Thursday, September 22, 2016

Jury Duty

Prior to this month I had been called a few times, but I never served.

I found the experience highly interesting, and it required that I think about some aspects of the criminal justice system I'd never really given a lot of consideration to. Here are the highlights:

1) The lawyers seemed mostly interested in selecting people who have as few opinions as possible about anything important. Their optimal jurist would be a lump of clay. I don't know what this says about me since I was selected. I did make an effort to get kicked off by talking about how the war on drugs has disproportionately effected black men and done super crazy things to our incarceration rates. Given the defendant was black I thought maybe I'd get dropped for the comment.
2) I'm pretty certain had I not been on the jury the defendant would have been convicted of at least one felony. I felt a little bit like a superhero afterward.
3) Three or four other jurists were pretty hardcore about the defendant being guilty at the beginning of our deliberations. The fact that they were able to change their minds and eventually, with out anger, come around to a not guilty verdict restored some of my faith in humanity.
4) Practically everyone I saw at the courthouse on trial was black.
5) The law and/or judge asks you to put your conscience and morals on hold to perform this duty. In as much as they'll admit this is what they're asking you for, they stress its only temporary. But this is one of the few times in your life when your morals/conscience have a chance to have a direct and profound impact on a person. It's a strange dichotomy. In particular they ask that you pass judgement on someone without any consideration of the punishment (which is decided by the judge).
6) The "guilty beyond a reasonable doubt" business is a really high bar. I'm glad it is in place.

Bonus items:
7) More than once while walking to the courthouse I heard two homeless people arguing about the importance of Edward Snowden. This felt uniquely San Francisco to me.
8) If you don't want to sound like a complete crazy person do not, under any circumstance, dictate long angry texts to Siri. At best she'll make you look nuts; at worst she'll make you sound like you're threatening to kill someone.

Friday, August 19, 2016

A Perfect World:
A Work of Fiction

Let me tell you about a perfect world. Let me tell you what I can. First and foremost when they said, "get up, everyone rise" then everyone would stand.

When I was six years old my daddy said to me, "you'll love school. They'll take good care of you. They'll teach you numbers and words and how to be kind to one another." I had visions of Harry Potter lunch boxes, and the number eight decorated like snowmen. My dad, he wore a tie my first day of school. He dropped me off in wing-tipped shoes and a suit. Then he went home and changed into the plain pants and shirt of a self taught electrician before heading to work. That's a perfect world.

More than anything, Charlotte loved Hello Kitty.  She had a Hello Kitty binder, a Hello Kitty backpack, Hello Kitty shoes and pencils. She had it all. That was a perfect world.

The thing is, my dad probably had the words and the fear to tell me what I really needed to hear. He doesn't talk about it now so who can say for sure. All things being equal he'd prefer to never talk about it again. But all things aren't equal. I know that much now; school taught me something.

Can you imagine--no you can't, you shouldn't--but can you imagine, sitting down with your child and saying, "well son, this is a big step in your life. You're going to learn to read and write, and you'll be safe, but just in case, let me tell you what to do, just in case."

You know he has to pause here. You can't tell a six year old what he’s about to tell his child without second guesses. So he pauses and then breaks the news, that maybe the world isn't always quite so safe. Imagine the dryness of his lips, how his bowels might feel, the tears he fights back because this is the conversation he has to have with the human being he might love most and whose most complicated thought up to this point has been whether Superman is stronger than the Hulk.

"It's just that sometimes bad things happen when we least expect them," he'd say. "So if, God forbid, something bad happens, listen to your teachers. But also know that if you hear gunshots get down and pretend to be dead." Then he'd lay on the ground and put his arms and legs at awkward angles. "Look at me son, this is how you do it. Do you see me?"

But you can't see him down there. Your brain literally can't comprehend what he's doing, you're too young. What is he talking about guns for? The prospect of school excited you a few minutes ago but what is this? Everything is mildly sinister now. Maybe you'd better stay home.

Eventually, months later you would have thanked him, but all you can see now are nines and sixes with a bullet hole in each and an eight with two, the class turtle wandering across broken glass and a bloody floor. Why's your dad got to be so weird? Why'd he put these images in your head?

"And if all else fails, run. Run fast and in a zigzag line. Run away. Don't worry about where to. You run and run and run until you're lost and then I'll find you." He mimics a zigzag run, too. You'd watch this dumbfounded. He might as well be an alien. And you’d giggle, because you’re only six years old.

But that’s no way to start a new school year. Instead we pack lunches and take pictures in our new sneakers and Ninjago t-shirts. Everything is normal in a perfect world.

Olivia had the best smile. And her shirts always had some uplifting message on them: love, joy, and happiness. She wore her hair back and never had a harsh word for anyone. In a perfect world everyone would experience her smile.

I use to believe in a perfect world. But then one day a stranger walked into my class. In his hands he held dark and angry steel. I thought it had to be a toy but then it spoke. It’s voice never to be surpassed in vile and ugliness. TAT! TAT! TAT! All I could do was scream. I was six years old. I didn't know what was happening. My dad hadn't prepared me for this. All the sharpened pencils and virginal notebooks in the world were rendered useless. The world was nothing. Nada. The world was the concussions. TAT! TAT! TAT! You could feel it in your ears and in your teeth. The TAT! TAT! TAT! was everything. It was I who was nothing.

Something primal arrived, something ancient, something that desires life more than all. Something drug me to the ground, like some great beast separating the Earth; it put its clawed hands over my mouth and pulled me to the floor. Then he left, the great wrecker. I'd never see him again. I've never not see him again.

There were echoes of it still. Somewhere off in the distance, Tat! Tat! Tat! Then there were sirens.

In times of great stress people talk of boulders and elephants on their chests, but it was more than that that held me down, that stole my breath. It was a mountain. No, it was an entire range. I saw my mother and father come from the west, the Appalachians cradled in their arms. They placed them there on my chest and whispered, "be still." Even my shaking stopped.

Then there was silence, or something like silence. It went on and on, long like the time we drove to Kansas to visit my Aunt and I faded in and out of sleep in the back seat of the minivan, listening to thunder and the hum of the engine. Until at last, one more Tat and then the sobs of little children. Mine and there’s all bundled together, like sticks to a fire. The singular sound of the world put to tears and lives put ruin.

Eventually there were footsteps and people speaking and someone said, "get up, everyone rise." But only half of us could stand. And so now, I’ve given up on a perfect world.

Some mornings when I wake I don't think about that day first thing. Some days the memory isn't there like a kid drowning under a frozen lake, beating at the surface of everything. Those are good days, days as close to perfect as I'll ever see. But even on those days I can still stumble upon the remnants. There's always another shooting. There is always Syria, and pictures of boys barely alive in the back of ambulances or washed up dead on beaches they never called home. There is always someone on the internet telling the world, telling me, telling my dead friends' parents, that it never even happened, that it was just an elaborate hoax to get guns out of the hands of law abiding citizens. But all I can see is that man. That boy--my Mama tells me he was just a boy. And his TAT! TAT! TAT!  

If only none of it were real; if only we lived in a perfect world.

Friday, August 5, 2016


It all started with a trip. A short trip across the city. And a meal for a struggling family stashed in the passenger seat. I had their address on my phone. I was parked a few houses away. But I couldn't get out. I was stuck in the car. Their food getting cold next to me; my family waiting to start dinner when I returned home. But I couldn't move. My hands shook. I took a deep breath, gathered up the food, and exited the car.

What's the big deal? I want to be the type of person who helps other people. And yet when faced with others' tragedies and struggles I most often find myself wordless, worthless--a stone statue. Beyond that, after Berkeley was born I could no longer handle the imagery, even made up imagery of movies, of little children being hurt. It sinks me. I flinch at the thought. And this house? This house had the real deal inside. Inside was a little girl struggling to keep her life. Inside was a family struggling to make sense of it. And outside was me standing at their door with a bunch of plastic containers filled with food and stuffed into a brown paper bag.

After I knocked and they answered I stepped into their entryway. The mother and father were there. They expressed their gratitude. I managed to explain the intricacies of the meal, what was to be mixed with what and what was to be reheated and what was to be eaten at room temperature. It was a normal home by all appearances; even though the closed curtains made me feel somber, nothing was actually out of the ordinary. Then the two boys showed up. They chased each other around and stopped for a second to say hi. It was nothing; just another person bringing them dinner. Except had I seen her I would have had to sit down on their steps. I would have had to collect myself. I would have had to cry in front of near strangers. This is how I would have helped them? Bring them food and cry on their stoop, accepting their comfort?

She never made an appearance and I left. I sat in my car again. This time I cried. I cried for their pain. I cried for their resilience. I cried for hope. On the drive back I knew what I had to do when I got home. There is so much unrequested and unmitigated pain in this world. Why even add the smallest amounts? Why not let people be happy and get the things they want? The exact thing they want? Especially when she is the most important person in the world to you? All these thoughts fell into a funnel and that funnel lead to one place. I couldn't tell you why this was the place, why at the bottom of this funnel was a hole that lead straight to a decision I'd barely thought about since Wren's birth.

So I opened my front door, went to Robyn, and when she asked how the drop off went I told her if she still wanted a third child then we should have a third child. This was maybe eight months ago. Fast forward to a few days ago and we acquired this picture I affectionately call "The Shrimp":

Some version of this story is what I try to tell people when they ask how I went from only wanting one child to Robyn being pregnant with our third. I don't know if it makes any sense. But somehow it feels like something in my heart has been healed even though it never felt exactly broken. I hope we can do right by this one along with the other two.

Due Date: 2/12/2017
Gender: Unknown

Monday, August 1, 2016

If Hillary is so terrible then why would I vote for her?

We could discuss the minutiae of all the supposed scandals Hillary has had. But I don't think it would be a very productive discussion at this point. At the end of the day there are people who believe many of the negative claims about her have veracity; I don't. But let's pretend for a minute that I did; that I believed some important subset of the claims are true. Let's say that in general I think she has poor character, is greedy, power hungry, and a liar. I would still have to make the decision at the end of the day if I'm placing a vote that has affect. Here's my thinking behind what I would do if I were in that position.

Even if I believe Hillary is as bad as I've been told, then at the end of her four year term here's what I'll likely get that I won't get if Trump is President (and these things matter to me, though I recognize they have different weights for you):
  1. Liberal Supreme Court Justices, at least one, probably 2, maybe 3. (frankly this list could end here and it would be enough for me and this would be less an issue if the Senate would do their job and let Obama have his pick.)
  2. No regression on same-sex rights
  3. No regression on racism
  4. People with disabilities won't have to feel shame every time they see the person we elected to run the country because he basically thinks they're useless and only worthy of ridicule.
  5. We wouldn't ignore NATO treaties.
  6. We wouldn't even discuss building a useless and racists wall across our southern border
  7. We wouldn't have a database of people based on their religion
  8. The likelihood of a very serious war will be smaller with Clinton. Trump is too bombastic and too thin skinned to not make something somewhere go wrong. I agree that Clinton is a hawk, but her interventions will be small and strategic as opposed to knee-jerk. We can survive another Syria, I'll pass on a second cold war or a World War or a nuclear war or any sort of war with China.
  9. There is value in having a female president.
  10. We won't have a commander-in-chief that wants to bomb the families of our enemies.
  11. We won't have a commander-in-chief who thinks waterboarding is ok.
  12. We won't have a commander-in-chief who has now made fun of a POW and a Gold Star family (fuck that).
  13. My daughters won't be talked about like they are pieces of rubbish by their President.
On the flip side, the negative of having Hillary if she's as bad as you say she is:
  1. She likely leaves office after 4 years with a lot of money and becomes a footnote of history.
The economy is a tricky beast but I'm confident Trump can't fix it. I don't know if Hillary can. There is definitely a set of people who have not seen the benefit of the recovery. It needs to be worked on but there is no benefit to Hillary to not at least try to fix it. She gains nothing by it being broke even if she is as corrupt as you say she is. But one thing we know is she works harder and is smarter than most anyone. I'd rather her on the project than Trump who is at best a scam artist who likely will treat our economy the same way he's treated his businesses and the people who depended on his businesses.

So I look at my vote and I ask, "even if Hillary is as bad as I'm told, is it worth throwing all those things away just so she doesn't get some personal benefit from being the President? Do I spit in the face of America and what I want it to be because my uncle forwards me emails insisting she's the devil?" At the end of the day, if I'm being honest with myself, even in that case, where my uncle's emails are 100% correct about her, she gets my vote because Donald Trump is that bad. He's an existential crisis to America, our way of life, what we stand for, and possibly for the entire world. So there is no gain for me to consider greatly the small details, the what abouts, and coincidences, and the might have beens of her political career. For now I'll trust the multitudes of Republican lead Benghazi meetings that have found nothing, and a Republican appointed FBI direct who says there is nothing to indite on and move forward against the worst candidate the country has ever put forth for serious consideration. In addition when I look at the world, at the people I respect the most, public figures and friends and colleague--intellectual and moral giants--they almost all line up behind Hillary. So please forgive me if I can't even make it to the "she's as bad as Donald" side of the argument. The best minds I know disagree with that statement. And more important than that, the best hearts I know disagree with that statement.

With all that in mind, there is no way in hell I'd give either Jill Stein or Johnson my vote. Such a vote buys me nothing. It buys the least among us nothing. Even if the naysayers are right about Hillary, it wouldn't even help me sleep at night because I'd know that I made such a vote to condemn the least among us so that I could have some sense of useless purity. My heart couldn't take that. If there were some realistic odds of a third party candidate winning, and I believed Hillary to be the devil, I would cast my lot with the person most likely to defeat Trump, though I would be pained to vote for either of the two most likely usurpers because I don't align well with their professed values, but I'd still do it.

You can judge me as a sheep. Or blind. Or stupid. Or willfully ignorant. But those labels won't change any of the above nor the amount of thought and heart I've put into this decision.

Thursday, July 7, 2016


Imagine if you will, a modern post-Nazi Germany where a disproportionately large number of Jews were killed by German policy and where a disproportionately large number of Jews were imprisoned and sentenced to death, strapped to tables and chairs and killed by the German government. Imagine how the general German population might feel about this. Imagine how the international community might feel about this. Imagine how absurd it would sound when a blond haired blue eyed German said, "Jews sure have come a long way since Hitler" or "If Jews don't want to get killed by the police then they should give up all of their rights when they encounter any policy office, just in case." Imagine a Jewish man, let's name him Anton Sterk. Imagine him standing around, selling some CDs out of the back of his car in Germany. Imagine that he might even be illegally selling those CDs. Now imagine the post-Nazi German police tackling Anton--a father, a husband, a human being, Jewish--and eventually shooting him to death. You'd look at this and you'd wonder, how could Germany of all places let this happen after all it did to the Jewish people? How?

But then do you turn your gaze to our own examples, Alton Sterling, and the thousands like him in American Prisons, hundreds like him legally executed by the U.S. government, and hundreds like him getting executed by white police in America, and do you not wonder, after our history with slavery, after the legal and overt brutalization and dehumanization of human beings of a very specific demographic, do you now not flinch (if not retch) every time you see one of these tragedies played across our T.V. screens? We're sick America. We're sick in big and important ways. Even if you're related to a good cop; even if you are a good cop; or perhaps especially because you are one of those things, you should absolutely be disgusted with our history of violence toward black people. It's abhorrent. It was abhorrent in the 1800s. And it's abhorrent today, in 2016.

And please please please, all you second amendment advocates, don't shirk now. Now's your time to do your duty. There are a group of people being oppressed by our government, and they aren't white farmers or white kids in the suburbs. They more than anyone, if we are to believe second amendment advocates, need to be armed. So don't now tell them if they don't want bad interactions with the police they should never be armed. Don't tell them to lay down and be trampled at the first sign of the police. This is there country. Their freedoms. Their rights. They deserve better. We should be better. At some point white America has to recognize how terribly wrong slavery was and how important it is for our humanity to avoid even the near appearance of ever going there again. We have to openly discuss it. Feel shame and remorse about it. Recognize the privilege it still provides us today. Tackle it head on. We can look to Germany for hints on how to do this. They turned Auschwitz into a history museum while we bury all hints of slavery in the past. They make the death penalty illegal while we eagerly kill those we perceive as having sinned against us. We still have young black men shot and killed by police on a seemingly monthly basis. They looked in the mirror; we broke ours. Rather than say, "black people have come a long way since slavery" we need to stand up and say, "white people still have a ways to go since slavery."

R.I.P. Alton Sterling. I weep for you. Your children. Your wife. Your family. Your friends. Your community. Black America. And the tragedy that is white denial.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Guns, Guns, and Guns

Due to vacation, grad school, work, parenting, sleeping, and frankly being rather lazy, I've avoided talking about this topic since Orlando. Which makes me part of the problem no matter how great my excuses. But today I finally made it out of the house for a run and my mind couldn't leave it alone. So if I may have a "few" words on the topic.

If you know me, you know I swing left. I'm not the most liberal person on your friends list (if I am that says more about you than me, but I digress), as such you might have a sense of where I'll go with this and if you have that sense and you think you'll disagree with me you probably (and I fully understand this inclination) will stop reading sometime soon and think, "yeah, I've heard all of this before." Maybe you have, but for that set of friends and family I'll start where you might least expect me to, by agreeing with you. You can decide from there if you want to hear out the rest of it, or if like me on most days, you feel you have better things to do with your time.

There was another reason why I've been more silent than I normally am after these sorts of tragedies: I have misgivings about one of the two main solution offered up. Here are things I'm willing to concede: the 2nd amendment grants U.S. citizens the right to bear arms. Making laws that infringe upon rights is not a long term solution. Even if you get such a law passed it will only be a matter of time before the Supreme Court overrules your law in favor of the constitution. So the banning suspected terrorist from buying guns is a non-starter for me. Not because I own guns (I certainly don't, they're more likely to up the odds of one of my kids killing themselves or someone else with one than protecting my family so I have no desire to own one) and not because I think people have a God given right to own guns, but because I believe in the rule of law. And in order for that rule of law to have meaning we can't yank serious rights from Americans for being suspected of something, especially when that something is maintained in secrecy where a suspect has little means to know why they are on the list or how to get off it. I'm generally not fond of slippery slope arguments (I bet I'll belittle one later in this post if I know me), but we have to put a serious eye toward what the future looks like when we allow the government to curtail a right based on suspicion. I care for all the other rights in the constitution more than the 2nd amendment, and so I have to ask myself, not only is the country broke enough to suspend that one right, but is it broke enough to suspend any of the others as well? More on this "solution" later, but my other big problem with it is probably more liberal based and I just want to agree with my friends on the right for now.

I agree with you that a gun is no more dangerous than a pebble of sand when it's left to its own devices. Nor does it need any blame in any death. It's a brainless, careless, thoughtless, useless tool without the hands of humanity. I also agree that there are a handful of different things in our lives that kill and maim people, that on the whole do more harm than guns do. I concede it can be fantastic, fulfilling, and compelling to feel safe in your home, or when you're out and about. The desire to protect yourself, your family, and even your inanimate objects is to degrees natural (less so with our stuff, but more so with our people), and that desire for protection and for protecting is no sin. We find peace in many different ways, even in ways that don't always make sense to other people. We have these things in common. With these things I hope there is a middle point, some place that feels more sane and safe to everyone, a place that feels more human.

Those are the similarities between me and those most different from myself. I hope they amount to something; if not a bridge, at least a blue print of a bridge. And if not a blueprint, then at least an acknowledgement that a bridge sure would be nice for reaching the other side of that canyon.

Now for the typical rant. Back to the suspected terrorist solution, let me first say of course no one wants terrorists to have weapons of mass destruction. But more importantly, hiding this Orlando incident behind a discussion about ISIS and terrorists is a red herring. The coward who shot up that club (I won't be using any of the shooters names, they can find glory somewhere other than my blog) was messed up in the head, but he didn't know ISIS from Hamas from Al Qaeda, and his target wasn't America, his target was the gay community. Rather than deal with that, rather than look at ourselves and see how our own rhetorical violence against the LGBT community might some how incite this sort of madness from a broken person, we deflect and talk about terrorists. It's unethical to ignore how the worst of us have been physically violent to these people and a near majority of us at best hide behind semantics to try to curb their happiness and then shrug our shoulders and wonder, "I don't know why that guy would target a gay club." If you want to make a list to keep people from owning guns based on this incident, it should be a list of suspected homophobic ass hats (but "suspected" lists are bad, so kill the list idea, but also stop hiding behind Islamic terrorism here).

The other major solution being discussed is the legality of assault rifles. This wave of violence brought the rhetoric to a new low, IMO. Now we'er suppose to believe there is no such thing as assault rifles, that because fully automatic weapons are already outlawed there is nothing further to be done. It's a fun game of semantics but not all that convincing. You know an assault rifle when you see one, but more importantly these cowards know one when they see one. They aren't bringing your dad's 30 ought 6 to these killing sprees because they know those guns make shitty assault rifles, they hunt deer well but they aren't effective at killing as many people as possible as fast as possible. I get it, 100%, it's fun to go to a shooting range and to pull the trigger a bunch of times as fast as possible and put holes in a target (sometimes even some that look like people), but otherwise there isn't any good coming from assault rifles being so readily and easily available. So available that a nearly mentally retarded boy could get one and shoot up a school full of elementary school kids. I won't be convinced that that barely functional human being would have been able to acquire the money nor know how to navigate the black-market to purchase such a weapon had they been illegal. So sorry, not buying the "gun laws wouldn't have saved one life." I'm 100% certain there would be 10 or more elementary aged children still alive with that one little change in our laws; if that means nothing to you then our bridge has a much broader gap to span (and I honestly worry about you owning guns).

I know, I know, but cars kill people, and water (gasp!) kills people and we don't outlaw those things! Those things have other uses, some are essential to life (so just stop, please), and we as a society have to weigh their value vs their risk. And when the risk of car ownership went up we created safer cars, more laws, insurance, and mandatory driving tests and that saved lives. Guns have a value too, more to other people than me, none-the-less they have a value, but assault rifles other than "they are fun to shoot" aren't needed to realize the value of guns. So maybe only .00001 percent (I made that number up, don't quote it) percent of Americans are killed by guns, and maybe the ban would have only saved 10 little kids lives, but damn it if those ten lives aren't worth more than the joy we collectively get from pulling the trigger on a lifeless metal object and have it shoot more lifeless little nuggets of brass at targets and cans. I challenge anyone to show me when an assault rifle has helped a private citizen do something they couldn't have done with a less powerful gun. The only thing they are better at is killing lots of people really fast. Private citizens don't need to do that (generally, nor do our police). But! What about keeping a tyrannical government in check? Two things, this line of thinking insults the morality of our men and women in the military and even if our military is as base as you must think they are (or could be), your stupid assault rifle is going to be melted down into little pools of even more useless liquid metal after the army drops a bomb on your bunker from a drone a thousand feet above or from a tank shell shot from a mile away. Let's just get real about how effective your toys are at fighting the U.S. modern military. And let's not buy into the hype that ISIS doesn't invade America because they know we all have guns. They don't invade us because we're a continent and ocean away and they don't have a navy and they actually know how powerful U.S. drones and Tomahawk missiles are from firsthand experience. The cowboy hero fantasy is fun, but it's not based in any sort of reality.

But what about my second amendment right? I have a right to bear arms! You certainly do, but we've already placed restrictions on that right. You can't have a tank. You can't have a nuke. You can't have a rocket launcher. You can't have a fully automatic gun. And why is that? Because those things sole purpose is killing a lot of people as fast as possible (even though we all recognize it would be hella fun to drive a tank all over the place and to shoot 50 caliber machine guns at the side of hills). And arguably, since the introduction of these limitations that second amendment has been interpreted more favorably for gun enthusiasts than not (, so whatever slippery slope you're worried about it's going the opposite direction. See?! I told you I'd eventually get belligerent with a slippery slope argument.

Then there is a matter of gun culture. You're right, as I said earlier, guns don't kill people in a vacuum. For a gun to be effective it requires fingers, brain cells, eyes, and either rage or a mistake. But there is still a sickness in this country, a sickness where the first and best answer to so many of our problems is to squash the other. To kill, to blame. A story from a friend:
My mother used to teach 4th grade. She made the students write short fiction stories. She stressed that the key to a story is a problem that the hero must solve. Her only rule was that the hero could not use a gun to solve that problem. This stumped a surprising number of her boys. This is the problem our country is having.
This story has been haunting me since I read it. We've got to show our children that the first solution to almost EVERY problem is something other than to pull out a gun and kill it. If someone breaks into your home, what is the solution? Someone cuts you off in traffic, what is the solution? When we teach that all we need is good guys with guns to stop bad guys with guns, what are we really saying? We're saying, that with all of our God given talents this giant mass of humanity we call the United States of America can't come up with solutions to its difficult problems other than force and more violence. And then we wonder, why when chicken shit assholes think the gays are the problem, or the other students at their school are the problem, or their coworkers are the problem, we wonder why do they pick up a gun and solve their problems thusly? Take a look around folks; it's how we solve problems here (both the good guys and the bad guys and the guys who have a hard time telling who is who in that equation). As a so called Christian country we need more Sermon on the Mount and less Dirty Harry.

I know, you think I'm a coward. You think you're better off dying surrounded by a cartridge's worth of brass shells and a smoking barrel in hand than to let the worst of society run over you and your family, and that only a liberal, weak, cowardly man wouldn't protect his family so. To many eyes I imagine I'm a loathsome and fearful creature, something that will deserve to be trampled under the boot of some terrible example of a human being one day. You imagine my fear and trembling; but I see your fear too. You hide behind the ability to pull a trigger as if such an act makes you a man. You fear so much you can't help but cower in your home surrounded by weapons to keep humanity at bay, or the only way you'll leave your house is with that same feeling of safety, with a little piece of death obscurely tucked away in your pants. That my friends is fear. And in the end maybe my home and family will be ransacked, but if guns were in my home more likely my friends or family would be maimed or killed by the tool meant to defend them. So I'll play the odds, because those odds also allow me to live a life that assumes better of mankind. Every stranger and every person that doesn't look like me doesn't have to be a threat, and I won't live my life as if they were. I don't want the fear gun advocates are embracing. It's not only dangerous to others but to the gun owner and their family as well. But if I'm not scared then why do I want to take your guns away? First, go back and read everything I said if you can't answer this yourself. I'm only talking about assault rifles here. You keep your other guns. Second, it isn't fear for myself that makes me want to act. It's fear for all the innocent people dying for no reason; it's because I can look at my children and know the heartbreak those other parents must feel, and I want no one to suffer like that. And regardless, fear is healthy. I fear things. It's an important human emotion; just don't delude yourself into believing that you lack fear because of you're willing to shoot someone who breaks into your house without asking questions. Therein lies fear, too.

So am I pissed about Democrats doing a sit in to get a vote on the suspected terrorist list stuff? No. It's politics, but more importantly it's action. It might be the wrong direction. (And it's infintely better than another Benghazi subcommittee or 300th vote on Obamacare). It might never pass. It might be a lot of things, but what it isn't is more of the same. We have a problem to solve. I like to see my representatives at least trying to solve it. I wouldn't vote for the particular measure and I wouldn't encourage my representatives to either, but I spur them on to action, even if it's just an action of voting, it says we're ready for little children and otherwise peaceful citizens to stop being killed like this.

And lastly, I don't know what the solution is. But I know what the solution isn't: do nothing. Democracy and self governance is an experiment, even 200+ years later. We have the intellect, the curiosity, and the goodness in us to fix this problem. We just need the will. That sit-in is a symbol of the will, and thus it is also a symbol of my hope, my hope for a future where psychopaths exist in smaller numbers and have less access to do harm. End rant.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Captain's blog, Star Date: Thailand

Fixing to land in Taipei after a thirteen hour flight that started 1am our time. 

This is the single part of the trip that was dreaded the most (we also worry about the return flight and the oppressive heat) but the red-eye with Wren had disaster potential. Glad to report that everyone did pretty well. Emerson slept like a boss (and I think Derek did too). Our kids stayed up for the first meal and eventually (and reluctantly) fell asleep probably around 3am Pacific Time. 

Sleeping on a plane is hard but I think Robyn and I both managed around 5 hours before the kids woke up. Berkeley was enthralled by movies and Wren wasn't too bad, just a lot more hands on. Maybe they'll both nap on the next flight. 

The Taipei airport was fairly uneventful. We let the kids runs around a play structure but otherwise sat around like Zombies. 

On the airplane to Bangkok I assume all white guys are going so they can be creepy (myself and Derek excluded, of course). I watched some not great movie on the plane about the story that supposedly inspired Moby Dick. The crew were shipwrecked and spent months listing at sea starving and eating one another. When I told Wren there was no more airplane for the day as we were landing she repeated, "no more airplane?" with great relief and she had the same wild look on her face that those stranded men did when they finally found land when. 

First day in Bangkok. Lingered at the hotel trying to figure out what we should do. Then took a super brief walk around the block at like 3pm to realize that a) lots of food places weren't opening till four or b) had pork in every dish. Temps were in the 100s; trip around the block wrecked the kids. 

We asked the hotel for food suggestions and they directed us over to the river. We traveled via tuk tuk. The kids loved that best, especially Wren who later cried when we used a Taxi rather than a tuk tuk. Temps were a little lower by the water and the food was good. The first pad Thai I've had that I actually like, Robyn too. Probably it was over priced, but still cheap by our own standards. We hopped on a commuter boat and head down the river a little ways. Then Berkeley was done (probably Wren and Emerson were too). Berkeley informed me multiple times we needed to go to the hotel "right now." Though she did see a lizard at one point so that made her forget the heat for at least a few minutes. We tuk tuked back to the hotel (which the kids loved again). We took showers and were suppose to make plans with the Wrights for the next day but me and the kids passed out. 

Friday the 29th. We rolled out of bed around 6am local time. We ate at the hotel restaurant. It has lots of American food (boring) but I ordered the traditional Asian breakfast which was a delicious pork broth and rice. 

At breakfast Berkeley threw up. So we dreaded the idea that she'd gotten food poisoning by the start of the second day but after she chucked, she downed a hug breakfast and said she felt fantastic. So we rolled with it. She didn't throw up again either. She later told me the orange juice was disgusting and had made her gag. They have weird ideas about fresh squeezed orange juice in Thailand, I think they might add salt to it.

Tuk tuked to the grand palace and made the kids stand around in the heat. Poor things. Had we charged people when they requested a picture with Wren we would have been millionaires. The place was beautiful but a little hard to take in with the kids in the heat. Looking at some of the murals it was interesting that the palaces they depicted where the Gods/demons/angels lived were less impressive than the one we were standing in.

The Wrights wanted to do some more sight seeing but I wanted to get the kids out of the heat so we tuk tuked back to the hotel while they did their own thing. I purchased some local junk food and water from 7-11. Kids cooled off. Wren and Robyn attempted a nap while Berkeley and I wandered a couple blocks and ate some delicious street food (fish and the most delicious spicy sauce). Berkeley spent the meal pulling out the fish eyes but not eating anything. 

I could never drive in Bangkok. That being said they're streets are the politest bit of chaos I've ever seen. No one honks, no one screams. I wonder about American road-rage and what is wrong with us.

If your life were a fantasy novel the Bangkok heat would be a thousand pound ogre repeatedly beating you over the head with a club. 

Went back to the hotel, cleaned up a bit and met back up with Rebecca and Derek. We decided the ladies would take the kids to a water park and the guys would go get massages. 

Derek and I walked to the metro station which housed a very clean and modem looking underground rail, so much nicer than Bart, or any other transit I've been on in America. We marveled a bit on how nice it was yet their waterways were so gross. 

We walked another few blocks after exiting the train and found ourselves across from a convent and a hospital at a small massage parlor. The plan was to do a full 2 hour deal but they didn't have any available spots till an hour later and we were on a time budget so we signed up for an hour massage which left us with an hour to kill. We wandered a few doors down and eventually found a place that had an hour opening so we we fit in an hour foot massage before our hour Thai massage. It took about thirty of our sixty minutes for my body temp to drop enough that I could fully enjoy the massage. The second massage was a traditional Thai massage and it was the most intimate massage I've ever had. It was more like someone else wrapping your body in theirs and them forcing you to do yoga. So much stretching. Luckily I had already cooled and I could enjoy the whole painful experience; though I still do stress thinking about what they might do to my left shoulder, especially since I couldn't really communicate with the masseuse. But all was well. 

After two hours of various massages we walked over to the the sky train and took it to the Siam Paragon Mall! Here we met Spencer, an Internet friend from SWAB who I'd never met prior. We ate at the food court (which was great) and he introduced to chilled jellies with ice and coconut milk (which was delicious). Eventually the girls and the kids met back up with us and we all ate there. 

To Wren's delight we took another tuk tuk ride home. She was so tired but still pointed at every other tuk tuk we passed and said "tuk tuk!"

The next day we got up early (maybe the first time we've had to force Wren out of bed before she was ready) and took a taxi out to the floating markets. The taxi driver was clearly in cahoots with some of the local boat operators; he dropped us off at the most expensive place, but we were on a limited time budget and had no recourse so we went with it. The water was super gross. I gagged when a saw an old dude swimming in it. But the food was delicious, probably the best friend rice I've ever had was acquired from an old lady cooking it directly on her long paddle boat. Everything here was over priced, food and trinkets but again we just rolled with it. I was wrong about the trinkets in retrospect. We should have bought more there.

Afterward we taxied back to the hotel. We had to checkout of one room so we packed everything up in the remaining room and let the littlest two nap for an hour. While this was happening the rain fell outside, the temperature dropped and it felt as if God had literally forgiven the world its sins. 

The girls went off to another bigger market and Derek and I took the kids back to the mall. We ate some food (more iced jelly thingies and food court food). And I finally had my first Thai iced tea here. It was ok, but not extraordinary. Most importantly I was glad just to see it wasn't an American invention. We then wandered downstairs and entered the mall's aquarium. This is an aquarium that was about ten times nicer than it had any need to be. Honestly for the variety and set up of animals it rivaled what we've seen in Monterrey. It wasn't quite as educational, but still a great way to entertain the kids for an hour (plus the mall is air conditioned). We rushed back to the hotel to get all of our bags, stuffed them and the kids in a single taxi and headed to the train station. 

At the station we met back up with the ladies and boarded our overnight train to Chaing Mai. We had some sleeper seat with AC which made us feel like we were privileged but half way through the night we were all freezing. Also they never tired the light off; I think the only one to make a good nights sleep if it was Berkeley. It was supper fantastic to wakeful on a slow moving train creeping through the jungle, terrain we're not use to seeing. It felt a little otherworldly and romantic. 

The train arrived about an hour late but we didn't have anywhere we needed to rush off to. So we taxied (this time in the back of a pickup, which were more common than tuk tuks here) over to our hotel and dropped off our bags. Then we wanders the city a little and ate some vendor food. Here nothing was over priced, we got way too much food for pennies. It was still blazing hot. 

After eating we took a pickup back to the hotel because we needed to meet up with the elephant tour people. We ended up late because our driver took us off in the wrong direction. It ended up not being a big deal but added a little stress to the trip. 

The trip up the hill to the elephants was mostly uneventful. But the visit itself was a lot of fun. We started with feeding a baby elephant. Then we got a break down of some elephant facts and then broke off into smaller groups. We met our group of elephants and fed the large ones individually. We learned how to tell if an elephant is healthy. Everyone's favorite part of this lesson was when our guide picked up a fresh elephant turd and had us examine it. He let us smell it (it smelled of fresh cut hay) and then he squeezed all the liquids out of it with his hands (to show us the elephant is not dehydrated) and finally threatened to eat it to the delight and horror of the kids. After that we were allowed to dust the backs of the elephants and then walk them down a hill to a watering hole where we had a little snack while the elephants relaxed in the water. 

We were then allowed to join the elephants in the water. We threw water on them, and scrubbed them down with brushes. The baby that was with us was the best, he just rolled and rolled around in the water. We finished the watering hole portion of the trip with the elephants blasting us with water, much to Wren's chagrin, but everyone else's delight. 

We ended the tour with a short lesson on climbing onto an elephant. You can either crawl up the side using its front leg as help or up the front of its face using its trunk as support. Everyone else got on their elephants via the side way but I crawled up the front. I'm slightly nerves on horses, my unfamiliarity with elephants and their great height made me more nervous than a horse ride. Adding Wren into my lap one-upped it further. 

But we ended up perfectly safe. Riding one was harder on my legs than I had imagined possible, especially when my guide (who walked beside the elephants) convinced my elephant to pick up the pace or when the elephant decide to dip its head from time to time to snack on something or other it found appealing in the bushes on the side of the road. We rode them for about thirty minutes and Wren slept through the last ten or so of those. We had the half-day experience but felt like it was more than enough time and we couldn't have been happier with it. They even took some very nice pictures and put them an a CD for us. We kind of thought this would be something they charged you for extra but they just handed them over to us. 

The other interesting part of this day was that Robyn was bit by a giant ant on her foot. She said as she looked down she expected to find she had stepped on a piece of glass or a knife and for blood to be gushing it hurt so bad. Luckily the pain subsided after a few minutes but it sounded ridiculously painful and I was mostly glad it had been one of the adults and not one of the kids. 

We traveled back down the mountain and to our hotel where we bathed. (Side note: it's kind of amazing that an animal as big as an alphabet doesn't put off much smell). We walked over to the night market but Berkeley started complaining about the heat almost right away. And about being too tired to walk and then crying and complaining about everything. At the market she didn't like the first juice she picked out and so cried a lot about that. We told her to relax and we'd get her another one but she was inconsolable. As I stood in line with her to get the second one she broke down because Robyn had wandered off, I assumed with Wren because she wasn't with me. When she came back there was no Wren with her. I asked where she was and Robyn said she didn't know. So I grabbed Berkeley's hand and we ran across the very crowded row of people back to where Robyn had come from to only realized Robyn had left her in the Wright's care. She's not sure how she forgot that detail, but that was the worst 20 seconds of our trip (maybe lives?) 

But we didn't have much time to rejoice because Berkeley went crazy about the fact that we lost our place in the juice line. Then she pushed Wren when she got close to her and Robyn and I reached our limits as so we called it a night. 

Of course half way back to the hotel we realized the kids hadn't eaten in a while. We fed them at a little street food place and Berkeley was almost immediately transformed (she's told me on the way from the market she hated me and at dinner she told me she loved me). Basically we were fools for not realizing she just needed to eat. I thought she was tired and hot, but it was food. It was our parenting lowlight for the trip. 

I also had my second Thai iced tea at dinner. It was better than the first, Robyn said she liked it more than any other she's had in America but I thought it was on par for what I'm use to. 

Back at the hotel we read some books and Wren put herself to sleep she was so tired. I took some deep breathes and gave thanks for the littles in my life. They've been major troopers on this trip. 

Our final day in Chaing Mia proper involved us tuk tuking over to the women's convict massage center. This might not sound like the best idea but it was the most relaxing experience we've had so far. It was like a spa ran by inmates learning a new skill that they're suppose to use on the outside once they are done with their sentence. The food was cheap and delicious. Here I acquired the most delicious Thai iced tea of my life. It was so good. Meanwhile the ladies did a two hour massage while Derek and I watched the kids, which was easy because the female prison guards did it for us. They did Berkeley's hair and any time one of them seemed to be doing some mischief a guard would come over and help with competing the mission. It was shaded and early so the weather was fantastic and the kids drank juice after juice after juice. The kids also got massages. Wren did 15 minutes and claimed to like it. Then Emerson went in but came right back out, Derek said the woman touched his foot and he was done. And lastly Berkeley enjoyed a 40 minute massage. This might sound excessive but it only cost us about $10 bucks for the three of them (and Robyn and Rebecca only paid about $15 each for their two hour massage). The massage price is so cheap in Thailand you're crazy not to get one every day. 

We then checked out of our hotel but let the kids swim in the pool for an hour before having one last meal of Chaing Mia street food and headed off to our tree house adventure. 

On the road to the tree house we stopped at a more traditional market. I stayed in the car with Berkeley, Derek, and sleeping Emerson, but Robyn and Rebecca went in and bought some various treats and even samples some grubs. After that we also stopped at a water fall. This time everyone but Emerson (still sleeping) and Rebecca got out. We were somewhat worried that the waterfall was going to be a silly tourist attraction but it turned out to be a pretty rad limestone fall that you could climb up and down. The rock was coarse enough we could even climb it while carrying Wren. One just had to avoid the slippery algae parts. We walked down some steps along the side of the falls and then up the falls themselves. We also visited the little spring source where the falls originated and a handful of makeshift shrines had been placed. Wren and I lit incense and gave thanks to our ancestors.

It was around this time we took note of poor Berkeley's face and arms. She had three mosquito bites an her face and four or five along one arm. They all itched and welted up pretty large and red. Wren had some bites of her own but none of them grew in size the way Berkeley's did. No one else seemed to have gotten any at all. 

Once we arrived at the tree house we unpacked our stuff into the little house of three levels all nestled nicely into a single large tree. There were domestic cats and dogs there so of course that was the most interesting thing to the kids. Though later there was a storm of flying bugs that lured out the lizards which also held great interest to the kids. Before dinner we took some bikes out to the sunset path and watched the sunset over the jungle hills. Berkeley sat behind me on one of those little metal "seats" you find on some bikes. I think they are for groceries or something but I mostly only ever see kids sitting on them. Anyway I had a bike with one when I was growing up and I had major nostalgia feeling her little body behind me as I rode around. 

We had dinner at the tree house and it was a nice sit down affair. That's when the bug storm hit and another guest was stung by a scorpion. We were on heightened alert after that but weren't lucky enough to see one in the wild. 

Every night we spoke as if we'd stay up after the kids went to bed but every night that didn't happen. Everyone was always exhausted. It wasn't the most restful night of sleep since the various roosters on the property started cock-a-doodle-doing around 2am off and on until the sun came up. 

That morning we packed up and took the hour van ride to the airport and flew two hours to Phuket.  The Phuket scenery was immediately different: coast line with many small but high islands. This began the part of the trip Robyn most looked forward to. We took a van three hours north to spend a day and a half as family guests to a village of indigenous coastal people. 

Indigenous isn't the right word. They've been in the area a very long time but they are still basically Thai. This is a group of Muslims, around 150 people, a quarter of which were killed by the tsunamis in 2004. Their village was destroyed and they moved inland a kilometer or so. 

We stayed the night prior in a small hotel and left for the coast around 9am. We drove 45 minutes and viewed the old village where trees have regrow (they are rather tall for only being 12 years old) and then met our host family for lunch, little two year old Nada and her mother. The kids quickly enjoyed each other's company, Berkeley communicates about as well with Nada as she does Wren since Wren speaks more Vietnamese than English. 

We had one of the better meals there. After lunch we wandered down to the soap making coop and handcrafted some soap while it rained outside.  We returned to the host house and had Wren nap while Berkeley and I wandered the small village looking for Derek and Rebeca's host house. We never found it.

The rain continued, as did a great amount of thunder. We were scheduled to try our hand at fishing with the locals and almost talked ourselves out of it since it was raining but Berkeley and I went with the Wrights and it was super awesome. By time we walked to the beach the rain had completely stopped. We drug long nets out about chest high in the surf and slowly wade back to shore with them. We didn't catch much, mostly some tiny fish but the process was fun nonetheless. And the water! Turns out we wasted too much time on this trip not being in or near that fabulously warm and gentle water. I took Berkeley out into the surf a little and she loved it until her and I were overran by a wave a little bigger than I had expected it to be. She swallowed a bunch of water and I nearly lost my glasses but we survived. 

Robyn and Wren joined us in the end (they had hitched a ride in the side car of another random village woman's motorcycle) and we all watched a brilliant sunset. With the sun gone and being all wet it was the second time we approached feeling cold on this trip. Derek, Emerson, Berkeley, and I took the side car (I actually sat side saddle behind the driver) back to our homes and had bucket showers to clean the salt off us. The houses we stayed in were not modern. They had toilets, but not that flushed (you had to manually add water after going). There were cracks between the wooden floors, the roofs were made of tin--this lead to the best sounds when it started to rain--and half the home was really just a giant slab of concrete.  Water is slowly collected from wells and rain and if you want a shower you scoop buckets of this collected water out of a giant basin and dump it on your body. 

All cleaned up we sat in the kitchen while dinner was made and watched the geckos eat the night's flying insects while the kids played together. Once dinner was prepared we walked over to the Wright's host family's home. On the way we finally saw cats (they came out in force to pounce on all the night insects). We also saw the hugest beetle and a handful of large frogs. 

Dinner was consumed on the floor and consisted of a bunch of locally caught fish (including the really small ones we caught), squid, crab, and locally raised chicken. It was all super good. The squid in particular was probably better than any I've ever had. Maybe it was the certainty that it wasn't pig anus. 

The night was capped by everyone trying on tradition Muslim garb and discussing Islam a little. Berkeley caught a giant toad in the process and had the local teenage girls running scared when she took it out to show them. She also preoccupied herself with a giant moth while Wren fulfilled a dream by keeping track of two little kids that had just learned to walk. She made sure they didn't go up the stairs and that they didn't pick up anything too interesting. She was in heaven shepherding them around the little room. We slept in mosquito netted beds with all the windows in the house open. 

Around 2am the goats came round and bleated at our window. Not to long after that the roosters started their business and before we knew it the rest of the village was up making noise and I had to question the old adage about how noisy city life is. My house has never been so loud so early. 

We woke officially around 7:30am. I reached into our backpack to fish something out but yanked out just my hand and some red ants biting it rather than the battery I was looking for. We had left one little piece of food in the bag and it officially became a feeding farm for the ants overnight. 

We had another delightful meal cooked for us by our host: rice soup, sticky rice with egg custard, boba and coconut jellies, coconut crepes, and Thai iced tea.

After breakfast we walked over to an old woman's house where they laid out a mat for us to work on and she taught us how to weave roofing based on the leaves of the Palm plant. It was blazing hot but in the shade everyone was enjoying the activity until the very end when Berkeley was bit in the arm by a large ant. It wasn't the same kind as the one that bit Robyn but a lot more tears were shed. 

We walked back to the host home where I watched the three kids and everyone else went to look at the local elementary (which apparently doubled as a gym for adults in the evenings). When we were all back together we were shown the proper way to break into a coconut, were treated to its fresh water/juice and then shown how to scape the meat out. With the meat we made fresh coconut milk (add water to the shreds and squeeze and squeeze and strain). With this coconut milk we made a traditional Thai dessert: sugary coconut milk and sticky rice flour balls. It was really tasty but we were reaching our sweet limits. Man, the Thai people love themselves some sweet food. 

It was about this time that temperature in the kitchen just about killed me. It was a hundred degrees outside, the stove was on, and there were a dozen bodies piled into that little kitchen; I could feel the heat off the tin roof so acutely on my back I kept thinking somehow the sun was sneaking through the ceiling. I had to take a mid day bucket shower to cool off and even then I was feeling on the verge of passing out. When lunch was served (and the stove turned off) I pretty quickly felt better. Probably my favorite meal of the trip was had, glass noodles with local crab, soy sauce fried egg, yellow fish curry, and deep fried fish balls. Fish balls are still a thing I haven't really acquired a taste for. But those glass noodles were the best. We topped it off with watermelon and our coconut dessert and then had to leave the village. 

A four hour drive took us to a boat at Ao Nang. The boat we took to our hotel at Railay Beach was a "long tail boat." These look like old boats from another era, but with a giant motor on the back attached to a very long handle that ends in the actual propeller. Boarding one of these boats is probably normally a fairly easy process but when we arrived the wind had picked up and the waves with it. What does that have to do with anything? Well, rather than getting on a pier and stepping into the boat we had to wade into the water and crawl on the boat. The "boatman" who claimed to be eighteen but who was probably closer to sixteen took our bags aboard, barely keeping them over his head and above the waves (the practiced grace with which he boarded with our baggage in the bobbing boat was quite impressive). Derek carried Emerson aboard and the boat was hit by the biggest wave of the night as he scurried up but they both boarded safely. Then the boatman took Berkeley and finally Wren. He had to pause for a huge wave before getting aboard with Wren and the propeller on the boat nearly hit her in the head. It was maybe the second scariest event of the trip (it's a toss up between that and the few seconds when we thought we'd lost her at the night market). 

Once everyone was comfortably on board we traveled the ten minutes to the beach in some moderately choppy water (which the kids loved and loved). At the beach, which was nestled into a little enclave, the water was much calmer and so even though we had to disembark in the surf it was a much less hazardous processes.  

We located our hotel (Railay Bay Resort), checked in and then headed straight to the pool! It was dark and lightening was starting up. It was still hot out and the kids loved the water. We quickly realized (yet again) we'd spent too many days in Bangkok; a day and a half here just wasn't going to be enough. 

We had to abandon the pool after an hour because rain joined the lightening (as did super ominous thunder). It was warm enough to still swim but we had to get our dry clothes and electronics out of the sudden downpour. The plan was to head back to the rooms and change into dry clothes but the Wrights got stranded at the covered bar so we were the only ones to shower and dry off. The rain gradually died down and we head down to dinner. We ate at the hotel grill; prices and quality were what you might expect for a captive audience restaurant, but Wren loved the pasta. 

The hotel offered the best beds of the trip (we hardly woke and no sore backs in the morning). The next morning we had the included breakfast (also sub-par). Then it was pool time, but only after we forced the kids to enjoy the ocean for about half an hour. 

At the pool we got the snorkel gear out and Berkeley quickly took to that and played by herself for probably an hour, which is probably the longest she's ever entertained herself in a pool and she was even willing to swim around in the deep end. I think it would be easier to teach her to swim if we had snorkel stuff at the pool all the time. Emerson was briefly sad about not being able to get the mask on and be a diver but reverted to his favorite game of turning any long object (in this case the snorkel tube) into a weapon for hitting inanimate objects and was satisfied enough. 

The Wrights went and got massages on the east side of the Peninsula where the beach isn't nearly as nice but the prices for everything reflect more closely the rest of Thailand while Robyn and I watched the kids. Even with two applications of sunscreen we both managed to pick up some healthy sunburns on our shoulders after just two or three hours in the Thai sun. 

We briefly returned to our room to drop off some swim stuff. While there we saw a monkey wandering around, which made Berkeley just laugh and laugh. But still, they all seemed more interested in the cats we saw throughout the day. Kids are so weird. 

We met back up with the Derek and Rebecca  on the east side and had lunch there. We order probably ten different smoothies to battle the heat. The food here too was relatively forgettable but the smoothies were great. 

After lunch we all went back to the Wright's room and the kids watched Frozen (Berkeley) and napped (Wren and Emerson) while Robyn and I went and got massages. I ended up with the prettiest girl in the parlor giving me a massage but she also had the most Y chromosomes of the the girls. We didn't get deep tissue massages but rather an aloe Vera treatment. It ended up being super cold and relaxing for me but too cold for Robyn to fully enjoy. I freaked the masseuse out with my shoulder as she kept trying to push it flat when I was laying on my a stomach and it just wouldn't go. It was hard to explain to her, but eventually she gave up on her efforts there. 

After our massages we wandered to the end of the peninsula where we watched the rock climbers and then cut across back to the west side. Here we ran into a pack of monkeys and a cave full of penis carvings (you read that correctly). We also found a very nice restaurant half on the beach and half in a cave that we planned to return to that night. 

We met back up with the Wrights but quickly made two smaller groups. Derek and I ran off to climb a steep hill via ropes to see a vista before I got too dark and the girls took the kids to see the monkeys. Derek and I made it up the hill before it got too dark and we couldn't manage to find the vista before we decide we didn't want to climb down in any less light or if it started to rain. The kids also failed to see the monkeys as they had all moved up the hillside and out of sight. 

We sat on the beach a little and enjoyed the sunset (Derek and Emerson even took a little dip). The Wrights then took the kids back to the pool while Robyn and I had appetizers and dessert at the before mentioned restaurant, The Grotto. The food was much better than we'd had else where on Railay Bay, and more expensive. It was nice to have a meal without the kids. 

We then went back to the pool and relieved the Wrights while they went to visit the same restaurant childless. The pool closed and we ordered room service for the kids. They ate and Berkeley zonked out while Emerson watched Shrek and Wren played with toys and showered. Robyn and I showered as well and packed up to leave in the morning. At some point I also managed to even read twenty pages of the book I'd brought along. 

We had another great night's sleep, too great, in fact, as we overslept waking at 8:10 when we needed to be at the east side pier by 8:45. We rush packed, checked out and caught a little cart to the pier. The Wrights woke up earlier than we did but had the poor luck of Emerson locking some items in the room safe and no one knowing how to open it. 

There was a lot of rushing and stalling at the pier but we eventually all got on the boat a little after nine and officially on our way home (minus some small items that may or may not be in the safe). The long tail boat we rode this time had a pier for us to board from so entry and exit were much easier this go round. After it dropped us off we vanned over to the Krabi airport and caught a flight back to Bangkok. Before we knew it we were well on our way home. The last highlight was that we knew the pilot on the flight from Taipei to San Francisco, her youngest daughter shared some time at the Sunset Coop with Berkeley. So we got a little extra special treatment and were able to visit the cockpit.