Reflections and Expectations: Access Granted

A mixed bag, to describe it best. Join me in this look back at the month that was in the latest Reflections and Expectations.

November

Election – [sigh] This is still very disappointing and concerning. I relented and voted for Hillary Clinton on the day of the election — a decision I made the night before I casted my vote. Sure, I’ve had my shares of gripes about her but she isn’t all bad. I wish I had made that decision much earlier instead of openly flirting with the possibility of voting third-party or an independent. Electoral dysfunction, for sure.

Thanksgiving – With family in San Diego having other plans this time around, I stayed put in the Bay Area and spent the holiday with a friend and former colleague of mine in nearby South San Jose. It all went well as one should expect — getting my full turkey fix and being in good company on that day. No bones about that.

New job – This week, I officially joined MV Transportation as one of its reservationists as part of the company’s ACCESS paratransit contract with the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA). In this role, I am among the handful of individuals working out of the VTA headquarters in handling all the requests for paratransit services by the county’s senior citizen and disabled residents. I’m glad to be back to work somewhere after nearly four months of searching for the next big thing and four years since I last worked in a more transit-focused setting. Back on track, I go.

December

  • End of grad school – This is it. After nearly three years and 10 courses later, I’m expected to be all finished with my Master of Science in Transportation Management degree program at San Jose State University. There will be a certain charm to it all that I will miss. More in my next edition.
  • Christmas – A week and a half after that last item, I’m looking forward to celebrating my recent accomplishments with family in San Diego. It could be a great way to end this generally rough year on a high note.

By the Numbers

In November…

  • Number of days spent looking for the next big thing: 112 (the counter stopped the day before Thanksgiving when I landed my latest role)
  • Consecutive number of hours being awake from Election Day to the next day: 21 (woke up at around 7:30 a.m. on Nov. 8 and stayed up watching the returns on TV until 4:30 a.m. Nov. 9)
  • Weight change between the morning of Thanksgiving Day and the next morning: -2.5 (…all this after finishing a full plate of turkey and all sorts of trimmings on that afternoon)

Happy holidays! How are things lately? What are you looking forward to most this holiday season? Share your thoughts below. I’d love to hear from you.

Top of the Ticket

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Clipped from the SAMPLE ballot in my home jurisdiction of Santa Clara County, Calif.

My choices in this state for the next President of these United States on Nov. 8 (or before, if I choose to vote early):

Gloria La Riva, Peace and Freedom Party – This party is farther to the left than the solidly progressive Green Party. La Riva makes Jill Stein look like Hillary Clinton.

Donald Trump, GOP – [sigh] Where do I start? You know what, I won’t. Next ticket…

Gary Johnson, Libertarian Party – While Johnson has the right idea on some issues, he has some misguided views or has waffled on others. If Bill Weld was at the top of this ticket, I would have given this team greater consideration.

Jill Stein, Green Party – I was for her, albeit reluctantly, as she is closer to being a progressive as Bernie Sanders than Hillary. While I uneasily put up with Dr. Stein’s reluctance to fully denounce people who are against mandatory vaccinations and her openness to clinging to certain nutty conspiracy theories on a variety of issues, there came a point where I could no longer reasonably support her.

Hillary Clinton, Democratic Party – She’s always been a strong, well-qualified candidate. My interest in her declined upon Sanders’ entry into the race and after learning about her insufficiently progressive credentials. My distaste for her became even more pronounced when the Democratic National Committee, in those leaked emails from Wikileaks, revealed how the party establishment was unsurprisingly in the tank for Clinton while trying to undermine the Vermont senator. I don’t care that much about the emails, Benghazi and a bunch of other issues surrounding her like the Right does. Some of them are problems in their own ways but she has settled those issues in various ways. Still, I’m unsure about throwing my support around her just yet.

______________ (write-in candidate) – The California Secretary of State says I have these five options for this line. It’s good to see Bernie as a legitimate choice although it was not organized by the senator himself. Even if I did write in Bernie, he has virtually no chance of winning. In the off-chance he did win this and enough of other states to receive at least 270 electoral votes, there’s no guarantee he will even accept the offer to serve as the 45th President of these United States.

I didn’t struggle this much with the down-ballot races and propositions. Never have I struggled much about voting for anyone of any level since I began voting in 2008. You can easily deduct who I might gravitate toward at the top of the ticket but even I’m still not sure if it is a done deal just yet. I also know there are at least two candidates I definitely will not be voting for. I know, I live in a solid blue state so it doesn’t matter what I think.

I’ll be glad when it’s finally Nov. 9.

Reflections and Expectations: Two years later

A quiet month but noteworthy in its own right. Join me in a look back at my month that was in the latest Reflections and Expectations.

October

Grad school – The real beginning of the end of grad school is in full swing as I’m currently enrolled in my 10th and final course of the Master of Science in Transportation Management degree program at San Jose State University.

The current course, dealing with transportation systems planning and development, began on Oct. 11 — coinciding with my two-year anniversary of living in the Bay Area. This course will take me all the way to a mid-December finish of this program, ending my nearly three-year involvement in this academic endeavor.

Is it December yet?

Aerial yoga, Oct. 2 – I finally tried out aerial yoga at my home yoga studio, The Yoga Studio in Campbell, earlier in the month. The owner of the studio recruited students like me to volunteer as subjects for a special session where she was training an instructor on aerial yoga.

Having practiced mainly the vinyasa yoga there almost every week for more than a year, I liked trying out a different realm within this practice. It felt nice to be floating and hanging during parts of the session. I’m definitely interested in practicing more aerial yoga in the future.

November

  • Election 2016 – Thank God it’s almost over. There’s been no shortage of depressing things in my life as of late. At least one of those things will go away but I’ll still have another lingering around for a while. [sigh]
  • Thanksgiving – Maybe some family time will serve as a brief respite from what has been a down year for me. If not, I’ll go find an open restaurant near home on that day to serve as an alternate.

By the Numbers

In October…

  • Number of days spent looking for the next big thing: 88 (as of Oct. 30)
  • Time spent on a session about Ram Dass, who he is and why he matters to people: Approximately 100 minutes (everyone could learn something from him)
  • Duration of Bay Area residence: 2 years, 19 days (as of Oct. 30). Past residences and jobs rarely lasted this long. Now, I hope to find work again that will last just as long as my current residence.

How are you lately? Let’s talk. Share your thoughts below. I’d love to hear from you.

On This Sunday: It’s No Joke

Of all the horrible things the bigoted orange twine ball that is Donald Trump has said and done, his long-documented mistreatment of women has drawn the greatest deal of attention as of late.

We all know by now Trump’s penchant for publicly talking about his supposed sexual conquests, demeaning women for being too old or too fat, how he wants to bang his own daughter Ivanka among a whole host of horrendous things he’s been known to say. Within the last week, several women have come forward to allege that Trump has sexually assaulted them in the past. I have no reason not to believe these women, as with most people who have experienced something as horrific as this by anyone else.

Sexual assault is a serious matter that sometimes takes having to know someone who has experienced such a thing to truly understand its impact. It’s also through different yet fundamentally similar life events that help to tangentially apply one’s understanding of sexual assaults in general.

Within the last few months, two female friends of mine directly told me they have been sexually assaulted in their lives — both instances marking the first time anyone has ever told me such a thing. One told me she was once date-raped while the other was not specific about what happened but I was able to easily deduct it was something terribly bad. I suspect there are many more women in my life — friends, former colleagues and maybe even relatives — that also have stories like this but I have either yet to know or will never know. Although difficult in nature, I hope to have more private conversations like this from people who are willing to share their own experiences so that I can better empathize with them, cope with them and heal with them. It truly makes a difference.

I never experienced sexual assault myself although growing up, I have been abused in other ways to understand the trauma and horror that victims undergo. They all share common traits — a seemingly powerful person taking advantage of someone seemingly indefensible.

Such was the case when I grew up as a child, living with a physically-abusive father. It was horrible at each turn — the fear, the pain, the trauma, the feelings of defenselessness. I finally escaped all that when I entered foster care at age 13, although one of my subsequent foster parents engaged in psychological abuse with the same effects as what I went through with my father. It was under their care I once attempted to commit suicide. Bottom line, my father and that particular foster parents can rot in hell. I wish the same or for some kind of justice for those who engage in sexual assaults. There is no rhyme or reason for any of this type of behavior.

Oh, and screw Trump. Anyone but him on Nov. 8.

Reflections and Expectations: Let’s Do the Numbers

A nod to Marketplace in the title this month.

Join me in this look back at the month that was in the latest Reflections and Expectations.

September

Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival in San Francisco, Sept. 10 – For the second year in a row, I got my chocolate fix at this annual event, which marks its 21st year for the organizers. Even though I’ve cut down on candy consumption since the last event, I still love Ghirardelli chocolates and couldn’t help myself but to make another visit this year. Chocolates, coffees, tea, ice cream, pastries among other items made for an expectedly overwhelming yet sweet Saturday afternoon in this City by the Bay.

Steel Wheels Conference in Sacramento, Sept. 24 – Hosted by RailPAC, I participated in this annual conference on the state of passenger rail in California and around the country. This was my second conference after my first one in the same city back in 2014. I enjoyed it as much as the last one I attended and got a lot out of it.

October

  • Beginning of the end of grad school – My tenth and final course of the Master of Science in Transportation Management degree program at San Jose State University starts later this month. The transportation systems planning and development course will run through December, closing out my nearly three years in the program.

By the Numbers

A new feature within this series, breaking down some random facts each month in numerical terms.

In September…

  • Total miles spent driving any car: 96 (up from zero in August)
  • Number of days spent looking for the next big thing: 58 (as of Sept. 30)
  • Amount of sniffles during a live, nationally-televised debate: Zero (…and I kept it that way!)

How was your September? What are you looking forward to in October? Share your thoughts below. I’d love to hear from you.

On This Sunday: 15 years ago

Everyone is often asked where they were and what they were doing at the moment when they heard about several hijacked commercial airliners crashing into the World Trade Center towers in New York, the Pentagon and a field in western Pennsylvania on this day in 2001. My story is about as unremarkable as anyone else’s but it is worth sharing in this space or in any online platform for the first time.

On Sept. 11, 2001, I was 12 years old and just started 7th grade at John Burroughs Middle School in Los Angeles. At the time, I was living with my biological father in the Koreatown neighborhood of the city. It was during the 6 a.m. PT hour when I was awoken to audio from our television set in another room. It was morning and tuning in to local news seemed like a customary thing to do. When I came over to see what was on the television, it was bad. It wasn’t like a live aerial footage of a traffic accident on one of L.A.’s many freeways tying up traffic somewhere or a wildfire breaking out in the hills. By the time I saw what was on the television set, one or both of the hijacked airliners crashed into the Twin Towers. Being more than 2,000 miles away from where this and the attacks in Pennsylvania and the Pentagon happened, I saw no reason to feel scared about what was going on and neither did most around me in this West Coast city where I grew up.

I went to school shortly after. Coincidentally, the Los Angeles Unified School District scheduled in advance that very day to be a half-day for students at JB — what students often referred to the school. There were certainly discussions among the students, faculty and staff about the events that occurred earlier that morning on the East Coast although nothing else seemed out of the ordinary about the day. No stepped up security or anything. All the students including myself were still trying to process what was going on while being somewhat gleeful over the fact it was a half-day anyway.

Using my LACMTA student transit pass, I took some buses around the city to see how this second-largest city in the nation was responding to the morning’s terrorist attacks on the other side of the country. At least from my own recollection, the Starbucks near my school closed its doors for the rest of the day. The Metro Red Line subway service was shut down and stations shuttered (I specifically remember going to the Wilshire / Vermont station where the gates draped over the portal to the station).

Later that day, I came back home to watch more of the television news coverage. All the major broadcast stations were still on this story — reporters and anchors from their network news divisions helming the nonstop coverage with occasional local news cut-ins to update viewers on local responses and reactions to the terrorist attacks. Even a local broadcast affiliate of the Home Shopping Network at the time (now a Spanish-language network affiliate), which normally didn’t air any news or local programming, was feeding in live rolling coverage from either CNN or ABC News. Then-President George W. Bush gave a televised address to the nation that night, vowing to hunt down and bring to justice the individuals responsible for the attacks.

For that day, that’s all I could recount. Again, nothing remarkable.

Nine years later on Oct. 18, 2010, I would find myself visiting the first of the two 9/11 memorial sites on the East Coast. While on a trip to Washington, D.C. for a PRSSA Conference, I took the Washington Metrorail with some friends to the Pentagon. While we didn’t go in the facility, we visited a public space outside of the Pentagon that included a memorial for the victims killed at that site.

Two years later on Sept. 29, 2012, I visited the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York. I also captured a shot of the One World Trade Center tower, which was still under construction at the time.

On this day back in 2001, after the nation realized what just happened and began to process it all, I still didn’t know what to make of the morning’s events. I also never expected that years later, I would find myself visiting two of the three sites that collectively came to symbolize the worst moment in our nation’s history. Having visited the memorials at the Pentagon and World Trade Center, it puts a lot into perspective. Being at those sites in person to observe what these places look like, what they feel like and picturing the sheer loss of life that had taken place years before, I felt that I finally understood the true impact 9/11 has had on the country as a whole. Even though I didn’t know anyone that died in these attacks, I can better empathize with the families and friends of the victims who did.

These visits in 2010 and 2012 aren’t anything remarkable either. It’s also just like any other story you might hear from anyone else. However, the main takeaway is that I finally can make something of all this — 15 years to the day since I began to process what just happened.

On This Sunday: Flip-adelphia

No, not that drinking game from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I’m referring to this — an iconic fixture at the city’s 30th Street Station, its main passenger rail terminal.

Yes, the flipping display board that’s known as the Solari board, named after its Italian manufacturer. Once common in airports and train stations all around the world, only a few of these remain as digital display boards become the norm. By the year’s end, Philly will make its upgrade as well.

It was this past week back in 2012 when I moved to Philadelphia from SoCal for a one-year service with AmeriCorps. I ultimately moved back to California after a little more than a year living on the East Coast.

Even though my time in the City of Brotherly Love was short, the sight and sounds of the clicking and clacking from 30th Street Station’s Solari board is one I still remember vividly and fondly. I share the same level of appreciation for this board as the natives of the Delaware Valley. Being a devoted fan of trains before I even moved to Philly, this board always became a welcome part of my numerous Amtrak train travels to cities like New York City, Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago and Boston. Even when I was simply passing through to make local transit connections, I would sometimes stop to watch and listen to the board as it became a personal source of amusement at each turn.

The 30th Street Station Solari board: Much like Philly itself, I hardly knew ye. You will be greatly missed.

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12:52 a.m. ET on Nov. 12, 2012. Taken on my way back home from Atlanta!