Weird Stuff

Monday, February 1, 2016

Into the Mild: The Adventures of Jason and Hobbes

Posted By on Mon, Feb 1, 2016 at 11:00 AM

Traveling alone can be tough. When all of my snooty friends couldn’t join me because they had families or careers they couldn’t walk away from, I had to get creative in my search for a companion.

I left Tucson in June of 2014, traveling with a group of 500 soccer fanatics to watch the World Cup in Brasil. We were hundreds of strangers from across the US and everyone seemed to bond almost immediately

Then, after two weeks, they were gone.

I next stayed with a friend from Brasil, though she usually had school and I spoke no Portuguese at the time.

Then, after two weeks, I was on my own again.

I worked in Bahia for a month, then left and never saw my coworkers again. I repeated the experience in Salvador. And Ecuador. And Peru. You see the pattern. I was surrounded by people who wouldn't stay in my life. I was alone in a crowd. I wanted a permanent travel companion, flexible and adventurous.

So I made my own.

First came the pattern. I found this nifty guide, printed out a PDF of the design, bought some fleece, and got to work.


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I started with the arms and legs. They were the easiest pattern, and as I had never sewn before, the least noticeable if/when something went wrong.

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Monday, December 21, 2015

Into the Mild: Journal From a Refugee Camp, Week One

Posted By on Mon, Dec 21, 2015 at 2:01 PM

Mytilene, Greece – December 2015

This is part two of a journal I’m keeping during my month working at a refugee camp in Greece. Part one, covering my last night in the US and two days in Athens, is here.


Dec. 9: It’s go time. After a series of subways and flights, I’m on the island of Lesvoz, the epicenter of refugee arrivals.

Now what?

I’d previously arranged to work in Molyvos, a town in the north of the island that desperately needed help a month ago. Since that time, thing have calmed down in Molyvos. Several senior members of the Greek government visited the camp in Molyvos before I came, leading to a pause in boats coming from Turkey. The Turkish coast guard is now patrolling the area near Molyvos at night, causing the smugglers to take boats further south. The city of Mytilene has now become the new major landing point. I decided to hold off on Molyvos for the time being and give Mytilene a shot.

Still unsure of where I will sleep or work, I decide to spend the day sorting clothes at a warehouse. This is a huge need on the island, as everybody dreams of coming and heroically helping refugees off of boats, but nobody dreams of heroically sorting shoes. I hailed a taxi in front of the airport and asked him to take me to the warehouse in town.

“Refugees?” he asks me.

“Yes, I’m going to the warehouse for refugees, where there are clothes,” I replied.

“You go to work for refugees, I will take you there?”

I tried to explain using the most basic English I could think of… “Yes, at the building with boxes, food, and clothing. The warehouse.”

“OK, we go to warehouse.”

Five minutes later, we were at Pikpa, which is definitely not a warehouse. Pikpa was formerly a summer camp for children with special needs, though it was abandoned and later became a refugee camp. It is now populated by at-risk families or refugees with special health conditions (i.e. pregnancy) that made them a poor fit for the general population at other refugee camps.

Pikpa's distribution center. - All Together written in Farsi, Greek, Arabic, and English
  • Pikpa's distribution center.All Together written in Farsi, Greek, Arabic, and English

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Monday, December 7, 2015

Into the Mild: Sorry, Prostitutes Can´t Stay in the Dormitory

Posted By on Mon, Dec 7, 2015 at 10:00 AM

Santiago, Chile

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Was I bored or hungry? My night shift at the hostel seemed to be moving in slow motion that night. I stepped away for a couple of minutes to grab food from the staff refrigerator in the back yard. A coworker, Julie, watched the office for me.

I returned to an empty office and an open door. I went out to see why the door was open and found Julie talking to a man through the fence. The man was around 45 years old and needed a bed for the night for a friend. He didn’t have a reservation but claimed to know the owner, Jon. Jon would vouch for him. They were friends. I talked with the man as my coworker went back inside to call Jon. The man asked again if he could have a room and then gave us 10,000 Chilean Pesos (15 dollars), said he didn’t need the change, and signaled to the car across the street.

When the man brought his friend out, I immediately saw why he had left her in the car during our initial conversation. She was roughly 45, distraught, and wearing a very short skirt & very high heels, one of which had a broken strap. A strong limp and eyes that told of recent drug use came into focus as she got closer. I stepped inside for a minute to brief my coworker. Neither of us knew what to do. Our daily workload focused mostly on arranging reservations and giving tours. I must have missed the training session on dealing with battered woman escorted by their abusers.

I stepped back outside, opened the gate, and let the woman in. The man tried to follow her in, putting his hand on my shoulder as he talked to me. I told him twice not to touch me, each request followed by him removing his hand for five seconds. The third time, I told him very colorfully to leave, pushed him out, and slammed the gate as he yelled at me.

The woman obviously needed help so I led her in and took her to the dining room. I then found Julie and told her “She’s pretty f***ed up, we should call an ambulance.” I then saw the two guests in the same room and regretted not pulling Julie to the side to say it. We went to a smaller room near the kitchen. The woman said that she was hungry so I brought her bread and butter as Julie began asking her what had happened. Julie was Latina, charismatic, and spoke Spanish as her first language. The woman warmed and opened up as she spoke with Julie.

I felt that they would be more comfortable in private so I left them and grabbed the phone in the office. No one picked up the emergency line for the hospital, so I gave up and called the police instead. They told me they would send a unit by soon.

I went to update Julie and hoped that things weren't how they looked. They were. In addition to the bad ankle, her speech was slurred and she had a long red mark on her face that she earlier tried to hide with her hair. She eventually opened up and said that the man had been beating her and she didn’t want to return.

What to do?

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Monday, November 30, 2015

Into the Mild: Three Exorcisms is Where I Draw the Line

Posted By on Mon, Nov 30, 2015 at 9:04 AM

Salvador, Brasil


I subsidized my time in Salvador by working at a youth hostel. Work resembled a Pitbull song and every night brought a new cast of travelers from around the world who there on vacation. Most nights I hung out with whoever was staying at the hostel, with the exception of Fridays. I don’t bro out at bars with the guys and typically went to the lighthouse to watch the sunset with my girlfriend at the time. She worked late one night, so I went alone and explored a new part of the city.

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I enjoy seeing new cathedrals and churches, so when I saw a large one with the lights on I went in. I sat in the back and tried not to draw attention to myself. After about two minutes I saw the rest of the crowd walking towards the front and a women in the aisle motioned for me to come forward. I wasn't sure what was going on, but it looked like a weird time so I followed the group towards the front. We then stood in a line facing the stage. Three pastors came to the crowd and started barking commands at a man. The pastors put their hands on the man's head and started yelling and shaking their hands. I stood and wondered what was going on when they finished with him and a pastor walked to me. He was much friendlier with me than he was with the first man. After a minute of talking, he put his hands on my head and started chanting. At the end of each sentence he chanted OUT or NOW and would throw his hands up. This only lasted around two minutes and then he looked at me, smiled, and walked to another person.

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Monday, November 23, 2015

Into the Mild: Giving Thanks to the Syrian Refugees Who Took Me In

Posted By on Mon, Nov 23, 2015 at 10:00 AM


Amman, Jordan – February 2015


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As Thanksgiving approaches, I look back at the previous year and reflect on the amazing love and compassion I've received. While I could write a book on all the people who've helped me out, I owe the most to the Syrian and Iraqi refugees I worked with in Jordan. They ignored our differences and took me under their wing when I didn't have anyone else.

I arrived in Jordan at a tough time. I had quit my job in Turkey early and didn't have a backup plan. I landed at a hotel restaurant in Amman, Jordan, not knowing a single person or a word of Arabic. It was a leap of faith and could have easily turned out terribly, had I not lucked out with my coworkers. The main crew I worked with was composed of myself, an Iraqi refugee, and two salafist Syrian refugees. I'm white, Mormon, and don't speak any Arabic. There was every reason for this to blow up in my face.

    • The leader of the restaurant staff was abu Abduh, a Syrian refugee. He spoke no English and I spoke no Arabic, so he bridged the gap by yelling Shaku maku Jimmy! every 30 seconds, or whenever one of us enters the room. Shaku maku is Iraqi slang along the lines of what’s shakin?  and my name isn’t Jimmy, so it got old. Fast. Abu Abduh used to be a taxi driver in Homs, Syria, but fled to Jordan as he became trapped between ISIS and the al-Assad regime. He was loud, obnoxious, and would give you the shirt off his back. He was the patriarch of our strange family.

      Next came Thamer, another Syrian refugee. Young, serious, and a strict salafist. Due to his religious views, ISIS thought he would be sympathetic and tried to recruit him. He immediately packed his car and sped to Jordan. We regularly argued using hand gestures and a collection of profanity that we both understood, but could never stay mad for more than five minutes.

      Finally, there was Muhseen. He's a former Iraqi Army soldier who also worked with American forces. He originally lived roughly 15 minutes from one of the locations I served in Iraq, close enough that I’ve probably given his son candy at some point in the past. Muhseen's brother worked as a barber on a US Army base and was murdered. He then found a bullet wrapped in a note that said “LEAVE” on his doorstep. Muhseen left with his family in the middle of that night. 

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    Friday, November 6, 2015

    Ben Carson Has Lost the Mummy Vote

    Posted By on Fri, Nov 6, 2015 at 2:30 PM


    Ben Carson has said a number of unusual things in his quest for the White House, but the latest—his belief that pyramids were giant grain silos rather than tombs for Egyptian pharaohs—seems to have pushed a lot of pundits into straight-up ridicule of the GOP frontrunner. 

    MSNBC's Morning Joe has questioned "whether he has the temperament, whether he has the character to be President of the United States.” Fox News' Shep Smith is straight up mocking him. And NY Mag's Jonathan Chait has flagged a fascinating quote from an interview Carson gave to CNN:

    In other recent Carson news: Politico reveals he fabricated a story about being accepted at West Point and Carson 2016 has released a rap radio ad. Time magazine notes:

    Called “Freedom,” the 60 second rap by the rapper Aspiring Mogul contains bits of Carson speaking throughout.

    “Heal (vote, vote)/ Inspire (vote, vote) / Revive (vote, vote)/ Ben Carson 2016, vote and support Ben Carson, for our next president, it’d be awesome,” Aspiring Mogul raps.

    Saturday, April 25, 2015

    What Makes a Tucson Legend?

    Posted By on Sat, Apr 25, 2015 at 10:00 AM

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    One of my favorite of my Best of Tucson® categories is probably one of the more challenging ones: Best Local Legend. I love it because of the huge range of answers we're getting so far. Sadly, I can't share those with you. Well, not the specifics, at least.

    I love that some of the people being nominated are national icons that hail from the Old Pueblo—They're not so much ours any more, but we're happy to watch them shine. Other people are a few years gone. Not dead, necessarily, but done being in the spotlight. These business icons and sports heroes still define our city years after their names stopped appearing in the papers. And, of course, we've got our current Tucsonans. Those people you know by stage names, through cartoons and appearances at the Loft. The people who pull you off the couch and out on the town every weekend.

    What do you think? When you think of Tucson legends, do you think rainbow unicorn stickers or kick ass basketball seasons? Iconic radio personalities or people the whole nation has learned to love? Perfectly greased up hair, piles of used books or the best local musicians? What and who are our legends?  

    Make your case in the comments, but don't forget to cast your vote where it counts.

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    Wednesday, March 25, 2015

    TUSD's Michael Hicks May Have Changed His Name to 'Charles;' (Again) Signs Up in Favor of Cutting $64M in Deseg Funds

    Posted By on Wed, Mar 25, 2015 at 12:05 PM

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    Nothing fazes Tucson Unified School District Board Member Michael Hicks. 

    Last month, state Sen. Steve Farley paid a visit and called Hicks out for supporting a bill that hopes to take all of the desegregation money away from TUSD.  Hicks said in that meting that he would back up his support for the legislation, if the district agreed to hire an auditor.

    Understandable—keeping track of where the money is spent is a good thing. The district has said they are not against that, but TUSD Board Member Cam Juárez told me a few weeks ago, there is no money to hire an auditor. 

    Hicks may be at it again.

    I wrote yesterday that there are new funding amendments in two separate bills also attacking TUSD's deseg money. According to the photo above provided by Farley's Facebook, a "Charles" Hicks supports one of the proposals—an amendment to SB 1120, which would freeze deseg funds until there is an audit and the appropriations committee reviews the results of such audit. 

    TUSD Superintendent H.T. Sanchez is testifying against both amendments in front of the House Appropriations Committee's hearing today. More info on that should be coming our way soon.

    From Farley's Facebook:
    "He's at it again. Rogue TUSD board member Michael Hicks (aka Charles) signed up in favor of the 1120 striker in House Approps this morning that would endanger $64 million annually from TUSD's court ordered deseg budget, working against his own superintendent who will be testifying against."

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    Staff Pick

    James G. Davis (1931-2016): Down at the Tower Bar, A Retrospective

    Celebrating the career of Tucson artist James G. Davis with a selection of paintings and prints made… More

    @ Etherton Gallery Sat., Sept. 9, 7-10 p.m. and Tuesdays-Saturdays, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Nov. 11 135 S. Sixth Ave.

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