Street vendors, pills, gangsters, prison, cars and baseball
September, 2010

A few humble opinions on this and that about life in Salinas:

Street vendors all over town are making Salinas look more like Tijuana every day, which I guess is okay if that’s the look we want or if you’re looking for an ice cream to reinforce the coastal chill. Reminds me of a writer I knew who used to carry his typewriter (long, long time ago) into ad agencies and ask, “does anybody need any words?” Maybe one man’s street hawker is another’s entrepreneur, but personally I don’t care for the TJ image we’re acquiring – sort of works against the city’s big image push, you know, “the city that crime forgot.”

Speaking of pushing, we all know that if ain’t bad news, it ain’t on the news. But did you ever notice how the nightly bad news is followed by all those pill commercials promising to make you feel better, more regular, sexier? You know, right after that huge list of terrifying warnings about how these pills may just kill you if you don’t really qualify to take them. Call today for free samples.

Drugs are a joke. Using is just another way to ruin your family, make the pushers richer and kill yourself nice and slow.  The illegal drug trade just wants your money or your life. Hmm, just like the legal drug trade. Why is it always about pills and money? Man, it’s all a scam – trust me, I’m in the ad biz.
Here’s a good, non sequitur of an opinion: I love the Salinas area car scene. We have some of the best hot rods, lowriders, trucks and bikes anywhere, and some of the most talented customizers and painters in the world. Forget LA or San Jose or the Valley. We’ve got it going on, big time, right here. Beautiful stuff.  But, like a fool, I’m still trying to build my ’37 by myself.

I’ve got hundreds of opinions for the gang bangers from inmates at Soledad and Salinas Valley State Prison, where I’ve done a prison ministry for many years. They all go something like this: “You’re an idiot. Think before you do something so stupid you’ll spend the rest of your life in a 6’ x 8’ box with a guy you don’t like, and who smells bad. There’s absolutely nothing cool about doing time, away from everything that’s ever been good in your life, like family, friends, women, your own fridge, cars and barbecues. Think about being forgotten while you’re still alive, and dying in prison when you’re 70 – or sooner if you don’t watch your back. Somebody’s been lying to you.”

Maybe the gangsters should try going to church. Just wearing a cross or having a tattoo of Jesus on your back won’t get you to heaven. You have to walk the walk, Holmes. Quit clowning on people you don’t like and learn to respect others as you would have others respect you.  Listen to your mother.
Finally, there’s soccer, an apparently giant part of the Salas recreation scene. Are you kidding me? I was at my grandson’s birthday party recently and – I couldn’t believe it – a couple of us were actually teaching seven and eight year-olds how to hold a bat and hit a ball. They’d never played baseball before! I was stunned and dismayed. But you can bet your life they knew all about soccer and having good old, non-confrontational fun. In the opinion of one of the aspiring Bambinos, “baseball’s fun.”

Yes it is, son.