Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Baseball, Homelessness, Assorted Social

 Issues and the “American Way of Life.” 

Well over a decade ago, I was performing my favorite Tucson activity. I was leaving it. 

The immediate game plan was to head to Phoenix to catch an evening Arizona Diamondbacks ballgame. 

I chose a Holiday Inn Express about 1.5 miles away from Chase Field. The hotel set me back about $125. I purchased a low rent ticket in the unoccupied upper stands. It was a warm, no wind evening with the Chase Field retractable roof in the open position. I took in the game, its ambiance and felt happy and content. I sauntered back to my hotel on unpeopled and quiet Phoenix streets.

With these feel good thoughts in mind, I signed onboard for Phoenix’ opening round of the World Baseball Classic. A five day, ten game baseball marathon. I booked a four night stay at the same Holiday Inn Express. Total cost, about $1600. Upon my arrival, I noticed a homeless man asleep in the gutter. Adjacent to his horizontal form was a shopping cart filled with his worldly possessions.

(New York Times Photo)

 When I checked in the staff were firmly asking another homeless man “to leave the building or the police will be called.” 

Welcome to Phoenix.

Oh well, I’d least I’d have sunny skies, warm evenings and baseball to enjoy at Chase Field. Wrong! The retractable roof was closed for all ten games. (A vital part broke about a year ago). Baseball was seen under bright flood lights, funky shadows, trapped Covid germs and compressed crowd noise. A highly disappointing venue.

(New York Times Photo)

But so was the downtown Phoenix scene. The prevalence of homeless folks was difficult to ignore. I began to actually recognize individuals, where they slept and the bus stop benches  they  occupied during the day. It was very distressing on many levels for these unfortunates and me. 

I began wondering…

How can the richest country in the world (Source the International Monetary Fund) allow 582,000 citizens (2022 estimate from the  Department of Housing and Urban Development) to live on the streets of major cities, small cities (Yes! Even Durango), towns and villages? 

(Durango Herald Photo)

It’s because America’s spending priorities are not civilian friendly. That’s why. 

In 2022, $766 billion (12%) of the Federal Budget went to Defense spending. 

Add $6.1 billion for Border Patrol. 

For comparison shopping let’s look at America’s expenditures for education, housing, environmental protection  and my beloved National Park Service.

Department of Education: $102 billion
Department of Housing and Urban Development $68.7 billion.
Environment Protection Agency: $11.2 billion
National Park Service: $3.2 billion (Chump change)

When some politicians are queried about our lopsided Sparta-like spending they’ll answer.
“The  Military and Border Patrol are protecting our American Way of Life.”.”

For me this rationale should be shot up with an M-16 rifle and then torpedoed into oblivion.

The American Way of Life where a young woman recently diagnosed with MS resorts to “GoFundMe” to pay for necessary medical treatments.

The American Way of Life where an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle has more rights than children who get blasted  before they reach middle school. “Thoughts and Prayers” aren’t preventing the mass mayhem in our Churches, Temples, Mosques, Grocery Stores, Shopping Malls, McDonald’s, Universities, Cinamas ETC ETC. BUT! The sacred Second Amendment Right of Gun Ownership is wrongly embedded in protecting the American Way of Life. (Or Death).

The American Way of Life where one major political party passes tax breaks to the Uber Rich so they can purchase spaceships and Twitter instead of spreading the wealth. Ah, the Fake News of Trickle Down Economics persists while the gap between the “Haves” and the “Have-nots” widens.

As of January 2021, 37.9 million Americans lived in poverty, accounting for 11.6%of the total population, according to the latest report from the United States Census Bureau. 

The American Way of Life where 42 million receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. (Formerly called Food Stamps). Source: US News. March 2023.

I could go on and on but I made my point. America’s policies are letting many people down. Homelessness, hit or miss gun violence, income inequality, poverty and hunger need and should be addressed. 

Zero are the number of struggling citizens who state. “Yeah, things are tough and stressful, but I’m so proud our government is outspending  the next nine or ten countries combined on military expenditures. After all, they are protecting the American Way of Life.”

If ever the two political parties see the logic behind being a kinder, gentler and more caring Nation some of the above problems might be lessened or vanquished. A reevaluation of our funding priorities would be a correct place to start.

BTW. I forwarded this post to President Biden and House Majority Leader McCarthy. I’m hoping this will focus  their attention to the people they are serving. (Or preventing a debt default.)

Maybe if the budget has a few bucks left over the Feds could fund that vital part for Chase Field’s retractable roof. Doesn’t that fit in with baseball and “the pursuit of happiness.”?

Cheers from a former Homeless by Choice guy.

Monday, March 20, 2023

“Jeffy writes a lot better than he speaks”

Statement from my sister-in-law Robin Sambur

I’m not a public speaker. My comfort zone is one on one/small group conversational communication or just plain silence. 

I’m the kind of guy who when asked about a campout will gush. “The hiking and weather were perfect. I didn’t speak to anyone for a week. It was great!”

So why would I leap an intergalactic distance beyond my comfort zone with a Holocaust Awareness presentation at the Durango Public Library? Because of the recent rising trifecta of White Supremacy, Nationalism and Anti-Semitism. Because a former president is honky dory with breaking cheeseburgers with two avowed Anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers. That’s why.

The full title of the program was “Holocaust Awareness: A unique perspective from a son of Holocaust Survivors.” 

Honestly, children of Holocaust Survivors in NYC are as prevalent as pizzerias.  There’s heaps of each. BUT in Durango, CO land of Anglo American descendants of the Mayflower,
I knew my family history would stand out. 

As one long time resident opined, “Durango is a pretty sheltered town.” 

I launched the idea to Daisy the library’s programming director. After a few emails and a synopsis of my talk, I got the green light. That was about six months ago. OY! Now I was committed. I’d eventually have to stand up in front of strangers and speak. 

The plan was to use my family themed blogs as a template for the talk. I’d intersperse historical events as well. For the visual part, there was black and white family photos. Easy! Right? (except for the speaking part).

I purchased an old fashioned lined school kid notebook and started writing my spiel.. No problem with that. After a few drafts, I had my thoughts and ideas on something solid and tangible. Now I needed to vocalize the story since Spock-like Volcan mind melds are a rare talent.

At home, I stood in front of a sunny side window and began to read the story from the notebook. Bad idea! This was too distracting and caused too many “Ummm” and other stuttering moments. I memorized the talk.

Three days before “Program Lift Off” one of my few buddies in Durango granted me an audition. Sarah even fed me! It didn’t go well , my talk not her meal. I had to take it from the top twice before I got through my speech. Sarah was kind enough to give me encouraging words, although I knew I had to elevate my game. 

I was nervous. I couldn’t sleep or eat! Although Happy Hour IPAs went down well. Then! A lightning bolt struck nearby, the Red Sea might have parted once again. A Sambini original idea was formed. I’d feed the audience.After all food is the universal ice breaker.

Armed with two Crockpots of vegetarian Minnesota Soup and two bags of “Cutie” oranges,
I met each and every audience member at the door. I introduced myself, slipped them an orange, “cuz there’s a lot of scurvy going around” and pointed them to the soup. I urged them to “Eat! Eat!” bringing out my Jewish Mother in a man’s body instincts. I made a connection. Ice Broken.

I flew through the presentation without the need to dodge any rotten tomatoes. The spectators was estimated to be from 55-60, (which is a Super Bowl crowd for Durango.) 

Special shout out to my neighbor Tanya Spielberg who filmed the talk and fellow Member of the Tribe Nadine who shot the photos. 

Here it is on YouTube: 

Read all about Minnesota Soup:

Last photo:

Everyone except my father (standing in the middle) were murdered in the Holocaust. Yes, there’s four children in the family photo too. 

Get the word out, the Holocaust happened. Nick Fuentes and his ilk are wrong. Humanity can and should do better than this.

Let’s perform more acts of Tikunn Olam (repair the world) and less acts of death and destruction.

Sunday, February 5, 2023

A $2582.94 VRBO Rental Scam is

was how I began my winter getaway of (somewhat) discontent.
It all began so innocently in Snobsdale, AZ. My usual Holiday season hangout. 

Snobsdale is all about the sunshine, uphill hiking, tank-top wearing warmth, viewing blockbuster movies and of course, the fabulous shopping. I rented a VRBO condo with all the above nearby. 

Admittedly, I had a malevolent premonition about this joint. My kosher “Spidey Senses” were warning me, but the price was right and it was available. (For a reason). 

I booked it.

Upon entering, I was overcome by the distinct smell of mold (and a possible scam.)  It didn’t take me long to find the source. A dripping warm water pipe splashing into a full turkey roasting pan below. The carpet was spongy boggy wet. 

A did a quick 360 through the rest of the wreck. It was heavy on TLC. Tender Loathing Care. 

I retreated outside before I developed an upper respiratory infection. I phoned the management company. “Plushy Hosts” the name itself should have tipped me off. (More like Flush the Toilet Hosts.) This began a roiling blend of actual conversations, texts and emails filled with platitudes and stonewalling. I was getting nada with my demand for a refund. 

I took a deep breath and headed back inside to shoot crime scene photos. I knew this was going to become a full blown 💩 poop fight. 

I was right.

I booked another rental 200 feet away. It was clean, quiet and comfortable. That same day, I filed a dispute on the VRBO scam charge with Capital One. Days later I was credited the dough, BUT the slumlord could dispute my dispute.

We’ll get back to this drama later…

As I mentioned before, Snobsdale in December is usually fine weather. One doesn’t expect freeze warnings, or gloomy skies or an Noah’s Arc deluge and hale. This isn’t Fake Weather Reports. This really happened. I soldiered on while wearing more fleece and Windstopper jackets. At times, I even donned pants.  Outrageous! 

It wasn’t just me. The locals concurred it had been an atypical in a weird way winter. 

On January 2nd, I marked myself “Safe!” after surviving another holiday season. I aimed Sanctuary Too further south for my 2023 inaugural campout. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument would be my pad for three weeks. 

In January 2022, I spent two glorious weeks in this jewel of BIGLY views (including the Great Border Wall of Bigotry which can be seen from the campground.)  Last year the weather was perfect with incredible sunsets . The vibe was senior citizen retiree chill.  I could have easily spent more time there.

It was not to be in 2023, the swaddled baby layered look was the typical campground fashion statement. Morning lows were often in the high 30’s. Sunsets drove me quickly inside my cab or camper. Throughout the night, I could hear my neighbors furnaces kicking on but not off. 

The worse stretch was the three days of low lying London like clouds, which caused my solar panels to valiantly strain to keep my camper batteries charged. Low energy batteries means no cold IPAs. A true Sambini catastrophe. 

But the real true catastrophe was the Capital One message I received five weeks after filing a dispute. The slumlord disputed my dispute. The scam was back on and I was the victim. The onus was on me to prove my innocence to Capital One. I had two weeks to gather the information they requested. The corporation wasn’t  asking for much, just Police Department confirmed fingerprints, a swab from my inner cheek for DNA sampling, a note from my Bar Mitzvah Rabbi vouching for me being a mensch and a cover letter plus copies of texts, emails and photos. 

All the while being in the middle of nada with problematic WIFI coverage and obviously no printer.. A total aggravating inconvenience. 

Fortunately long time buddy Brad was granted a week off from the Ms. He’d be joining me in Organ Pipe and later on in Puerto Penasco, Mexico. Brad became Mr Xerox printing off a pulpwood forest’s worth of evidence and documents. 

From the border town of Lukeville (formerly known as “Gringo Pass”) I Priority Mailed the weighty package to Capital One. 

After that it was onto Puerto Penasco. Brad and I were supposed to spend six nights there. We left after four which were three too many. 

And that’s all I’m gonna say about that.

I returned to Organ Pipe for the simple reason, camping there is simple. 

Meanwhile my  important provisions such as IPAs, coffee and lastly food were getting low. After a month of camping I decided to spend a few nights hoteling it in Yuma, AZ. It was here at the termination of the Colorado River where I’d decide my next move. Baja, Mexico or Anza/Borrego State Park in California. 

By now astute readers have picked up this hasn’t been a typical winter getaway for me. It’s usually invigorating and fun. This one has been a grind. My kosher “Spidey Senses” screamed “No Bueno!” for taking on border crossings, military check points, pesos and a language barrier. 

Back to the 1.7 years of $$$$ for Happy Hour IPAs scam. (Based on two IPAs/night. I’m not the lush many people think I am).

On a feeling Meh and cloudy afternoon in Yuma an email appeared from Capital One. 

“Please check your documents for an important message.” I followed their instructions. “Capital One will be giving you a refund since your DNA, fingerprints, letter from the Rabbi, photos, texts and emails were conclusive proof of your innocence. UNLESS the scammer disputes your dispute with another dispute. The scammer has 90 days to dispute. Please hold onto all your evidence since we still don’t trust you.

Hugs and kisses from Capital One,
By the way. What’s in your wallet?”

I’m now in Anza/Borrego State Park where the sun miraculously appeared. The winds abated. The temperatures now are pegging the delightful range. Birds are fluttering about and singing. Flowers are in bloom..Hummingbirds pollinate them. Butterflies go about their business of being beautiful.  Plus my IPAs are still cold and the morning coffee still hot. 

Now this is what a winter getaway is supposed to be like. 


Last photo, This is what the inside of Sanctuary Too looks like. Would anyone really want to spend a lot of time in this chaos of camping clutter? 

It’s all about the weather.