Monday, October 31, 2016

DRAFT: Concerning Suicide

Over Labor Day weekend, our regional car community lost one of its own.

Joseph Steindl was a Chippewa Valley area car enthusiast that loved to see the coolest and great rides around. He was in the right place, since the money from tech firms, the local university and general automotive interest fueled a scene that stirred Steindl’s imagination. He was also drawn to the Twin Cities’ car scene, including attending the meets of one of V&R’s partners at Minnesota Nissan Infiniti.

This story would be just an obituary. It was not how Steindl lived his life, but how he ended it.

Steindl was one of tens of thousands of Americans that committed suicide this year. There were many others have attempted, but survive and many, many more who had either contemplated or threatened to do so without executing it. This is a cycle of death that goes unspoken in society, yet so prevalent that it truly needs to be discussed.

Let us start with some hard facts. The National Center for Health Statistics tells us that there had been an increase in suicides from 1999 to 2014. The 24% rise over that period showed that now 13 out of 100,000 Americans have taken their own lives. For males, that number is actually 20.7 out of 100,000 Americans. It is the tenth-ranked cause of death of Americans.

Take these numbers however you wish. They continue to rise, as we speak.

The causes towards suicide is varied. I recall during the 2008 Presidential campaign how “Bullycides” – suicides that were a result of bullying at educational institutions due to various reasons – had taken over the national discussion. Most of these “bullycides” were directed at young LGBT people, driven by hate over identity and orientation by others. This had been a persistent situation that had been pushed aside for years, but surfaced as a nation faced its own anger over whom should have rights or not as citizens.

In recent years, we are learning more about suicides of former members of our Armed Forces, because of their suffering through Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. When these men and women returned from war zones suffering from the battlefield experience while adjusting to life at home. While the Veteran’s Administration and other veteran’s groups said that PTSD can be treated and worked out, there are a number of veterans who do not say anything about how they feeling and coping.

These are just a couple of major themes that have popped up within the context of suicide. But, there is a lot more to understand. There is also some concern about how our society should deal with suicide – even for people we may not know about who are suffering from the causes leading to it.

Sometimes, we will never know who is suffering. Suicide can be a silent run down the rabbit hole of life. It could also be played on the most public of forums – social media, in particular. The responses are varied – you will know who that true friend is when they respond to your call for help. You will also know who are welcomed by your side when they refuse or abuse your call for help.

How can we heed the cry for help if there is one to call on? The answers have been repeated many time: Suicide hotlines, calling 911, gathering friends and family for assistance and so forth.

However, there is a missing component – prevention. A lot of these issues could be under control if the behavioral health system is more accessible, fluid and a lot more caring. Beyond just access to the behavioral health programs themselves is simply connecting with the right professional (or para-professional) who can listen, understand, guide and find solutions towards a healthy life. If it takes medication, allow proper and affordable access to do so. This society must make sake suicide prevention a priority within behavioral health communities and enable the silent to speak.

All wonderful and good, right? It is not that easy. But, we must be emboldened to push for better access to behavioral health, suicide prevention programs and better families and friend networks. We must not turn away when someone is suffering with depression, anxiety, Bipolar Disorder or any of the many behavioral health issues that can cause someone to even contemplate suicide.

Why talk about this subject on this website? Because Steindl was not alone in the automotive realm. I had various people in this car community tell me that they had been through various stages of suicide. I had my bouts with this, also.

We are all not alone in this. Yet, we do not know who else we can reach when we need to. Or, do you? If you do, then you have better leverage than most people dealing with thoughts of suicide and beyond.

Are we different than anyone else? There are those who say “yes.” I beg to differ.

Because you want to be a “bruh” does not mean you are immune from the stresses of today’s society. You are definitely not immune from the constant personal, familial and social pressures that attempt to keep you on an even keel day-to-day. We fall, we snap and we try to recoup. If we solid self-control, we can rise through everything.

It does not work out that way. No one has perfect coping skills. Moreover, no one is perfect.

As a collective – a community of enthusiasts and friends – we can be there for our fellow humans. This is not a statement specifically for the car community. This is for everyone – no matter who you are and what you do.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

My Christmas (A Fictional Exploration)

I want to celebrate Christmas. It has been too long that I have done so.

It is not for lack of trying. There have been too many long pauses and silent moments between phone calls, E-mails and text messages. Family disconnected from me. There are too many reasons to spell out as to why. There are too many fingers worth pointing.

Nothing is OK at home, either. My so-called partner left. Again, there are too many reasons to parse out. My so-called friends already took sides on social media. I know why – I am the auslander. I was not born here. This is not my home.

Perhaps this Christmas is my getaway. Going way from what? Leaving behind an ex with a list of crimes against my own humanity. Leaving behind a clique who decided to close the wagon circle in front of me. Leaving behind a three-quarter empty apartment that was supposed to be full of life and vibrancy.

What do I really have left? What about my so-called job? It never fulfilled me to the point of wanting to do more with the company, my superiors, my co-workers and anyone else involved in what I do. Maybe I should leave that behind – albeit temporarily. 

Monday, May 13, 2013


This is for what I get for being too young to remember any of the Civil Rights Movement.

Today, my attention at work was focused on my iPhone. I was following Twitter and the debates that transpired in the Senate chamber of the Minnesota legislature. Hours of debate ensued – sometimes affirming, sometimes contentious. But, I had to experience it from my cube at my day job.

It was no different than the previous Thursday, when the House chamber took up HF1054 – the bill to change the language of the Defense of Marriage Act in Minnesota towards an inclusive writ for all couples to marry in the eyes of the state. After a series of amendments and some debate, the House passed the bill 75-59.

Thursday turned into Monday. I felt the world was at edge. There were plenty of assurances that it would pass, but there were plenty of skeptics. The pundits considered the Senate safe for passage, compared to the House. I was just as nervous as anyone.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

My Long-Winded, One-Sided Conversation About Minnesota's Marriage Amendment

Four years ago, the voters in my home state of California decided to end a new tradition as sanctioned by the state’s courts – same-gender marriage.

This new tradition was created by the then-Mayor of the City and County of San Francisco Gavin Newsom when he defied state law and opened up the marriage rolls. A court case later, and the state was given the license to extend the same legal and taxation rights to same-gender couples. Then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger simply slowed it to happen.

A majority of Californians voted to overturn this decree. The case is still in the courts – again. Yet, several thousand couples are still legally married. That is my home state in a nutshell.

For the past eight years or so, I have been a legal resident of another state – Minnesota. It has been home to me, just like California. Whenever I roam from my home in Robbinsdale to work in Minneapolis and across the state, there are many reminders of home. My own neighborhood reminds me of the place where I grew up – Reseda, in the San Fernando Valley. I can pick out places in the Twin Cities that are part-Los Angeles, part-San Francisco, part-Orange County…etc. The farmlands are real, though I could be driving through the San Joaquin Valley as I was going through Hutchinson or Austin. There is beauty in California equal to the Brainerd Lakes just north of Los Angeles between Bakersfield and Tehachapi.

Waxing poetic between my native state and my current home would go on for paragraphs, but there is one common agenda item that needs to be discussed here.

In a month’s time, voters in Minnesota will be asked to codify the state Constitution once and for all to define the legal and tax code status of marriage as between two distinct genders. What this means is, if enacted, that a same-gender couple could never be able to ask the state or ay municipal government to recognize their coupling on equal legal and taxation basis.

Never before has this state used the Constitution to distinguish cultural definitions. I do not think there ever had been laws distinguishing the roles of gender, race and ethnicity in this state before. Frankly, it goes against what this state had been known for: Welcoming others through a notion of “live and let live.”

Over a year ago, that “live and let live” mentality was shed aside inside the State Capitol. The legislative majority in both the state Senate and House thought it was best to put forth a motion to create this ballot measure than to tackle more pressing issues. On July 1, the state of Minnesota stopped operating on a general basis because the budget was shoved aside for a late night debate and vote to put this amendment on the ballot. Consider the “sacrifice” the legislature made by imposing moral authority than fiscal responsibility.

With a month to go before Election Day, we are asked by one of the campaigns to have conversations with each other about this proposed amendment to the state Constitution. Frankly, I am not good with one-on-one conversations with people who have made up their minds about this issue. I get nervous talking about issues like this to people I do now know. No, seriously…

Why do we need to have conversations about this ballot measure? First, it is best to remind you that that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are a distinct cultural grouping within American society. Because its opponents are arguing to restrict rights against this cultural group means it recognizes that fact. This is a piece of information one might need in an argument.

Secondly, I am reminded how fair minded Minnesotans can be. I am also reminded that there are plenty of non-Minnesota natives residing here. Sounds like California, to me.

I am scared, however. I am scared that if it passes, there will be retribution against us. I fear that all of the progress we made on both the state and national level will be reversed. I have seen nations go through turmoil because of cultural divisions only to see even the most innocent of citizens shunned away – or worse.

I am also angry. Every time I see a “Yes” yard sign or a billboard, I feel as I am witnessing a new form of Apartheid – starting here in this state. I may have been a toddler or too young to have witnessed the Civil Rights Movement in this country, but I have seen other movements take root. I have witnessed and studied how power can turn nations into virtual living hells. The so-called Tea Party movement is still a minority that is after a set of groups equaling a majority of citizens of this country. Sounds familiar? Think South Africa after World War II or the military governments in Latin America in the late 1900s.

However, I am hopeful. When I witness the work of Minnesotans United For All Families, I see an amazing coalition of diverse people coming together for this cause. I am amazed how many of my heterosexual counterparts are wearing “No” t-shirts, posting “No” yard signs, sporting “No” stickers and buttons.

Yet, I ask our allies one question: Will you be there after the election? Will you be there as we continue to keep our eyes on the prize? Will you help us have the Federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act pass through Congress – and so forth?

Will you be there alongside me, when I talk about automobiles knowing full well that I am an out gay man?

This is only one voice in the wind here. My voice is not as strong in this arena. This voice has seen too much division in the country I am a citizen of. It took me most of my life to find a place where my voice is welcomed, despite knowing it may not be welcomed universally in other arenas.

If this prompts a conversation, please be peaceful. Please arrive at the table armed with an open mind and a kind heart – and nothing else. We can have that conversation and maybe we can walk away either understanding the issue or agreeing to disagree.

My bottom line is simple: A “no” vote will erase these fears. It may not forgive the state legislature for letting the state slide into last year’s shutdown by virtue of putting this proposed amendment on this ballot. It will provide food to this soul knowing he can continue the work I do as a re-employed contributor to the tax base of Minnesota.

Look, I will admit being selfish here. Let me extend my thoughts here to include the many same-gender couples I know – friends, acquaintances, foes and rivals alike – who will be severely affected by the ratification of this amendment. They will not see the tax benefits from an equal marital status. They might not have any spousal benefits ranging from post-death impacts to healthcare considerations.

After seeing my home state go through this in the courts and at the ballot box, it is my hope that this amendment will be defeated in November. I do not want to see this state go through a form of Apartheid and having to fight it out in the courts.

With that said – just vote “no.”

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My Simple Message for a Contentious Year

This will be a difficult year...

The reason why I said this is because we are at a crossroads as a nation. One side has been perpetuating a shoestring method of survival where only those who have money are doing what they can to spend it. Then, there are those who are less fortunate who are trying to survive. However, they are the ones that believe in a nation of equals where all citizens enjoy the same rights - even while there are still gaps that need to be closed.

Then, there's the other side. The side that would rather have a caste system based on cultural identity. The side who's angry that the nature of faith has been challenged because a different kind of coupling - one that is considered unnatural by religious texts - want to same legal recognition as their status quo counterparts. That side wants to put a stop to civil recognition of same-gender couples under the writ of marriage.

Last spring, as the state of Minnesota was about to lose its budgetary balance, the state's legislature voted to put on this year's Presidential ballot a measure that would amend the state constitution to permanently disallow the definition of marriage to be accorded to same-gender couples. In my mind's eye, the weight of measure goes beyond the legal status of same-gender couples. It is an invitation to reverse the progress my culture and community made since rioting on the streets of the West Village in New York City back in 1969.

It is heartbreaking to know that people would support such a change to the state constitution - people I consider friends, colleagues, acquaintances, former co-workers, etc. I understand that it is part of their lives and beliefs to see me and my people to be unequal as American citizens and residents of this state.

This goes against the grain of my upbringing.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Disappointed Former Baseball Writer's Last Shout

How can I get mad at Major League Baseball?

It’s like a friend or a lover that decided to gossip about you en route to stabbing you in the back. While you tell said person to cease and desist, they continue doing it. Somehow it got back to you that the behavior has not stopped. In the end, there was no choice but to end the relationship.

The only difference with my relationship with Major League Baseball was that the [insert word here] was out in the open. Everyone knew what the Commissioner’s Office, the ball clubs, several managers and a good number of the players were doing. You followed their Tweets, blogs, Facebook updates and their coverage in the media. 

A Poem - Perhaps the Reason Why I'm Still Single

Originally Written in Early 2005

There will be no “good-night” tonight
No “I love you,” or salutations
Such as “honey” or “sweetie” or “darling”
There will no longer be a need
Or a want…or, a desire
To share a common space
Clothed or naked, tonight
Tomorrow or…evermore!

There will no longer be a trust
Or, an understanding…or, a care
As to how things were, or will ever be
There will never be a time, a place
Or, a meal shared together
A movie, a ballgame
Even time with our friends
Either yours or mine

There will be no more lies
No more excuses or aversions
To my issues as you play out yours!
There will be no more tolerance
To your so-called love for me
You say you love me
I did, and then you blew it!
Now leave me alone!