters in history he likely admires. The sad and disturbing part about this whole thing is that he seems to have found a few gullible and easily-lead people in this town who are willing to ignore what appears to be his core beliefs and ride merrily along in his wake, nodding in agreement to every word he speaks or writes. I don't know whether his disciples actually believe as he does, but the fact that they readily follow his lead sure makes one curious. I don't know if they actually view him as the second-coming of Hitler and want to jump on his bandwagon, but this is precisely how that despicable tyrant began his assent to power.

As this man vilifies anyone and everyone who disagrees with his vision for Costa Mesa as "lefty obstructionists", please understand this comes from a guy with a philosophy so far to the right that he makes Barry Goldwater look like a communist. When he denies that he is the puppet master, pulling the strings of at least a couple council members and some of their appointees, please understand that his rhetoric is just so much smoke being blown your way to screen you from the truth. When he denies there is anything racist in his plan, please understand that actions speak louder than words. Do not take my word for it - look at his actions, read his words and make up your own mind.

So, we thank this tragic, angry man for reminding us that denial is not truth - it is only denial - and for unwittingly providing us with some much-needed comic relief. In the spirit of this holiday season, we wish him all the happiness and joy he deserves. I'm sure many of our hard-working Latino neighbors on the Westside, and the "out of town industrialists" who employ some of them, will join me in wishing him a heartfelt FELIZ NAVIDAD!
11:36 am pst

Monday, December 19, 2005

Remembering Larry Moore
Today I'm taking a little break from the regular political stuff you've gotten used to reading here to pay homage to Larry Moore, a man who had been my best friend for more than a half century. No man ever had a more loyal friend than I had in Larry Moore.

Two years ago today, December 19, 2003, my best friend since we both were five years old passed away as a result of injuries he received in a motorcycle accident on a lonely desert road near the California/Nevada border early in November of that year. He was on his way home from Las Vegas after a visit with friends and decided to avoid the busier, more dangerous interstate highway and take the road less traveled.

We'll never know what caused his accident, although we can speculate that he just momentarily lost focus and didn't see a clearly-marked turn coming up. Whatever the cause, he ended up in a crumpled heap on the side of the road and would have died on that spot if not for the fortuitous arrival and quick action of foreign tourists immediately after the crash. They flagged down a railroad work crew, who used their training and wisdom to call the right people at the right time and my friend was helicoptered to Las Vegas - to the best trauma center in the western United States.

For six weeks he received the best possible care from the staff in the Trauma Intensive Care Unit. His injuries were so severe - it was as though he had been beaten with a baseball bat - that the staff juggled treatment with skill to first keep him stable, then to bring him back to us. They almost succeeded. Finally, after six weeks, a blood clot took him from us.

During the month and a half my friend was in the hospital I was at his side, making decisions about his care as required by my designation as his power of attorney for health care. Together, my friend and I rode a roller coaster. Time after time he would rally, then regress. Each night I would return to my hotel room and report via email to friends who were eager for good news. At first there were just a few, but near the end hundreds of people received those nightly reports, each looking forward to reading a glimmer of encouragement. Right up to the end we had hope, and were making plans for his rehabilitation. Sadly, it was not to be.

During my time at his bedside I had a chance to contemplate our lives together, and how much we each meant to each other. Growing up as friends, closer than some brothers, we shared our lives. Our birthdays were two weeks apart, so we celebrated together whenever we could. We attended some of the same schools, were Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts together. We dated the same girls, were teammates in college, reveled in each others accomplishments and agonized when things were not going well. He was my best man at my wedding. My wife and I are god-parents to his youngest daughter.

In our youth Larry used to compose and perform songs - even though he couldn't read a lick of music. I remember sitting in his tiny bedroom as he would hammer out his latest creation - usually a ballad of sorts dedicated to his current girlfriend at the time. He was pretty darn good at it, too. He formed a band that performed at local venues and actually cut a couple of records. In fact, if you do a Google search you might find the lyrics of his song, "Hooray for Weekends" out there in the ether. One night he was the opening act on a local television show when a couple other young musicians, who were just getting started, performed. You might remember them - The Righteous Brothers.

Larry spent more than 30 years as a proud member of the Los Angeles Police Department, a job he loved and through which he made thousands of friends. At his retirement celebration a few years ago I watched as man after man stood and told the assembled attendees that Larry had been his best friend. That was the kind of man he was - one who was considered their best friend by many.

The last half of my friend's career was spent as the Athletic Director at the police academy, where he created and oversaw fitness programs for the officers during training and after they began their careers on the job. He coached and participated on the swimming and water polo teams, played on their football team and became a mentor to many along the way. He and his partner at the academy, Chuck Foote, created and conducted the Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Relay - the premiere team relay race in the world - in which teams comprised of thousands of public safety representatives from around the world competed. He passed away a few months before the 20th running of that race. After his passing an award recognizing the most dedicated volunteer was created in his name. I found it ironic that his life ended in Las Vegas, the site of so many of his successes.

He was a member of the Board of Directors of the California Police Athletic Federation, which conducts the Western States Police and Fire Games and the World Police and Fire Games. That role took him around the world, helping to conduct those festivals of athletic prowess. As part of this role he created an event he initially called the Toughest Cop Alive (TCA). This event is similar to a decathlon, except all the elements are completed in one day - a true test of skill, strength and stamina. Included in those elements are eight separate tests in which competitors must run, swim, lift, climb, throw and complete an obstacle course. That event, now called the Toughest Competitor Alive, has been named for him - "Larry Moore's TCA".

At Larry's funeral, on that dreary morning just few days after Christmas two years ago, I tried in the brief time allotted to me to tell the crowd in the packed church a little bit about my friend and our relationship. I did my best, but found it impossible to compress more than a half century of admiration, love and friendship into a few moments of dialogue.

At that service we listened to his eldest daughter, who followed him in a career with the LAPD, speak of him in terms of loving admiration even though they had been estranged for a decade. During his hospitalization she made several trips from her home in the Los Angeles area to Las Vegas to see him. Her final trip was a spontaneous dash across the desert which resulted in her arrival at Larry's bedside shortly before dawn on a day when a conscientious nurse had modified his medication to raise his level of consciousness. Even though he could not speak, he was able to communicate through the firm squeeze of his hand, the nod of his head, crinkling of his brow and tear-filled smiles. In the pre-dawn hours that morning, in the trauma intensive care unit in a hospital in a city far from home, he reconciled with his daughter.

Today, as I remember my friend and what he meant to me throughout my life, I leave you with this thought. Life is too precious and precarious to leave unfinished issues with your loved ones. Don't wait until it's too late, as my friend almost did. On this road of life you just never know what awaits you over that next hill. The road on the other side may be wide, smooth and straight, or it might hold a hidden turn, as it did for my friend. As we approach the new year, remember my friend, Larry Moore, and make a resolution you can keep - resolve to tell those you love just how you feel. Do it now.
12:21 am pst

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Copyright, 2006 - Geoff West