I know generalizations and stereotypes are at the root of racism and bigotry, but all of these stories have given me a case of the fantods.

They say the good ones are far more abundant than the bad ones, but every week, the news shows them killing someone. They claim to be peaceful but many members of their organization kill people without cause, or, if they do it for cause, it’s for a cause that a lot of us don’t agree with. And then, they fall back on their interpretation of some higher law. When they do kill, it is quick, with little warning other than a few words shouted out. Very few of their members ever speak out against their organization and when there is a killing, most of their community justifies it in the name of some higher authority. Sometimes, it seems like they believe we are committing sins just by the nature of our existence.


So, when I see them walking down the street, or in the airport, or huddled in large groups, I feel fear. I know that is terrible, but I can’t help it. How am I supposed to figure out which ones will hurt me and which ones won’t? Their outfits don’t tell me which ones are good and which ones are bad. Their skin color does not reveal what is in their minds. At any moment, they may transition from a peaceful person to a killer, and I have no idea what will trigger that transition. I don’t want to be scared but if I am honest, there is unease whenever one of them is near. I become more vigilant. I worry about looking them in the eye. I wonder if they are going to use a weapon against me.

Sadly, most of them are good. They help our communities and offer people safe haven when times get tough.   They respect the law and they offer a place to turn for counsel. It is the bad ones, though, who make the news. It is the bad ones who kill recklessly and then blame the victim for starting it all in the first place. It is the bad ones who cause me to live in fear, and to make me view all of them as potentially dangerous, and to make everyone label me as a generalizer, or a stereotyper, or worse. But, I don’t know how to get over it. It’s just the way I feel.

So, the next time I see a policeman coming down the street, I’ll try to give him the benefit of the doubt.

By ccxander

Do Guns and Religion Promote Peace or War?

For several years now, we’ve heard debates about the second amendment. More recently, some folks have turned to international events to begin speaking about the first amendment. With such grandiose rights at stake, here’s something to ponder:

Second amendment advocates argue the claim to guns is an antiquated right that was meant for militia purposes and to oppose an oppressive government. There are those who adamantly believe the removal of guns from the landscape will prevent the increasing number of homicides and suicides. They suggest a citizenry, without the capability to shoot each other, will convene in a safer society. It is the guns, they say, which have no other purpose than to inflict death. To remove the means to kill would force criminals to use other weapons, ones, which could not inflict harm with the speed and effectiveness of a gun.


Other second amendment advocates argue their claim to guns is one of the fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution. There are those who believe a landscape without guns makes the terrain susceptible to the whims of criminals who will not obey the gun laws. They suggest a citizenry without the capability to shoot criminals will not be able to protect itself from criminals who choose to disobey the gun laws. It is the guns, they say, which serve the purposes of protection. To remove the means to kill would subject us to the superior force of criminals who could then enter our houses without fear of retribution or retaliation.

And onward we go.

First amendment advocates argue the claim to freedom of religion is one of the fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution. There are those who adamantly believe the removal of a specific religion from the landscape would make all religions susceptible to the whims of a subjective government. They suggest a citizenry, without tolerance for all religions, is oppressive and discriminatory and against America’s core values. They suggest citizens are safer when freedom of religion is absolute. It is the religion, they say, which serves the purposes of diversity, and hope, and unity amongst believers. To remove the means of faith would subject those adherents to the religious values and tenants ofother, more accepted religions, which would destroy their own values and beliefs.


Other first amendment advocates argue the claim to freedom of religion is unsuitable when the religious values are contrary to the fundamental principles of the nation’s foundation. There are those who believe removing a religion from the nation’s freedoms will prevent citizens from the death desired by those religious adherents. They suggest a citizenry, without the ability to adhere to certain religious tenants, will convene in a safer society. It is the religion, they say, which has no other purpose than to inflict death. To remove the means of faith would force adherents to use other means to spread their dogma, ones, which could not inflict death with the speed and effectiveness of religion-based dissemination.


So where do you stand?

Is it the religion, which poses the problem, or is it the people who use the religion to inflict their will? Is it the gun, which poses the problem, or is it the people who use the gun to inflict their will? Are you consistent in your beliefs?

If we remove the item being used as the weapon, will we violate certain rights? Will society be safer?

Rainy days stimulate profound thought and it’s pouring outside. Hoping someday the sun will shine on a more peaceful world.  Until then, hugs for Kenya, Paris, Beirut, Baghdad and a hundred other places where peace bends and breaks before acts of atrocity.

By ccxander

American Hallucinations


The American political landscape now resembles a celebrity roast. Politicians stand behind a podium, hurling stones at each other, while claiming they are the true voice of the people, the nation, and the essence of American interests. They are divisive, condescending, and so vehemently focused on dethroning the champions of the other side, that America’s well-being has been relegated to an afterthought. We have reached an intersection between reality television and national mockery. To find the nation’s next President, we’ll need more than debates, deceits and public demeaning. We’ll need a leader.

Leadership is about unification. It is about recognizing that some men are not better than other men. It acknowledges that humans, regardless of gender or race or preference, are just simply humans. Leadership accepts the fact that no one “deserves” anything, other than an equal opportunity to prosper, provided they make the effort and can access the intellectual and physical wherewithal to pursue their aspirations.[1]

Leadership requires visionary thinking, perhaps not so much to restore America’s prominence in the world, but rather, to ensure all of her peoples are safe, and endowed with an opportunity to pursue the American Dream.

Over the past few decades, the immigrant community has entered America with new ideas, new culture and the political philosophies of their homelands. Rather than assimilate into the American culture, they’ve opted to pull the country into the deepest waters of sociopolitical ambiguity, disorienting her with their desire to drown her cultural origins. They want this nation to conform to the ideals of the nations they left, to be “more like home” so that their adjustments to the American standard of living is not difficult. As a result, the country is changing.

The consequence of such action is a nation which no longer survives in the tradition of its founding. Instead, America finds itself bobbing in the ocean of opinions, a country without anchor, a spellbound ship seeking a port with a firm foundation. In 2016, she will gain a new captain, presumably one who can pilot us to safe shores. At present, however, each of the candidates lacks the navigational wherewithal to chart a course to sanctuary. The absence has a discouraging presence.

Entrenched in their party dogma, the candidates no longer consider the nation’s well-being. Rather, they operate campaigns to counter the opposition, saturating the airways with invectives and denunciations until America’s future looks more like a rugby skirmish than manifest destiny. They shout “Those darn Republicans” or “Those darn Democrats,” as though they are willing to abdicate their responsibility to represent a major faction of their constituents.


How can fiftypercent of the populous support a President who spends the majority of a campaign disparaging the ideals and beliefs of that constituency? Imagine a little league coach ignoring half of his players and you get the idea. It’s hard to imagine we have come to this place in American politics. This is not leadership. This is reprehensible.

At present, all three branches receive the scorn and contempt of the populous – not one faction of government garners more than fifty percent approval rating. So what does that leave us?

The names Bush and Clinton, Sanders and Trump, Carson and Chaffey, do not inspire us the way Obama and Reagan did during their campaigns. Those orators made us believe unification was possible, that one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all was more than an ideal. They envisaged a nation, which re-established the American dream and we Americans bought into those visions. Whether you approve or disapprove of the outcome of either of those administrations, it is the campaigns that were relevant. Through Iowa and New Hampshire, Kentucky and California, Americans believed in the ideas these men espoused. Today, no candidate engenders that confidence.

America’s sunset is approaching now. I hope one of today’s candidates corrects course. I hope one of them abandons political party dogma and seeks to fuse dialectics into dreams, such that possibilities will appear in the horizon’s blue sky. I hope one leader will emerge from the bowels of America’s ship to captain us upon a course where people will tell tales of a mighty ship, which weathered many squalls.

If not, the stormy skies may once again entomb a great civilization and the American Dream may transform into the American nightmare.

[1] If not, and this is an important point, our society should help. The mentally ill and physically disabled require our care, and we, as a compassionate and civilized society, have an obligation to help those who cannot help themselves. Whether society has other obligations to all of its members – education, health care, welfare – is left for its members to determine.

By ccxander

Kart-ma (def) when you cut off the person in front of you in the grocery line and intellectually suffer for it


For the greater part of my life, I’ve been a decent person, opening up doors for people, allowing others in line in front of me, helping out the random stranger when they need a few cents in the supermarket line. I’ve always thought it was a part of being a compassionate human, helping out a brother/sister in need. There were no karmic intentions. But then, given so many deposits into my Karmic bank account, I figured some of it might be withdrawn if I was ever in dire straits. Cut to today:

With two items (I’ll withhold the details for fear of mockery), I headed toward the checkout line at my local supermarket. Three lines had check-out personnel and each one was four full carts deep (who knew 10:30 am on Monday was the equivalent of grocery shopping’s US405 rush hour?) With tears brewing – I had a meeting in three minutes and this was a Disneyland-ish 30 minute wait at best. Scanning the prairie for assistance, I saw her. She sauntered up casually, with the sort of confidence that just radiates from your soul when you know you’re about to make someone’s day. Staring into my forlorn eyes, she lifted a ring-laden finger toward me and curled it toward herself. I’m pretty good with the “come hither” signals and I leaned in for the dash to freedom.

Next to me, an old woman who happened to be fourth in line in the next lane, turned her cart and slid its front end before me. In Malibu, “closest to the curl gets the right of way.” At Indianapolis, “nose in front” takes the lead. I heard the phrase “Back off, Grandma!” brewing in my skull and then felt my hand touch the front of her cart and give it a nudge. With three-hundred items – this grandmother appeared to be shopping for the entire retirement home – the cart barely moved. True, she had the proximity advantage, but I had gotten the signal!

So here’s my question. With all those karmic deposits behind me, I feel like I’ve earned this moment, the high-speed lane opening up just as I reach the pinnacle of frustration. This is the moment when the Universe pays me back for all of my good deeds, right? RIGHT???

It is now 4:00 pm and I am sitting in a post-meeting stupor, staring at the rotating ceiling fan and pondering the ramifications of what I’ve done. Did I cash-in on a history of compassion or did I just make a withdrawal that has left me morally bankrupt and at the mercy of karmic revenge? How does one know when karma is paying you back rather than testing you again to find out if you are really just an asshole?

These questions truly plague my existence.

By ccxander

Going West to Nashville

Bristol, TN to Nashville covers 293 miles and requires one bathroom break or an empty wide-mouthed Gatorade bottle. Because of construction, speed limits change every fifty miles or so and there are sun-glassed policemen in unmarked cars, who gain small thrills issuing fast-traveling tourists tickets. If they don’t issue you a ticket, they stand outside of your car for nearly half an hour discussing things like the impending storm and UT football and other soul-sucking conversational topics that can destroy your day if you happened to break 75 in a 70mph zone because you really have to get to your destination before the sun goes down. Without a doubt, I know this to be true.

Along the road, the religiosity of this state’s population is evident. Rumors suggest Jesus was a carpenter, and based on the number of Churches here, God must have been a general contractor/developer. The prevalence of prayer places here makes Starbucks’ ubiquity seem horribly inadequate.

Dominant roadside shades include purple, yellow, and orange, and if you get close enough to the leaves, you can almost smell the moonshine that’s fed the trees for more than a century. And, well, since we’re talking about alcohol, here’s a sign from one of the small towns I passed on my journey.


Fortunately for everyone I know, they didn’t have t-shirts.

Nashville is known for its music – think Hank Williams, the Allman Bros. and a post-move Elvis. Thus, when you descend from the Appalachians into the city’s heart, the wind outside your car window blows with a country twang. You hear them crooning from honky-tonks and diners, on street corners and in local restaurants, all cutting open their veins to bleed onto the pages of music history. Music is to Nashville as food is to Italy.

And so now I am wandering these song-filled streets, taking in the cowboy boot stores and famous fried foods from kitchens which ring out phrases like, “Y’ant mo’ okra?” and “Oda up!” Everyone says “Mornin’ to ya,” and, on every sidewalk, big belt buckles play host to sun-drenched thumbs. I’ve yet to see anyone chewing on a stalk of hay yet, but cowboy hats are as abundant as Hollywood implants.

In the past few days, I’ve noticed myself sliding into the Southern drawl. It’s easy, like cutting your workday short or using a microwave to prepare dinner. Today, though, I have to give a presentation in the King’s English. Wish me luck, y’all.

By ccxander

Bristling in Bristol

I’m on day two in Bristol, Tennessee – and Virginia because half of the city in is one state and half is in the other.


I know this because I saw police cars from both states riding right behind me today as I made my way to the Bristol Caverns. Turns out, they were closed (the caverns not the cops), which left me standing at the front of a cavernous entrance wondering how someone can close caverns. Gun-toting security guards can make you believe a lot of things though, and so I took a walk about Bristol instead.

Here are some things I’ve learned since I’ve been here:

There is a spider, which creates a web, and then bites through both sides of the web and rides the thing from one tree to the next. One man here called it the Wright Brothers spider and I’m pretty traumatized by the site of a spider, which has discovered flight prior to leaving the arachnid stage of evolution.

There is a Scuba shop offering Scuba lessons in Bristol, and since we’re smack dab in the middle of the Appalachians, I had to ask the nagging question, “For what?” The answer was unpredictable and awesome, “Somebody gotta fish out the bodies.” I think I love this place.

I ate at Cootie Brown’s today, and the “real food” I mentioned yesterday was unexpectedly awesome. Sweet potato chips with a honey glaze that’s “pretty damn near crack” according to one local. He wasn’t lying. Thank you, Masha, for hooking us up.

The trees remind me of Los Angeles hair colors, the myriad shades dripping from branches with a sort of melancholic longing for summer. It’s pretty in a Melrose Avenue sort of way.

King University’s campus is rolling lawn of green covered by red brick buildings – imagine Christmas squashed by a rolling pin and you get the idea.


Five bedroom houses next to the local country club run between $185-$210,000 and your average yard resembles half a football field. In Los Angeles these would run $1.8-3.5 million, although, to be fair, the weather is probably a little better and the collagen implants means people smile more.

Quaker Stake and Lube is a restaurant  – we’re pretty close to Bristol Speedway, which apparently has quite the Nascar history – and the wings are spicy enough to explain the nearby fire hose.


With a short itinerary, I’ve decided to spend one more day here. I’m hoping to avoid Orville and Wilbur Spider, or becoming one of those Scuba-requiring bodies, however, if you don’t hear from me in the next 48 hours, please assume the worst.

By ccxander

Bristol, Tennessee

I am now in Bristol, Tennessee, a town, which boasts caverns and a dam as attractions and serves enough sweet tea to keep the local dentistry business in luxury. With a few extra hours this morning, I intended to venture out to South Holston Dam. However, asking for directions in this State is like negotiating with Iran – they just don’t mean what you think they mean.

“Can you help me with directions to the Dam.”

“It’s ‘bout a cuppa my.”


“Cuppa my from heya.”

You can see how the average IQ in America is100.  Disappointed, I left.

On a whim, I asked Siri what a Cuppa My is and she said a couple miles, implying I may actually be the reason America’s IQ is 100. Turns out, a Cuppa My in Bristol translates to 13 barn-observing miles, with one stop to ask for more directions because clearly a Cuppa My can’t possibly be this goddamn far. Luckily for me, Murray – yes, that really was her name –Murray cleared things up for me, stating, ‘Make a right at the Dollar General and then turn left at the big tree.”  For those unfamiliar with Bristol, we’re pretty much in the middle of the Appalachian mountains, so phrases like the “Big Tree” is about as delineating as urine in a dog park. I think I found it though.


After another ten minutes, I arrived. Here’s a photo to prove it.


The damn was pretty, the nearby bridge even prettier, and the fisherman fishing off that bridge, with the foot-long grey beard, the face that resembled a catcher’s mitt, and wrinkled hands large enough to handle the largest of trout, was not pretty at all.

After a quick jog around the river, I needed food.

Ready for this?


So many things right here, I don’t think I can say anything worthy. Nor do I need to.  Love the quotes though.

Tomorrow I am speaking at King University. Presumably, someone will give me proper directions and more real food. If not, you’ll find me on the highway somewhere, scooping up the road kill, which averages one raccoon per mile. It’s not great fare, but when in Bristol….

By ccxander

Recent Brief Observations on Air Travel

I remember when flying was romantic – the wide-eyed gaze out the airport window at the exoskeletal T-Rex, which would take us to some foreign place. We’d dive out at the white zone, ink one of those luggage twisty tags, and then plant ourselves at the gate for ten minutes before heading down the body-odor-filled hallway toward the metal dinosaur. The stewardess – they used to be called that – would hand us a status-wielding set of captain’s wings and a deck of cards and, if we were lucky, we’d get to see the cockpit and be told “someday, you too, could be a pilot, kid..”


But, travel is different now.

I am currently sitting in Chicago’s Midway airport on a two-hour layover. Outside, brontosaurus-looking bulldozers scoop massive mounds of dirt as little Lego-like workers review brown clipboards with expansion plans. When the shovels drops toward the turf, workers scatter like Japanese civilians in those old Godzilla films. Nearby, jumbo jets dip their snouts into giant drier hoses, downloading and uploading people with the sort of frenetic desperation only teenage boys could understand.

Inside the building, things have changed more drastically. Ticket counter personnel have proctological compassion. Dogs are now allowed in airports and at least one corner of the terminal has already seen a fang-bearing row, not to mention a stool sample, which, if we’re being honest, could not possibly have come from a dog that small. There are people pushing wheelchairs who look like they should be the ones in wheelchairs, and even the people in the wheelchairs have a permanent scowl like, “Are you fucking kidding me?” While many years ago, people wore deodorant on planes, presumably that is no longer a socially recognized custom, and based on the amount of tank-tops now showcasing back hair and an uncomfortable number of skin disorders, this trip is going to set aromatic records.

The terminal is also filled with a haunting absence of sound, the only interruptions coming from Starbucks baristas shouting out names, what must be Charlie Brown’s parents on the overhead intercom system, and an unrelenting and truly vile, ubiquitous coughing. I’ve apparently developed a phobia for people coughing on flights, the likely result of watching too many Hollywood films – a nearby sniffle is like the Reaper’s death knell and anyone’s throat starting to tighten gives me the howling fantods. So, it figures this week’s version of “I have the flu and I’m going to make sure everyone around me gets it too,” is presently seated right next to me, no matter where I sit.

Everyone’s head tilts down toward phone screens, computer screens, ipads, ipods, and Gameboys. I remember when connection meant holding a hand, but now it’s a hand that holds a connection. Speech is muted, reserved for intermittent giggles at Google pages or a grunt at an unwanted email. The flight attendants – that’s what they are called now – don’t even give professional smiles anymore, focusing instead on balancing their drink trays and making sure their seatbacks are straight enough to ensure an uncomfortable ride. They read safety instructions at radio announcer speed over what Graham Bell’s first telephone line must have sounded like, and then plop themselves into the jump seat with a scowl that just dares you to press the call button. If you rise to ask about captain’s wings or a deck of cards, an Air Marshall takes aim at your chest and the flight attendants grimace at you like you should be wearing a helmet.

I could go on, but you get the point. Fiying isn’t romantic anymore. Oh, sure, you still get fucked, but, rather than a nice night out, it’s more like a prison rape.

If I arrive at my destination, I’ll report about Tennessee.

By ccxander



The courts are dark. Outside by the pool, a few well-boozed attendees flop out onto deck chairs to await the morning’s sunrise. After a final day at the El Conquistador Hotel, people pack their sweat-soaked skivvies into plastic bags and prepare for the morning taxi ride to the airport. Today, PJ Simmons and his remarkable staff hosted the Tennis Congress’ final moments. With each player going through two more coaching sessions followed by a private session with their dedicated-for-the-weekend coach, players took to the courts for another 4.5 hours of activity. This followed another four hours of conference room lectures and the type of immersive experience one finds in foreign language schools.

After a few photos with their mentors, attendees limped back to their rooms for a quick shower before limping out to the pool for a buffet dinner, some joyful yet tearful words from Simmons, and more applause for his efforts than in many of the recent Presidential Campaign stops. Before dinner though, the coaches and a few athletes met for a cocktail briefing. With the faculty encircling him, Simmons broke down with gratitude and humility. His weeping turned on a fountain of faculty tears as they recounted stories of their experience in the Congress, their passion for the event, and the honor it was to work for such a cause. Irishman Joseph O’Dwyer laid himself upon the floor during an impassioned speech about what it means to be a coach, and specifically, one who attends the Congress. After extended applause for O’Dwyer’s effort, event planner Klinton Kraft also broke down, commenting that after producing hundreds of corporate events around the nation, this was the finest and most rewarding conference he has ever experienced.

The thing about Tennis Congress is its innocence. There are no egos here, with coaches and fitness personnel giving their very best effort to the Congress and sharing information with each other in an effort to improve the attendees’ experience. No one inside the tennis world could have created this event. It took a passionate man’s dream to launch the idea and to bring it to fruition one phone call at a time. Simmons has personally spoken to every single faculty member – over 75 at this point – and offered a personal invitation to each individual. His vision has led to an individualized curriculum for every student, a mobile app that updates every participant minute by minute about where to be, what events are taking place, and ratings for seminars and coaches so he knows who is keeping up to the US Tennis Congress’ standard.  In the first year, he stood upon a small stage with two plants. Today, with five massive theater screens, tennis court in a ballroom with video cameras, outdoor drone cameras, AV equipment for 5 ballrooms, and a cadre of followers who just keep shouting “MORE!” the Congress has hit a new strata.

I have no idea what is going to happen with this event. Perhaps it reaches toward the Vegas hotels or makes its way around the globe in foreign venues. Perhaps it stays intimate and sells out in eight minutes like it did this year. Maybe there will be offshoots taking place at local clubs around the United States. For now though, there’s still a group of participants in the lobby shooting sentimental photos with new friends. I think I’m going to photo bomb one. I kind of want proof that I was here. It may give me bragging rights some time in the future.

Good night, PJ Simmons. Thank you for all of your efforts. Sleep well. You’ve earned it.

By ccxander


They arrived early this morning, the sore stagger of tired souls walking into the breakfast hall with an uncomfortable enthusiasm. Yes, uncomfortable. These people scare me. They are Balboa at the end of round fourteen. They are mid-sentence Mandela and cockroaches after nuclear war. They are of a resilient ilk never-before-seen in this tennis world. And they are still out there, at 8pm, playing sets and taking lessons and doing cardio clinics and running on god-only-knows what fuel source since they’ve skipped every meal since breakfast just so they could keep playing.


It is day three of the US Tennis Congress and the number of knee braces and K-tape has increased significantly. The athletes display the black bags of dehydration beneath their eyes and, from the soreness, their split steps are narrow enough to make them all look like they need a restroom. Yesterday, they played for seven hours and welcomed the moon into the sky. Today, as if challenging the previous days record, some of these people are doing their eleventh on-court hour. They are over forty, or fifty, or in some cases, seventy years-old. They are addicts in the best sense, drinking from the firehose of world-class information they’ve had shoved in their mouths since they moment they arrived. They don’t want to wait until they get home to improve. They want it now, today, tonite, and maybe even in the wee morning hours when the clock hands point due East. I’m beginning to believe they will never stop. Imagine that, sleep foregone for the love of thegame. I’ll say it again – these people scare me.

As the dinner buffet hosted a mere trickle of a line, diners ate rapidly before heading back out to the courts to watch an exhibition between former top 100 player Jeff Salzenstein and 45’s National Champion Jeff Greenwald. Adding to the drama, both players wore headsets and the crowd got a chance to be inside the heads of elite competitors. What played out was a dialogue of fears and anxieties, strategic insights, the physiological changes in the body, and an enormous dose of ball-busting. It was educational and entertaining and something the USTA should bring to the US OPEN. But then, that’s really it isn’t it? The things happening here at the Congress are the types of originations we don’t see on the US tennis landscape. This place is becoming the trailblazer for tennis innovation and only the locals know about it.

Tomorrow represents the final day here. It is possible some of today’s warriors won’t make the stagger to breakfast. It is possible the courts will have a few less competitors clamoring for the wisdom of Allistair McCaw or Joseph O’Dwyer.   It is possible some will succumb to the heat, the fatigue, the pain. But then, anything is possible, and from what I’ve seen, there is no way I’m betting against these folks. Did I mention these people scare me?

By ccxander