Observations of an Overthinker

A Tapestry of Optimism

He never spoke to, or for all Americans. He never wanted to.
He never cared about the office, or the decency and behavior it requires.
He never extended a single olive branch. He only understands power; allies over opponents; loyalty versus disloyalty; winning above losing.
He never once listened to anyone but himself, his narcissistic dark passenger.

Unsustainable governance, isolationism and morally reprehensible behavior are one side of a boomerang.

His supporters—private or elected—never cared about diplomacy. They just wanted to burn it all down.
They never wanted to negotiate anything, they applauded his obstinance.
There was never a plan, only a charge: disrespect standard-bearers, disrupt norms and principles, alienate western allies and divide America.
They never understood: what they hated most about America they helped to comprise.

Forgetting America is a shared, democratic society, with checks and balances to protect itself from itself is the other side of the boomerang.

COVID-19 appeared and ushered in fear, anxiety, separation and introspection, mortality. A global disaster much more consequential than any one man and vastly greater than denial. Which gave way to further self-analysis, civil rights. Who are we? What do we stand for? How many more times are we going to allow this to happen? If not now, when? Two immutable forces of nature; wrath and revenge; a parallel reprisal he never saw coming nor cared about once here. Ironically, both were always there. Like a stalking butler, dormant until dangerous, they put the power back in the people’s hands.

There are two types of voters in America: those willing to do more for the greater good and those who are not.

America spoke and it wanted a new, more resolute voice to represent her. An older, more empathetic view. A weathered, wise and stately wish. One marred by tragedy, yet rebuilt greater in its wake. A voice resonating how America feels: both serious and sad, honest and hopeful, decent yet demanding. She also required a new commitment to progress. For reason and recognition, inclusion and civility, a woman. Someone who not only shares the pain but the investment in a greater ideal. Someone who will help to rewrite our story for generations to come. A revisal.

On the eve of a renewed investment in a more inclusive, more complete America, we must always remember how we got here. We must remember what we have done wrong, who we have left behind and why we keep doing it. We have been given another chance. With that comes great responsibility. Another warning of how easily and fast we can fall. Let us support our vast composition. Let us be brave enough to allow new opinions to guide us. To give unique and different voices a seat at the table. A shared American experience from everyone for everyone. America was once a tapestry of optimism. Let us all roll up our sleeves and work to repair her, to improve her. She needs it.

© Tanzer Words

The Tin Man

Yes, storming the Capitol Building with guns is insurrection.
No, it is not the same as Black Lives Matter protests.
Yes, Trump incited this (with the help of Hawley and Cruz).
No, “both sides” are not at fault.
Yes, white privilege is real.

No, it would not have been the same outcome if it was BIPOC.

What we saw today is the beginning of the Trump detox. It is only the beginning, but at least it is finally starting. There will be more physical, emotional and psychological meltdowns to come. Expect it.

Once again, the BLM movement is protesting against incidents of police brutality and all racially motivated violence against black people. The Capitol fatigue folk are protesting fables. There is no comparison. All of our electoral systems were secure and the results feverishly counted. Some, multiple times. All court cases claiming voter fraud were thrown out of court, many by Trump’s own appointees. The Georgia runoff was just and the outcome honest. There is no similarity between the painful work of moving the needle forward on civil rights and throwing a temper tantrum flipping a table over (literally) when you come in 2nd. We are better than this.

To the Republicans still shouting “voter fraud,” you are wrong. Please cross-reference and ingest other media. You may find another world of truth out there you have been missing. Also, Democrats have been demanding election reform for decades. Shall we start by abolishing the Electoral College? Establish transparent and neutral redistricting principles? Enact ranked-choice voting? Maybe a universal absentee and mail-in ballot deadline? National holiday? Let’s get to work.

To the people saying nothing is going to change once Biden gets in office: it must be nice for you to have such a romantic American experience. From Trump to Biden? Please. Take that Tin Man outlook elsewhere. The rest of us are still trying to work towards a better union for all Americans and have a few sleeves to roll up. Stick your arm out and we will gladly help you with yours. It is not that hard to be kind, to be good to others.

Congratulations to Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock on your Senate runoff victories! Sorry, it couldn’t be under better circumstances or a more enjoyable night. Just know millions are proud of how hard you fought to ultimately roll back this 4-year mess. Change can not come soon enough. Historic change you are now going to be a part of writing.

© Tanzer Words

I never thought I’d make it…

I never thought I’d make it to 30.
I never thought I’d make it to 40.

I never thought I’d make it to 50. Yet here I find myself, well and inspired for what is to come.

When I was growing up there were only a few networks and newscasters on television. I remember seeing my parents watching the events of the day unfold and they usually trusted them as stated. Some things changed over time and they learned to endure that too. (With a bit more grace, I might add.) Just like everything else in life, we evolve. Then the internet came along and changed everything. It has ruined my career twice now. Once with music ownership and distribution, and once with live performance due to COVID-19 (via misinformation). It has placed children in perpetual beauty contests, turned fireside folklore into mainstream legislation, given international voice to loner loyalist groups, and made way to governance by conspiracy chaos to name a few. The spread of disinformation on the internet is the single greatest threat to democracy. Yet, impoverished and oppressed people of the world rely on it to survive. For that reason, alone, we are better off living with it. Being informed, however difficult it may be at times, and having the ability to help others makes it all worthwhile. But it should come with a warning label (and life advice): If you don’t seek out the good, the bad will find you.

I have never really felt like I fit in anywhere but have always made anywhere I am my home. I have also always thought overt patriotism is strange. I had nothing to do with being born in America nor do I have anything to do with my Russian, Austrian, Scottish, English, and Mexican ancestry. The truth is, like everyone else, I just arrived. The older I got the more ideals were forced upon me through school, religion, friend groups and culture, which caused me to question everything even more. After decades of self-reflection, I still care more about people than politics; policy over patriotism, rationalism over nationalism, inclusion over exclusion, rights over fights, and equality over inequality. There are three major types of moral capital in this world: saying you care about others, choosing to include others, and personally sacrificing to serve others. May we all consider these a bit more.

I had a conversation a few days ago with a lovely soul who is fed up with our divisiveness and is discouraged by our country. I understand. I cautioned her we must want for a more equitable union. For each other, (for her children) and for our future. I admit Americans are most likely not going to agree on all policy and that is ok. It is what makes the hope of being ‘united’ worthwhile. But I am certain if we don’t start valuing our diversity we are going to fail. Historically, in countries that don’t take care of their people, their people end up taking care of their country.

I am very concerned about the conspiracy cancer in America. Unlike most of my liberal friends, I don’t think the answer is ridiculing people who choose to believe in them. I make a genuine effort to not call anyone names although I feel them brewing inside me often and trust me, they want out. I am certain the same feelings exist within the believer community. So what do we do? We listen. We talk. And we try to find common ground.

“Conspiracy theories appeal to people whose key psychological needs are unmet. Believers crave knowledge, desire safety, and security, and need to maintain positive self-esteem. During times of crisis and when difficult decisions need to be made, these psychological needs are particularly threatened, and people are looking for ways to cope with the challenges they face.” -Professor Karen Douglas

If I have any wisdom to impart at 50, which I question daily, it is no matter what you believe, before you profess it to someone else, try to imagine their lived experiences first. Try to imagine your thoughts as questions before you frame them as answers. And try to remember sharing a country with people with opposing views is what makes us great. Most things we face can and should be reconciled together. More importantly, for a person to truly change, they must feel the change is theirs, that they chose it and they control it. Otherwise, it loses all its effect.

“Sometimes it’s so much easier to look outside of ourselves—to find explanations for our own pain, our own failures, our own disappointments rather than looking inward and taking responsibility for our actions. It would be so much easier if luck, or God, or genetics, or some unthinkable sin or magical spell just made us who we are—it would be easier, wouldn’t it? Easier than figuring out who we are on our own and that in fact, we can be many things: rageful and kind, strong and weak, terrified and sad, bereft but not afraid to go forward.“ – Derek Cianfrance, I Know This Much Is True
© Tanzer Words

Yes, even you.

The coronavirus is political. Wearing a mask is political. Criticizing scientists and doctors is now political. Doing what’s in everyone’s best interest is somehow debatable. This is America.

Randomly place 10 people from all races, religions, and ethnicities in a room for an experiment and I’m willing to bet everyone will be kind to each other. If someone falls, others will help to lift them. If someone gets hurt, most will see what they can do to help. If someone cries or gets angry, most will look to understand. Being in-person, together, brings out our highest ideals — it’s usually when we are at our best. But the minute we get some personal space and enough time to reflect we start to disengage. That quiet, menacing dark passenger begins to take over. Ingest the wrong media — add a little gas to the fire — and you have the right compound to drive us into divisive chaos.

First, we took on the national and global health officials, most of whom — regardless of what you may read — are doing a great job under the most adverse circumstances in a century. To be crystal clear on this: science is ever-evolving. If you lack faith in our health officials because they said don’t wear a mask in March and are now saying you must today, stop it. Stop believing that lifelong innovators, scientists — people who have dedicated their entire lives to making yours better — are now unreliable. Science is unfolding daily, as fast as it can, and developing new information by the minute. You should try to as well.

Then there are the anti-technocrats. A system most (have learned to) hate but I’m guessing have no idea what it is or why. Technocracy is an “ideological system of governance in which decision-makers are selected on the basis of their expertise in a given area of responsibility, particularly with regard to scientific or technical knowledge.” Should we question why Trump initially lauded Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx and now distances himself from them? Absolutely. Question everything. But it’s way more puzzling to me why they aren’t allowed to speak unconstrained, daily, giving the best up-to-the-minute reporting to help keep us all informed and safe. Why aren’t we mandating universal testing? Why aren’t the experts at the federal level coordinating this pandemic with state and local officials? If not them, why aren’t we promoting others to manage this? Ask yourself why other countries are working tirelessly in lockstep with their health officials to keep their residents safe and informed but we aren’t.

And then we charge the governors. Each is the commander-in-chief of their respective state. They are responsible for implementing state laws and overseeing the operation of the state executive branch. In Nevada’s case, Gov. Sisolak. He has done a bang-up job of keeping Nevadans safe. He is well-informed, well-intentioned, and is managing a ghost town economy the best he can. Las Vegas, in particular, is remarkably tough. As a city, it’s essentially non-essential. We provide escapism without restraint. We are also a worldwide pathogen test. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas (sorry, but not really). So, if you don’t like Sisolak’s heavy hand I ask you to reach out to the people who have contracted the virus. Ask them about their experiences. What was it like to go through COVID-19 if they’re still alive. What are the results of contracting it and surviving? If you know any health workers, ask them what they think about it. Also, do yourselves a favor and find out what other states are doing. How they are handling this separately? We are always at our best when we are well-informed.

And, finally, the anti-maskers. Nearly every state right now is walking back their reopening strategies and moving toward making it mandatory to wear masks in public. Red states, blue states; research this yourself. It’s not about your rights being trampled or party lines being crossed no matter who tells you otherwise. It’s about public health. If you can’t wear a mask because of a medical condition, please stay home. I imagine most reasonable people who are immunocompromised or have a condition that prevents them from wearing one would understand this with grace. But, for the sake of all of our sanity, the rest of us are wearing a mask for you. The least you can do is accept our compromise with grace. Like, actually, the least.

I often hear people say, “how do you know what’s right and wrong anymore?” “How do you know whom to trust?” My response is always the same. If all the world’s information was available to you to protect your family, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (which it is), and you were the only person responsible to ensure their safety (which you are), wouldn’t you take every precaution imaginable to make sure they were safe? Of course, you would. To the rest of you still unaffected by the virus/pandemic, loss of work, of human life, all of it, I’m sorry. I’m sorry you’re so unmoved by the human tragedy that you don’t even care. The good news is we care about you. Yes, even you. We will wear a mask for you and when this is all over we won’t even make you feel bad for being selfish. You wanna know why? Because most humans are always going to do their best to try and care for everyone else, including you. It’s who we are. It’s who we wish you were too.

© Tanzer Words

Remember the Titanic? Most musicians will play to the very end. It’s who we are.

If anyone told me that in the prime of my life I’d be isolated at home, stripped of all the work I’d spent 16 years creating and 30 years imagining, I’d have said they were crazy. But if you create art for a living you already know it’s true: We’re all back to square one.

My brother gave me my first guitar at the age of 15 as a means of dealing with my father’s untimely death. I remember it feeling like the only thing in the world that mattered. At that time it was. That Las Vegas house reverberated Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Ozzy/Randy Rhoads, Return to Forever and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. These artists imprinted a promise of hope that never existed before. An imaginary universe of surrealism, one I so desperately wanted to be a part of. The guitar not only changed my life—but it also saved it. By the time I reached high school, I was taking my guitar to school every day, playing between classes as a means of satisfying my overwhelming interest in music. I was so focused on getting better it interrupted my interest in girls. 

Little did I know then how much that budding musical connection would help in the days to come.

By the time I was 19 I had moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career as a rock star. I couldn’t believe the job actually existed. And it paid great! In just four short years of practice time, I truly thought I could show up, find Axl Rose, and get started. I even had an outfit (or three) picked out. I had actualized the whole thing and I was ready to go! I ended up getting an audition with a band that was charting at the time. They loved my playing but said, “you don’t have the right look.” Considering I had hair down my back, I was in skin-tight clothes and could play the music, I quickly realized the only thing left was my weight. That one stung. I immediately went on a diet. That was the first time I understood the entertainment industry isn’t that easy. Or kind. I didn’t care. Tell me I can’t and I’ll figure out a way I can. Back to Mom’s Las Vegas house to regroup.

While hanging at a local bar jam night I was asked by a touring band to get up and play. They asked me on the spot to join their tour. I had to learn 45 songs in three days and off I went. Months on the road with guys I had just met. It was my first introduction to band personalities, touring, deadlines, professional expectations, stage performance, spotlights, all of it. It was so addictive. It also was my first experience with record deals. Even at age 22, I had a gut feeling something wasn’t right—that this band wasn’t me—and I quit.

Back to Vegas again.

I spent the next eight years writing and producing my own music. In a lot of ways, it was some of the most fun I’ve ever had. A clean slate. An empty dry erase board. Limitless possibilities. What do I want to do? Who do I love? What are my influences? I assembled the best guys I could find and we hopped on the Bang Tango meets Led Zeppelin meets Alice in Chains thing. (Yes, I thought funky, heavy grooves and odd time signatures in drop-D tuning would be a smash hit. I still think we were pretty good.) Not long after, a name-producer came to scout us. At the time, I was an assistant restaurant manager. I drove straight from work to pick him up at the airport. Picture one of the DeLeo brothers with a biker braid halfway down his back—that was me that day. We get in the rehearsal room, a few pleasantries exchanged and we were on 10. “Play another,” he said. “Let me hear another one.” And finally, “One more.” I’ll never forget what he said: “You want the truth or do you wanna take me back to the airport as friends?” I wanted the truth. We all did. Remaining friends thereafter was secondary. He thought we played and wrote well. He also thought we had four completely different images—which we did, STP, Whitesnake, Bang Tango, and Metallica—and he thought we didn’t know how to write for an audience we didn’t even have. (I’ve always remembered that.) He said, “You guys are good but your music is way too technical. You’re alienating any audience you may have before they even like you. You have to start with ‘Babe I’m Gonna Leave You’ before you get to ‘Kashmir’.” Talk about pulling at the string on the sweater.

That lineup didn’t agree on much after that. We decided to give it one more go. It was time to take the image thing to the next level. We hopped on the NIN meets Tool meets Linkin Park bandwagon. Musically, we were down, but the new image “requirements” destroyed us. No one really wanted to look like Rocky Horror Picture Show at 7–11, but it did hide my recreational drug use at the time well enough. Another artistic evaporation. The drugs too.

From there, I became a hired gun for record deal acts. The shows were bigger, the audiences knew the lyrics and it felt like things were progressing. I ended up landing a pro gig with a newly signed band on a major, and we were getting ready to head out on tour. I quit my job only to find out the major labels were merging and starting to shelf acts with no track record of sales. We never got a fair chance to even get started. Money dried up and I was out of a gig.

Back to the drawing board again.

I was at home working in the studio when I got the call to sub in with a hair metal cover band. In costume, no less. That part always stopped me dead in my tracks. Their guitarist was leaving for another, more successful cover band and I was recommended to take the gig. I internalized a kneejerk “No.” I had zero interest in doing covers. My girlfriend at the time suggested we go check it out. I reluctantly did. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was like they were Bon Jovi. And it paid well!

From that moment forward I began seeing the bigger picture: If I can’t be an Aerosmith, maybe I can play one locally. It was so silly. The dumber we were, the louder they screamed. Drinking on stage. Telling ridiculous jokes for minutes on end. It didn’t matter what we did. They loved it and so did I. I wanted more work. I wanted out of bartending. I wanted to play music for a living.

I put together my first cover band, an 80s tribute in costume, and landed a gig. It felt so good. Not unlike the original scene, I got us signed! For good money! We showed up, acted like fools, got food and drinks, it paid well and we slept in our own beds. It really was the next best thing! Not long after I got a call from the producer of the first show I was still in asking if I was moonlighting? “I heard you got another gig? You know that’s in breach of contract?” he said. I remember immediately thinking if anyone should be mad its Simon Le Bon, not him. That was the first thing that popped outta my mouth, “If anyone should be mad its Simon Le Bon, not you.” He lost his shit. He was notorious for losing his shit. I didn’t even care. Its that feeling you get when there’s nothing anyone can say that will affect you. I found a new venue no one ever played in and there wasn’t anything he could say that could stop me. “If you don’t give me the band, the gig, and contract, you’re fired.” I said, in a really quiet dismissive tone, “fuck youuuu” and that was that. I was onto that new new.

For the first time in my life, I understood what it meant to be a small business owner. I had a little cast of three, schedules, setlists, intellectual property; I had to maintain quality control, performance, and pay. It was the first time I looked inside the window instead of out. It was a good feeling to be naive and careless, yet still responsible. The bigger picture was brighter than ever.

I remember the singer and I were at a bar one night and Jay-Z came on the overheads. It was Izzo (H.O.V.A.). I looked over at him and said we should do a hip-hop cover band. “No ones doing it!” Our eyes went wide-eyed. There was no need for words, we wore a “yes” in our gleam.

From that moment forward, a single 80’s cover band became a company. One hip hop cover band, then two. No one was doing it. It was an untapped market. Then I got a call for a classic rock band. Then two. Then an all-request band. Then a punk band. Then three hip hop bands. Then a top 40 band. Another, and another. The calls kept coming in. Then properties wanted to start franchising them for different venues. It went from three people to seven. Then ten. Then 15. Before it even sunk in, I had 20 people working. It got to a point where I had stopped playing for a while to sustain the demand. It was succeeding! A fine-tuned production company taking offers and building shows! Cast members knew five different shows. Some knew all of them. A few more years went by and poof: 300+ acts! 50 people a week on gigs! 150 gigs per month!

Then the closure happened.

So how did everything I’ve ever worked for disappear in five days? Everyone knows. No one needs to answer it. It’s the most understood subject in decades, perhaps in a century.

I never imagined it would ever end. I’ve joked many times about retiring before it runs out but never thought what it would actually look like to finish the job. I certainly never even dreamed of starting all over.

I got my first post-closure gig offer today. The first one in 78 days. 16 years ago I went from kicking and scratching for my 1st gig to 150 per month. Back to #1 again. It’s a deep cut. Not to my ego, because I really don’t acknowledge successes externally. I’ve never celebrated a six-figure deal because the truth is this: what goes up, must come down. I believe this linear approach to business is what’s always kept me focused on the craft and quality, not the money. Grounded, even. But it was a ton of work. It is a ton of work. Countless hours, headaches, arguments, backstabbing, and failures. But I stayed with it. I never gave up. I’m an artist through and through and I wanted to help other artists navigate this industry the best way I knew how. That’s the main thing driving me to do this all over again—the artists behind the performances. They are the reason I started this company in the first place. I wanted to create a safe haven for musicians to be able to do what they love in a post-Napster (now Spotify) world. I love the arts. I love hearing artists talk almost as much as I love their creations. I love musicians, comedians, painters, actors, directors; storytellers. I love people bearing their truths. I love the truth so much it sometimes hurts. The truth fills me up like a spiritual dinner and satiates like a fact choir. Experiencing an artist’s openness does it for me on such a deep level that I can’t even imagine a world without creativity. Certainty not one without creative truth. That, and of course I can’t wait to see the looks on people’s faces when they experience live music again. Humans need connection and I’m no different. Give me an audience of 5000 people for average pay over an audience of ten for annual pay and I’ll take the big stage every day of the year. We thrive on contact and there’s nothing more valuable to the well-being of our society than the ones who inspire. We’ve been there through every major tragedy and we’ll be there after this one. It’s our job and we wouldn’t miss it for anything. The truth for most is we probably wouldn’t have stopped playing if they didn’t turn off the lights. Remember the Titanic? Most of us will play to the very end. Until the water surrounds the neck of the guitar and drowns the voice. It’s who we are.

They always ask people, “What would you say if you could speak to yourself 20 years ago?” I’d say don’t worry too much about where you may end up because even that isn’t yours. It’s all temporary. The clothes, the money, the car, and the house—it’s trivial. Enjoy the adventure of creating the best version of yourself possible, because when you finally come up for air you can only hope you like the reflection. That, and do something that excites you. If you’re one of the lucky ones you may even make others happy in the process.

© Tanzer Words

Does America feel lucky? (Well, do ya, punks?)

I am not nostalgic. I don’t long for a past, period, or place with greater pleasure than the optimism of tomorrow. Yet somehow I find myself in a Richard Condon script where two seniors citizens spouting whimsical “Dirty Harry” one-liners are gambling with my life all the way to the White House. While I’m forced to stay home without a job as they try to pin the tail on the pandemic. When they can’t even set up Facebook Live on their phones, finish thoughts, or handle a challenging question without criticizing the interviewer. Both of them. I’m living in a country that’s allowed this to happen. We did this.

I miss the days when I didn’t know what everyone was thinking. What they were mad about. And most unfortunate, what they believed. There was a time when we didn’t mind dump every opinion onto the world. It wasn’t even possible. A life before real-time USBrain uploads, streaming every droll idea; collusion clusters feeding off each other’s curiosity like brain-eating amoebas only separated by passwords. Where we didn’t exist on a perpetual IV drip of false flags, deep state, and gaslighting memes. When our faces weren’t illuminated blue in technological root clumps. A time when everything wasn’t everything. The Theory of Everything used to be left to philosophers via scribes, not Waxing Wendy on her Insta feed.

It is so hard not to judge people online. (Just think of how hard you’re trying not to judge me right now. Or how much you are.)

Not until the advent of “alternative facts” did we decide to believe in something other than the truth (ours or otherwise). A fringe conspiracy, now at the forefront, that somehow two realities coexist. This is absolute bullshit. What we choose to ingest defines our moral code. For many, it’s hard to know right from wrong when there are two realities. Two sets of facts. Two marketing campaigns. Two “enemies.”

Many moons ago, a part of me would’ve died being forced to sit through another episode of Law & Order SVU in a Baja Mexico all-inclusive. The drab simplicity of one channel, the only English one. It was just enough to remind me of the kind warm blanket that is America. What I wouldn’t give now to reset us all with another Benson and Stabler marathon. Surely a Special Victims Unit Ludovico Technique can get us all back on track, right?

History has a way of shining a light on the truth. If I’m nostalgic for anything, it’s this: I can’t wait for tomorrow so we can see what we said yesterday and relive its nonsense with the nostalgia only the future can regale. Nationwide Easter Sunday ribbon cutting. Sniffing hair. Mayor Goodman. Bleachgate. Celebrating arrogance. Anti-quarantine protests. Twitter culture. Safe spaces. Outrage for outrage’s sake. Virtue signaling. Hypocritical virtue signaling. The need for the expression of virtue signaling. Sarcasm as an excuse for ignorance. Gaslighting. ”The best people.” Constant Breaking News. Reporters being berated for asking questions. Reporters asking mindless questions like, “Is ‘Chinese food’ racist?” All of it.

Then there’s the “burn it all down” crowd. We are currently living in phase two of an arson economy. Sheltered in place, hermetically sealed in political faith with no money or leadership while Rome burns. Do people ever stop and think about what America will look like after it’s all burnt down? Are you still roasting s’mores with smiles celebrating your 401ks? Or are you scratching your head with an empty checkbook wondering how the hell we got here? Lemme guess: Burn It All Down 2: The Wokening?

People come to truths on their terms when they’re ready. Forming new opinions usually takes time, reflection, tragedy, and sometimes even luck. We all have time now. Certainly, a day (or 30) to reflect. We’re smack dab in the middle of a crisis. Maybe, finally, we’ll all get that big break we’ve been promised?

“You’ve got to ask yourself a question: ‘do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?”

© Tanzer Words

Timing, self-narrative and dominance of any kind.

No one wants to be told what to do. No one likes being lectured. When asked, everyone believes they’re doing as much as they can to help. I’m no different.

For over 20 years I’ve had a very strong stance against intolerance. The more I revealed the more I was faced with a moral dilemma: What do I do? Say? And to what degree? I’ve always felt the best practice is exercising my vote, being present and doing what I believe is right at all costs.

Similarly, I’ve been an animal lover ever since I can remember. (Something I’m learning isn’t entirely true.) After seeing Food Inc. in 2008 I went for 7 years without eating beef and 3 years without eating pork. I kept it to myself as an invisible badge of honor waiting for the moment I could brag. Not many cared. I did. I’ve been lacto-pescatarian for a while now and leaning towards going completely vegan. The COVID-19 quarantine has sealed the deal for me. Timing. 
 
I just watched the 2018 documentary Dominion and the only word that comes to mind is horrific. I can think of several other words to describe what I saw but that’s what I keep coming back to, horrific. I didn’t wanna watch this film. I was asked by a lifelong friend to watch it several times. I kept saying “I will” knowing I’ve seen enough slaughter films and don’t wanna see another. Or worse yet, “I’m making strides towards a vegan lifestyle.” While true and now official, that’s not the whole story this movie portrays. If he would’ve told me more about the theme of the film I may have watched it sooner. My fault, not his. Self-narrative is key. 
 
We all have a graphic slide of slaughterhouses in our minds. For some even cinema. The monochromatic red horror coated walls no matter where you look. A room of terror; the look of panic and fear in one’s eyes, all for the viewer’s entertainment. Our consumption of animals is no different. Seeing slaughterhouse workers morally absent of consequence is heartbreaking. Some laughing while kicking, beating, shocking or throwing animals around is the markings of the Holocaust. One of the reasons I didn’t watch it is I knew it would further my lack of faith in humanity and I don’t need any help there. I kept telling myself I’m doing what I need to do working towards a better way of life and that’s good enough. I still maintain trying is better than not but let’s be clear, there’s no humane way to kill something that wants to live.
 
I don’t like how I used to distinguish animals differently: dogs over dolphins, cats over cows. I also don’t like how I rationalized their pain by my superiority. I’ve read “might equals right” as a supporting fact for animal consumption. Meaning, humans are intellectually and physically superior to animals so we can do what we want because no one can stop us. While true, it doesn’t make it right. I have never in my life felt worse than when I see someone afraid of my strength. Afraid of me. It’s the most humbling thing there is to me; the dominance of any kind. 
 
I now put the ethical treatment of animals as a whole in a sacred column. I’m flawed and I’m sure I’ll stumble along the way learning how I can do better but starting with a vegan diet seems right for me. May we all try to evolve. At least try. What’s a world worth living in without kindness?
 
© Tanzer Words

Lamp in hand, could you spare a wish?

Uncertainty has a way of letting air out of the balloon. I keep trying to blow it back up but the barrage of the unknown is more persuasive than my efforts, my optimism.

Like an actor in a play in front of a live audience, I’ve forgotten my lines. We both know it. I look around but no one can help. My heart starts to race; sweating, I search for answers. Nothing. I stand frozen in time, anxious and alone trying to remember what to say. Blank. With every shallow breath, the audience fades further and further. Void. Oblivion. A sepia landscape composed of memories, woven certitudes, and salvation, now gone.

I knew exactly how to run my life until now. How to turn it on and off. I was so good at what I did I even took it for granted sometimes. Like we all do. I’d say things like, “I’ll get to that later,” or my recent favorite, “That doesn’t really matter.” Too much work and not enough time. Weighing priorities was never fun but I did what I had to stay afloat. What I wouldn’t give to have that luxury right now: too much work. What I wouldn’t give to have a job again.

One of the most difficult things to process is not everything horrific can be stopped. Not everything pandemic is intentional. Not everything has a reason and not everything has a solution. Some things don’t even serve a purpose. It’s a lot to digest: A worldwide pandemic, the loss of work and identity, an imminent financial crisis, total global uncertainty, and, on top of all that, being quarantined until further notice. “Until further notice,” alone, is enough to unravel anyone. We are all gonna look back on this with such disbelief. I’m in disbelief about how often I’m in disbelief.

Seeing friends rationalize wealth over health is probably the most difficult. I don’t know why this is so challenging now, as it’s always been this way for most. I’ve had higher hopes for collective consciousness, but that’s just not how humans are wired. It’s not what makes us tick. Self-winding clocks, gears grinding to the rhythm of revenue nailed to Wall Street in narcissistic servitude. Allured by the illusion of one day, conceivably, becoming someone else. Longing for excess we scratch the eyes out of neighbors, step over our elders and flatulate CO2 into the muzzles of children, all in the name of generational supremacy. Now, more than ever, it’s easy to see we were mistaken. The fragility of life, cruel infections, the absence of alms, all of it. This quarantine, it’s Luminol on the human psyche and everyone is coming up fluorescent blue.

As we race to the corner store donning the spring line of post-apocalyptic H&M apparel or crash the government website trying to take whatever we can from whatever’s left, we have to ask ourselves: was it all worth it? If you truly feel despondent, scared, and angry, would you really blame your neighbor for it? Once you reach the point of every man for himself, there’s no turning back.

We all like to think we know exactly how we’d handle the lamp, rub, and ensuing three wishes. We’ve played this game with ourselves for years. Envisioning a life with no concerns and excess so grand we’d all buy our mother a house. You know the dream. But if Aladdin knocked on your door tonight, likely in clinical mask and rubber gloves, could you spare a wish? Just one. If not, don’t expect to borrow a cup of sugar when you run out.

© Tanzer Words

But that’s Canada

I have a good friend of almost 17 years who’s a highly accredited record producer and college professor. His name is Dan Brodbeck and he’s Canadian. We’ve never really talked about quality of life, taxation, health care, governments, or even the long-running assumption socialized medicine results in “longer wait times”. Since our relationship has mostly been over the phone and email, we’ve just focused on music, family, jokes and well wishes. Luckily, even a few beers. With all this downtime and a large album project underway, I got curious.

How’s your country handling the COVID-19 crisis? Are you guys on lockdown?

Leadership:
“Pretty much all of Canada is for the last 2 weeks and there’s no end in sight. Shutting down has slowed the spread here: 8500 cases and 38 million people who are quite spread out. Our Prime Minister goes on TV every morning at 11 am and explains what they’re doing, what’s changed and pleads with people to stay inside.” Hmm…

What about your economy? Have they worked on an incentive package to keep everyone sheltered-in-place?

Stimulus:
“Every person who’s lost work due to COVID-19 including self-employed gets a non-recoupable $500 a week check for 4 months backdated to March. If you still have a job or are working an essential service (grocery store, pharmacy, etc.) you don’t get one. Oh, and the government is paying 75% of small business’s payroll. 75 fucking percent!” Incredible!

How about financial cessations? What’s Canada doing there?

Moratoriums:
“Banks are holding off mortgages if you call them and the government is urging people to not collect rent although it’s barely happening. Hydro rates have dropped to help out and it’s illegal to evict a tenant right now.” Yeah, that’s sort of in-line with us. Sort of.

This got me thinking, how’s your health care? Don’t laugh but what about wait times? Everyone here loves to talk shit about the wait times elsewhere. (As if we don’t wait here.)

Health Care:
“Every single person gets the same care. There’s no such thing as paying for a better doctor. A billionaire goes to the same doctor as the homeless guy and our doctors get paid, man. I’ve seen their homes. They deserve it and they get it. I looked up US health care for an average 50-year-old and it is WAY more than the difference in our taxes. The difference is low-income people pay low taxes and if low enough, none at all but they get the same health care as the billionaire.” Wow. “If you go to the emergency room and have a sore leg, you’ll be there for hours.” Same here. “If you go in with chest pains, you’ll be taken right in.” Same-ish, TBD. “For critical or emergency operations, you’ll be taken care of right away. My spinal fusion 4 years ago was not quite an emergency but very serious. I got operated on in 6 weeks. If it was an emergency like it was when I was 30, I was operated on the morning after I went in. My dad died of brain cancer 11 years ago. His was not curable and we all knew it but to give him a quality of life they operated. That would have been hundreds of thousands of dollars. My spinal surgery would have been $100K easy but I paid nothing.” WHAT THE FUCK! That would bankrupt half our country and yours is free!? (Note: “quality of life”)

Don’t tell me college is free? I won’t be able to stomach it.

College:
“University is not free but it’s not expensive either. Western in London is one of the best in the country. So is the University of Toronto or McGill in Montreal (our Ivy League). Western is $7k a year, not $40k. The government pays for the rest and the student has no idea. Fanshawe is $3800 a year.” Dammit!

Ok, what do you pay in taxes? It has to be 45%, right? (kidding, of course) I mean that’s what they say. (Whoever the fuck “they” are.)

Taxation:
“Our taxation rate is about 18% up to $100K. Over $100K you get into a higher tax bracket, Like 30%. So if you earn $110K, only the $10K is taxed higher.” Wow, man!

So wait a minute. It can’t be free-market then, right? There’s just no way.

Capitalism:
“It’s very much a free-market industry but some things are regulated by our government more than the US like businesses. We really aren’t socialists although there’s more socialism here than there. So we are capitalists with some compassion LOL. Corporations are taxed. Amazon Canada pays tax, Amazon US doesn’t. Tax on booze is higher so it’s more expensive but weed is legal. It’s not France, where the taxes are through the roof but it’s not America where poor people are basically fucked. Our minimum wage in Ontario is $14hr. That’s still not enough to live comfortably. You’re taxed more if you make more and the number of people that abuse it is so low. I know people who’ve mooched off of the government and that’s gonna happen but it’s not like it’s enough to really live well. The incentive is to work.” Imagine that. Capitalism with compassion. Incentives to work.

I just don’t get it. I mean, I understand why some don’t wanna pay for others to succeed (if that’s how you look at it). But what about quality of life? One of my favorite clapbacks to those who argue against more socialism: have I ever once said anything that wouldn’t help you? Not, that might ‘hurt’ you—cause that’s subjective—but wouldn’t help you? Or, your mom? Your Grandma? Just because you believe in capitalism, which I do as well, doesn’t mean you can’t believe in decency. Capitalism and socialism can coexist. (They currently do in America, it’s just unpopular to expand on it.) You can still be The Wolf of Wall Street one day (statistically not likely, but keep trying) and the sheep of Elm Street to/for your family. Which is more likely, that you’ll have a family or more money than you’ll ever need? Rhetorical.

His final thought and I couldn’t have said it better myself, “It [COVID-19] will devastate the economy for a bit but what the fuck is an economy without humans?” That ^

I’ve stopped entertaining the simplicity of someone telling me to “move there” if I “hate America so much.” I don’t hate America and that’s not how America works. Chasin’ me off cause you don’t like what I have to say is not how our country was framed, amended and it’s not how all of our greatest achievements were engraved.

If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught me anything it’s how uncertain, unaware, Americans are. I mean, that is the goal, right? To create dissension and division within our ranks. Less than 30 days ago, 50% of the population would’ve literally said “fuck you” on national television to anyone trying to get $12 from the government let alone $1200. Now, not a peep. If anything, it’s mass hysteria about how they can get their checks sooner. There’s only one reason for this complete 180, this philosophical change of heart. It finally affected them. The only thing that changed is now it’s on our doorstep. Profoundly. Did you ever see it coming? (Either/or.)

Financial planners and philosophers have been saying it for decades and no one would listen. They’ve made countless references to the fragility of the American Dream: A simple car accident, terminal diseases, job/stock market crashes, addiction, and no one would entertain. But now, it’s different, right? Is it, though?

Just remember, you and I can have a better quality of life. One, even worth fighting for. We deserve it. Most interesting to me, we don’t have to fight each other to obtain it. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The next time someone says, “But that’s Canada” ask yourself this: is their quality a life really unattainable, or just something people in positions of power don’t want you to have?

© Tanzer Words

Chile, Argentina, and Brazil

I had a predetermined vision of Chile in my mind. The largest southernmost settlement in the world, ranging from the hot desert to ice caps and everything in between, 7 climates in total. I imagined a folkloric, historic, and immaterial Eden where water and air were replaced with wine and song. I still assume they are but it wasn’t meant to be. The city’s people had bigger plans for themselves. (That last sentence makes me proud for Chileans.)

About 3 weeks before we left, the country started to show signs of civil unrest. By the time we were ready to fly there were a million people in the streets. It started in response to a rise in the Metro’s subway fare and the increased cost of living. One of the most powerful things I’ve read on the subject is from a 30-year-old art teacher, “We can’t return to normality, we haven’t achieved anything yet. The reforms the government is proposing are superficial and do not solve the deeper problems—it is not about 30 pesos, it is about 30 years of abuse of power.” Since then, President Piñera changed eight ministries of his cabinet, dismissing his Interior Minister Andrés Chadwick. On November 15, most of the political parties represented in the National Congress signed an agreement to call a national referendum in April 2020 regarding the creation of a new constitution.

“In an April 2020 plebiscite, Chileans will be able to vote whether they want a new constitution and, if so, whether they want it to be drafted by a mixed citizen-legislator convention or one entirely comprised of elected citizens. More than 80 percent of Chileans are in favor of a new constitution, according to recent polls.”

To be determined. Anything that involves the redistribution of power and money is always “to be determined,” and it’s always by the people trying to keep it.

I’ve read Buenos Aires is the “Paris of the South.” Comparison is such a subjective thing. Most people need an explanation for reference. Music, art, culture, travel. Even restaurant suggestions. Most need to hear something is cool so they can decide to experience it for themselves. Plus, it is a catchy phrase. I was curious about how that came to be.

“Argentina didn’t gain its European flair during its era under Spanish rule. In fact, after gaining independence from Spain in 1816, Argentinians didn’t want to employ their former colonizers. Instead, they looked to visionaries from other European countries, like France and Italy, to serve as the architects and engineers of their developing capital.”

The cosmopolitan capital is everything I thought up and more: A heart of culinary mastery, world-renowned wines, and a European atmosphere intertwined with vibrant Latin American roots. But most surprising to me is how welcoming it felt. It didn’t even feel like a vacation. Unlike Paris, while regal, romantic and majestic, I didn’t feel like I needed to ask permission. For anything. It felt like home.

Argentine children smiled a lot. They looked more loved than other places I’ve been (no matter how dumb that sounds). There was a photographic feel to families in Buenos Aires, a strong sense of familial structure there. It was lovely to be around.

There were a ton of dog walkers. I don’t know why I find the chaotic tangling of canines to be so sweet. It was like a reverse Christmas tree of panting tongues, all going different directions; smelling, peeing, smiling, and happy to be together. Most dogs are like that. They love belonging to a tribe. Humans aren’t that much different but most don’t smell each other’s butts in public. Most.

Cars rule pedestrians. Traffic control signals only exist in main intersections. No lights, stop signs, or yield signs on most corners and pavement markings (where visible) are a suggestion. Although Argentine motorists are kind outside the car, they relentlessly Tertris their way to the head of the intersection. It felt like a VR video game and everyone was in on it. Pedestrians don’t have right of way even when crossing with a walk signal. You had to be aware of vehicles turning because they may not stop for you.

Smoking still seems popular there. I’m surprised smoking is still popular anywhere, including Paris. It’s just like anything else, once the information is available the excuses lie on the individual. I did see some people frowning on it, waving the air with a snotty look as if to say “not near me.” As an ex-smoker from a lifetime ago, I don’t feel right saying much on the subject except smoking will kill you, and fanning air makes you look funny.

And finally, crazily, music still matters there. Considering music is my living, it actually blew my mind how much music mattered in South America. I haven’t seen too many people so deeply passionate about music in a very long time. For fear of offending countless people I work with daily, I don’t mean professionals and some of the best performers and talents I’ve ever seen. I mean passionate. The music was coming from a place of lustful concern. Avid, fierce, and intense desire to get it right and for very few people. (Yes, covers.) I saw one band playing for 11 people. They had more devotion in their hearts and conviction in their eyes than 100. It reminded me of being a child again. Wetting my hair, grabbing an ax handle, and rocking out to Kiss Alive 2 in my bedroom. In my current world, there’s a clear understating of it all. It’s a business. The goal, style, expectation, times, image, pay, all of it. Once you remove the curiosity out of music, it changes the conviction. And in turn, it changes you. This is true with almost anything, especially life. The more you know the harder you have to try to keep it fresh. For a city of almost 3 million people, Buenos Aires still plays with passion, curiosity, and innocence. It was beautiful.

My only knowledge of Rio before coming here was “The Girl From Ipanema,” “Copacabana” and Carnival. 2 outta 3 ain’t bad?

At first glance, the natural and constructed beauty that makeup Rio’s geographical contrasts are absolutely gorgeous. On one block you have this vibrant, fun, beach vibe, and on another, you have the stunning natural allure of historic mountainscapes. Then, favelas in the middle.

A favela is a low income, unregulated type of “slum” neighborhood that’s experienced historical governmental neglect. No zoning, oversight from any public authority, or public services. Old, recycled tiles covering flimsy shacks, illegal electricity wire extensions, and blue cisterns.

“Geography is destiny” is such a fascinating topic to me. What were you born into?

I read a few articles about the 10-foot high fence along the highway from the international airport. I’m so intrigued by this. Behind it Maré, a complex of 16 favela communities mostly under gang rule. There are differing accounts as to why the wall exists ranging from a “sound barrier,” “welcoming wall” for the 2016 Olympic arrivals, and finally to hide an “eyesore.” My befriended taxi driver named Mario seemed to sum it up best, “Yes, sure, all that may be true but during rush hour the thieves would walk onto the highway and rob people at gunpoint.” Most everywhere I’ve traveled has some sort of social class division but this may be the greatest I’ve seen. Extreme wealth and poverty right on top of each other. Some of the favelas have equal, if not better views than the high rises. Upon digging deeper, one thing I found inspiring about the favelas is many have created, managed, and elected their own officials. Their own cities within cities. These are for the people by the people, off the grid, and on their own. I could spend a week talking about socio-economic abandonment, what basic roles any government should take but its literally not my place.

I went to my first Brazilian football game. 67k people. Singing the entire time. Cheering, screaming, throwing beers, in-fucking-sane. It was Flamengo vs Ceará, both Brazilian teams. I’ve been told I’m lucky for that. And, that they won. Brazil is the only team to participate in every World Cup competition ever held and they are *crazy* about the sport! I’ve never been in a traditional war but it felt like how they must start. 10 people, then 50. A hundred, then thousands. The disorderly, chaotic, nervous energy of 67k people all in one place. An air of uneasy, angry, excited and on edge; swelling moods overcoming different factions in seconds. And then without notice, complete pandemonium erupts. Screaming bloody murder! But, it’s…a celebration! I felt like a dog that kept accidentally peeing on the carpet when everyone was looking. But I wasn’t. Sort of.

There seems to be real, heartfelt disdain from the taxi drivers towards Uber drivers. They really dislike them. Like class disgust, only the taxi drivers do pretty well here. The only people taxis hate more than Uber drivers are Uber Eats and the like: iFood, Pedidos Já, Mr. Food. Even they caught my attention. Best I could tell, the entire home delivery system works off of motorcycles and they’re timed. They do not obey any of the traffic laws even in front of the police. Rush hour dawns a symphony of Roadrunner-like “meeps” in Morse code. The only thing that could make it any more interesting was the kids were using rented bicycles to deliver food. Everyone’s gotta hustle, I respect that.

Portuguese is a much more difficult language than I thought it would be. Or, they’re much harder on my efforts. Since everyone was polite, I’ll say both. Also, Google Translate seemed the most incorrect here so far. Vowels and constants were wrong and pronunciation had me down the wrong road a few times. I got more help from locals than Google. The language also sounds laced with French. I was told by multiple people who live there, Portuguese does not sound French. Au contraire sounds French to me. Ah bem.

I really don’t know why people cheek-kiss greet each other. It’s as strange as saying “bless you” after a sneeze. In South America, it’s for real. I had to read more.

*One Kiss: Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Peru, the Philippines
*Two Kisses: Spain, Italy, Greece, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Croatia, Bosnia, Brazil (though, like France, the number can differ by region), and some Middle Eastern countries (though not between opposite sexes)
*Three Kisses: Belgium, Slovenia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Egypt, and Russia (where it’s accompanied by a bear hug)

“…touch cheeks and administer an air kiss — a soft smacking sound, as opposed to the more bombastic mwah!—forgoing any actual exchange of saliva.”

Superstitious, ritualistic customs always make me feel weird. When forced into a quick kiss hello, I don’t make the noise. I’m not fake lip smackin’ for anyone.

Cars rule pedestrians here as well. (Insert the same paragraph from Buenos Aires.) However, I saw three different busses stop for someone running to catch it. I’m gonna venture a guess it’s not normal practice, but there’s nothing better than those types of small victories. I love it when the bus stops for someone running. I hope everyone’s bus waits for them.

Many people tell stories and that becomes their truths.

“When your beliefs are entwined with your identity, changing your mind means changing your identity. This is why facts don’t change minds.”

They see what they wanna see, hear what they wanna hear, and believe what they wanna believe. There’s a survival mechanism in place to save us from our greatest fears, usually the truth. An underlying, terrifying realization that maybe it’s all for nothing. Perhaps a symbolic separation from our parents, fantasy over reality, aloneness, personal/spiritual evolution, life responsibilities, and death. We demand perfection of others while lacking the necessary self-reflection to refine ourselves. We work, we save, we purchase and we hope. We expect our nest egg dreams will be met. We pray that everything is going to resemble the fairytale we created in our head. (Read that again.) But even the wealthiest people in the world can’t pay for perfection. They can’t pay for avoidance, and they can’t pay to circumvent life. And praying isn’t going to change the outcome. It may make you feel better about the path you choose, and your place in it all, but unfortunately, divine intervention isn’t up for sale. The sooner we realize everything is going to be ok, regardless of the outcome, the sooner we’ll accept that which is. The sooner we’ll be happy, always, no matter what happens. I mean, let’s face it, we’re all extremely fragile and just doing our best. A little self-acceptance can go a long way.

People often ask me, “how do you go so many places where you don’t speak the language?” My go-to joke is always Google Translate (although Portuguese isn’t its strongest suit). While it saves my ass daily, the truth is more easily described: with a little effort and a lot of humility. Try to fit in. Try to speak the native language. Show some effort. But most importantly, be prepared to say sorry. A lot. Show people of the world, with your actions, you’re thankful to be wherever you are. And remember, you’re representing the next person. The next stranger. Express yourself with grace, try to be a person of the earth, not on the earth, and look people in the eyes with respect. I have yet to find any currency that spends more freely than respect.

If you knew someone was going to take your place on this marble and pick up the pieces you created over your lifetime exactly where you left them, wouldn’t you try harder to leave behind a kinder, more refined legacy for them? That’s exactly how I feel about travel. I didn’t purchase the right to walk through foreign lands like a bull in a china shop. I was afforded a right of passage, revocation is up to the natives.

To be determined. Only this time it’s by the actual people who wield the power. Fortunately, it’s just my memories I’m trying to keep.

© Tanzer Words

Joker

I just watched Joker and it’s everything everyone has said (dark, unsettling, graphic, painful, brilliant) except for one thing, it’s not slow.

There was a time when art was revered. When it was extraordinary. When it was seen as an essential, influential, and crucial part of the culture. A time when we didn’t have access to 30 million songs on our phone. When we couldn’t take any piece of art or literature ever written and steal it for a meme. (When we didn’t know what a meme was.) When we couldn’t just ask any question in the known universe and get the answer in seconds. Now don’t mistake shining a questioning light on technology with being old school. I’m not. But art… it used to matter. We’re a Twitter culture. Everyone is so consumed with their lives they don’t read. We are the generation of too long; didn’t read. Even that’s too much. It has to be abbreviated to TL;DR. Even abbreviation requires abbreviating. Abbr. Wild. So, anyone who tells you the movie is too slow probably doesn’t understand drama or they’re the human equivalent of TL;DR. #whatevs

I wanted to go opening weekend because I want to do my part in helping this film’s success. I bought 5 tickets. Just like voting, people need to use their voice, financially or otherwise to make a difference. Paying for this film helps for art like it to continue to shine in a dwindling medium. Most movies make one-third of their entire box office gross during opening weekend. A bad opening weekend means it will likely be pulled. It will vanish into artistic obscurity. This film deserves better.

Joker is an urgent and timely warning to who we are as a culture. A puncturing look in the mirror. A reflector of the society we’ve already created by allowing the pressure cooker to continue. It’s a glass into our non-recycling ways. Our disposable, coffee cup society. We never think about the wellness of our fellow man. What happens when someone loses their mind? Even momentarily. We make fun of them, posting it everywhere, call them crazy and move on to the next broken piñata with our sticks in the air. We are the mob of the unempathetic. Generally inconsiderate, insensitive, thoughtless, uninterested, unfriendly, unloving, and ruthless. We create this shit, the marginalized and we can’t even see it. We are the reverberators of chaos. But we can do better. We can always do better.

The next time you see someone in need, try to help them. Talk to them. See if they’re hungry. Maybe they just would like to be seen and acknowledged. Maybe they just wanna talk. Smile more. At everyone. Every day. Don’t be afraid to expose yourself as vulnerable. Reach out to others. Be there for them. Especially, people, you don’t know. We’re always so sure we know what’s right. But one day it just might be you on the other side of the laugh. Remember that.

© Tanzer Words

People

People want knowledge but aren’t curious.
People want to be respected but never stand up for what’s right.
People seek love but don’t want to be vulnerable.
People want wealth but don’t want to sacrifice.
People want good health but don’t take care of themselves.
People desire acceptance but don’t do anything worthy of appreciation.
People crave real relationships with family but aren’t willing to accept.
People want independence but aren’t responsible for themselves.
People crave order but are disorganized.
People want power but never lead by example.
People need to be seen as important but never make bold decisions.
People want happiness but don’t want confrontation.
People are idealistic but never when it matters.
People want friends but never make the effort to nurture them.
People want tranquility but do nothing to quiet their minds.

© Tanzer Words

A world where…

Imagine a world where everyone picked up one piece of trash. Or, didn’t litter.
A world where everyone said one nice thing to someone. Or, kept their negative thoughts to themselves.
A world where everyone was given the tools they needed to succeed. Or, at least not marginalized for their limitations.
A world where everyone was treated equally regardless of their race, religion, or orientation. Or, at least not segregated for their differences.
A world where truth was powerful enough to wield power and sustenance enough to maintain it. Or, at least not bastardized for political wealth.
A world where the sick, elderly, and service men and women were given special assurances and aide. Or, at least not exploited.
A world where the fundamental tenets of a modern civilization don’t leave behind developing countries and assist in the promise of unification for all man. Or, at least doesn’t further isolate the less fortunate ones.
A world where you can have more if you desire more but isn’t systematically set up for a select few to control the system. Or, at least doesn’t punish those who aren’t capable of overcoming systemic adversity.
A world where we support artists freedom of expression without fear of failure. Or, at least doesn’t demonize the artist’s individuality.
A world where the human condition isn’t constrained by money and stature. Or, at least isn’t judged and punished on a sliding grading system.
A world where we can coexist with animals while utilizing whatever resources necessary for survival humanely. Or, at least doesn’t treat them like insentient commodities for consumption.
A world where everyone, everywhere pitched in together for the common good.
Where everything and everyone mattered to each other.
Where harmony existed beyond music.
A world focused on the meaningful existence of peace and unity for all.
And finally, a world where socialism and capitalism weren’t at war with each other, just sharing the same space at differing speeds, purposes, methods, and lengths.
Imagine that.

© Tanzer Words

The Critical Passenger

On a plane from Athens to Barcelona, I struck up a conversation with a retired school teacher. It was delightful to have intelligent, worldly discourse in the air. We spoke of economics, world affairs, current and past leaders, health care, terrorism, life, love, and health. As we got deeper in, she thought I must’ve experienced something tragic. She said, “for you to leave the love of your life, even for a few weeks—to travel alone—you must’ve found meaning in your life?” I paused, and with a smirk replied, actually, I’m out here still looking for it. I have many things to be thankful for but they all, with the exception of love, seem so simple and insignificant. Like I’m an actor in a play I’ve written, directed, and acted out over and over again. Travel is the only thing that gives me a new purpose. It breathes life into this old soul. She just looked at me, smiled, and repeated, “like I said, you must’ve found meaning in your life.” We both shared a sweet, silent smile.

We read for a while, I wrote, and we both even napped a bit.

The moment I woke I began to ponder the irony of misfortune. Again. The unlucky draw of straws; how we never wish for the short one and what it can do to you. If you’re lucky enough to live through it, you’re bound to become clearer in what you want. And that, for me, has become travel.

Paris is everything, everyone has said and then some: the heartbeat of love, the candlelight of romance, the warm embrace, the first drop of wine in a glass. It radiates passion. The senses are all awake in this city. There are only two things that come to mind I have not read about Paris. First, the people are lovely. I’m not sure who is getting an uptight Parisian but they were all delightful to me. I find American’s can be so damn American that they can’t even understand why anyone else doesn’t act… American. Secondly, Paris is so remarkably regal. I’ve never been anywhere to date that felt so well-organized and precise in its plan. Methodical beauty, class, character, and resolve. Paris is the benchmark of refined taste and grace. I can’t imagine anywhere being more beautiful than Paris but I’m up to the task. And search on, I shall.

On the last night of my vacation and pass back through Paris there was a huge, violent protest. “Gilets jaunes” or yellow vests, numbering near a hundred thousand, are a leaderless grass-roots resistance against diesel tax hikes and the high cost of living. They take their name from the bright yellow safety vests all drivers in France must carry to wear in an emergency. And to think its the law to own them.

I have always wanted to travel to Berlin. As long as I can remember. It’s been a fantasy I’ve played out in my mind over and over again that’s only grown with time. What’s Berlin like? Is it modern? Vibrant and pretty? Or is it still unresponsive and dark from the war? Do people dance all night to techno? Are they sad? Do people even laugh? Is there anything funny or is everyone serious? Is everything still in black and white? Surprisingly, it’s all of that.

Berlin has such a crazy history that I don’t think they’ll ever be able to entirely shake it off. As with any generational divide, it gets easier with time. Kids felt completely oblivious of the war as they should, to some extent. Robbing children of their innocence is one of the worst things you can do—as long as they understand their history. But the elders, they had decades of pain in their eyes. Like they felt sorry for things, I’m assuming, they had no part of. Weathered paths with narrowing memories and timeless guilt. It was heavy.

Berlin was all but demolished after the Second World War so it’s essentially rebuilt from the ground up. Many parts of it are a prefabricated response to a lack of housing. Quick, and relatively inexpensive, grey, concrete structures to curb the country’s severe housing shortage of the times. Two and three-story apartment houses stretching miles. An ironic wall of refuge in a place that doesn’t need or want walls ever again.

Then there’s the new Berlin. A highly intelligent and innovative tech hub where most cities pale in comparison. It has vibrant art, film, TV and gaming industries, and a live-and-let-live mentality for artists and activists. It’s contemporary, family-friendly, extravagant and it’s covered in graffiti. Like, most of it. And no one seems to mind. Upon first glance, it appears like it’s owned by the street artists. Berlin is somehow the youngest and oldest city I visited this trip.

On my ride from the Athens airport to my Air BnB, I was picked up by a taxi driver named Nick. Once my “Geia sas” wore off, I surrendered to English. He chose “Nick” for my sake. He told me everything he could about the city in a short cab ride. He promised me the best chicken souvlaki in the world while cranking the Scorpions “Still Loving You.” I love unembarrassed people. I feel like it’s the sign of true awareness. Or innocence. I haven’t figured that one out yet.

My first 3 hours in Athens and what do I stumble upon? My first protest of the trip.

November 17 is observed as a holiday in Greece and the 45th anniversary of the 1973 Athens Polytechnic student uprising against the military dictatorship. The rebellion began on November 14, 1973, escalated to an open anti-junta revolt and ended in bloodshed in the early morning of November 17. Every year a demonstration begins at the gates of the Polytechnic School of Athens, where the authorities of the military junta had sent a tank to crush the entrance gate as it cracked down on rebellious students holed up inside and ends outside of the American embassy in Athens. Shouting mainly anti-American slogans, 10,000+ protesters, whose majority came from various leftist groups, are marching demanding the removal of American bases from Greece and blamed the US imperialism for the infliction of the military junta. And to think I came here to learn about history.

Athens, the capital and largest city in Greece is just as alive and hopeful as any modern capital I’ve been to. With endless miles of flea market hucksters, restaurants, and sprawling nightlife—all striving for tourist oxygen—it reads like an endless welcome mat where one could easily be seduced into a blissful sense of abundance and security. And that, I felt.

It was, though, interesting that one block off the forged trail and I found myself in a no man’s land. Like Kurt Russel in Escape from New York, it smelled lawless. Isolated. Remote. The scent of danger was convincing as if no one’s coming to help. Like no one had been there in days, years even. Graffiti-ridden streets with boarded-up shops; dark, listless energy weighing the cold air. Hundreds of people strewn about, lining the streets, waiting for something to happen. Anything. Self-starting traders selling trinkets, food, shoes, watches, phone cards, and used pants. Day drinking locals telling stories, laughing, and even shouting at times. An unrehearsed human symphony without melody. It was chaos. I had only felt this way once before in an open-air flea market in Bogota. It was wild then, and now. Like an old west movie I couldn’t get out of, I didn’t know the language and I wasn’t about to ask for directions. And, I couldn’t find Dolores Abernathy. But somehow I wasn’t afraid.

I can always tell when I’m in danger. It’s a general feeling of whether or not anyone is paying attention. Strangely, they didn’t seem to mind me being there. Some would even look me dead in the eye, then just look right through me as if I didn’t exist. And maybe, just maybe to them, I didn’t.

Then there’s Ancient Greece. The majestic memoir. Athens is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. The Acropolis, among many others here—breathtaking world heritage sites dating back to 429 BC are no exception. The records of Greece are remarkable. Astonishing.

I am constantly amazed at how humans can work together to achieve anything. Good and bad. Extraordinary stuff. Athens may just be the busiest place on earth to get lost.

I could easily live in Barcelona. Maybe it’s because I speak Spanish well enough to get by. Maybe it’s because of the people. The gracious, passionate, and powerful people. Maybe it’s their food. It’s as good as anywhere I’ve ever been, hands down. Maybe it’s because of the architecture. The colorful contrasts—the gothic art nouveau that make up the facade. Or maybe it’s the climate. Or, all of it. Barcelona is a place that felt more like home than anywhere I’ve been so far.

I was getting my hair cut and the gentleman asked me where I was from (as most everyone abroad has). I replied Las Vegas to which everyone responds about the same. They repeat it as if I don’t remember what I said and then say “ooh” like they want to go there, or “ahh” as they’ve read about it. In response: Barcelona is the only place so far I tried convincing people otherwise. Moreso than Vegas, anyway. I finally won the debate by saying, comparing Las Vegas to Barcelona is like comparing lust to love. Everyone, initially, thinks they prefer lust until it wears off. Now, love, it stays as long as you nurture it. It grows with you. It becomes a part of you. Barcelona is a living, breathing, organism capable of giving love back. Las Vegas was not built to do that and it’s not capable of loving in return.

Amsterdam is like Europe’s grandma. This is my second time visiting Amsterdam and I can already see myself coming back. “When,” she would’ve asked? I haven’t planned yet, but I will, I promise, grandma. (Just like I would’ve responded if she were still alive).

Amsterdam is the place you don’t go often enough but every time you get there, you wonder why it took you so long to get back. It’s whimsical, ornate and it sometimes even smells like a holiday. That freshly baked oven smell, mixed with laughter and cheer. Festival songs recounting tales of innocence. Stories that have to be told the same way, every year. Amsterdam is a cartoon-like city where everyone is safe and nothing is ever going to go wrong. I know that’s not entirely true and I don’t care. As with most things in life, we prefer to remember them how they first felt, innocent, and free of judgment and that is exactly what Amsterdam is. As everywhere should be.

It’s becoming increasingly clear to me humans are on a path with destruction. Not that this is groundbreaking news but most everywhere I went we were in some kind of fight. A war of words, thoughts, ideals, taxes, civil liberties, health care, immigration, and so on. Half of everyone everywhere is pissed off at their government. You wanna know what the through-line is to all the uprisings? Money.

I have an inherent need to reconcile my behavior with results. An unshakable, critical passenger looking for purpose and accountability in everything I do. It never feels like a burden. Usually, it’s just a barometer of truth. A means of measuring what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, and does it feel good? So…what am I doing, why am I doing it and does it feel good? I find the answers to these questions become much more simple with age:

I don’t know.
I don’t know.
And, I feel great but even feelings change with time. Everything changes with time.

For now, I know I miss my home, my love, Rockie Brown, and my bed. I always miss my bed. But first, let’s see what the airline lottery has in store for me for the next 18 hours. I hope its Del Griffith trying to sell me shower curtain rings made from the finest Czechoslovakia ivory. At least that will make the time go by quicker. I think.

Until we meet again, Europe.

© Tanzer Words

Choices

We are defined by our choices.
Every moment of every day.

How we respect our health.
How we respect our sleep.
What we choose to eat.
Who we choose to love.
How often we exercise.
How often we give to others.
How we choose to coexist. To harmonize.
The value we place on success. And failure.
Who we choose to surround ourselves with. And who we don’t.
What we say about others in front of them. Behind their back.
How we say it. Why we say it.
How we deal with pain. With pleasure.
How we take care of our mental health.
Our relationship with negativity. And positivity.
Our behavior.
Our actions and intent.
Our wellness.
Our relationship with stress and what we do with it.
Our quality of life.
And most importantly our commitment to them.
That’s who we become.

Do you like the choices you’ve made?
Do you like the commitment you’ve made to them?
If not, do you want to make a new one?
The choice is yours.

© Tanzer Words

Japan

Japan is my favorite country to date. It’s on another level, zero exaggeration. These are the kindest, honorable, hard-working, forward-thinking and technologically advanced people I’ve ever encountered. I’m in awe of their grace. This is a country of 127 million people and generally speaking, you’d be hard-pressed to find a trash can. Even more impressive, you be harder pressed to find any trash on the streets. It’s understood people simply take their trash home and recycle it. It’s also one of the top-ten safest countries in the world. The number of recorded crimes fell to 915,042 last year, the lowest level in the postwar era. That came as the nation’s economy had its longest run of sustained growth in almost 30 years, which drove the unemployment rate down to 2.8 percent. Atop of that they have not-for-profit healthcare (!); extremely efficient, punctual transportation including bullet trains which can take you cross-country in a few hours; public lost-and-found boards with personal property forwarding; public restrooms; toilets with heated seats, bidets, and non-touch systems everywhere; cheap alcohol (which can be consumed in public) and killer food available almost everywhere; taxis have driver-operated passenger doors; discreet and respectful server/call buttons in restaurants; a general no-talking-on-your-phone in public understanding; they wear masks not only for health reasons but they respect the idea of a clean workforce, and they’re the kindest, warmest people I’ve ever met. Oh, and they have some of the most advanced cityscapes in the world. It’s like walking into the future and the past at the same time. Pure harmony. Imagine Shogun and Minority Report in agreement.

The only thing I can see they haven’t figured out is change. It’s an unusual currency system with lots of change. Like, everywhere has a tray to pay because they know there is some serious change coming. Not sure why they keep this up. All things considered, that’s pretty damn impressive and their social agreement is rock solid. Most could learn from this level of respect.

Our last full day summed up my entire Japanese experience. We went out for the 2018 National Cherry Blossom Festival. Everyone out on blankets, telling stories, drinking, laughing and celebrating Earth as they know it. The smell of savory and sweet foods in concert, children playing, music and arts. Spring is in the air and everyone is happy to be alive. We hear the sound of a children’s musical rehearsing in the park, we follow it. We then see swan-shaped paddle boats on the lake, we go for a picture. Then I see a swarm of sparrows eating out of a lovely Malaysian woman’s hand. Then a woman, seemingly drunk in love, Facetiming the deepest soliloquy one could muster of love and longing. Loudly. All, to the soundtrack of Disney on Ice.

Japan, I respect you, and I’m thankful you’re so welcoming to foreigners. Please know, the pleasure was all mine.

Arigatōgozaimashita. Mata au made, Japan

© Tanzer Words

Guns

America’s problem isn’t guns, they are the result of its messaging. There isn’t a single modern society that has a paralleled gun problem. And I’m all for changing gun laws. However, America’s problem—at the root—is we are a violent country. It’s in our messaging, aggressive nature, and forced exceptionalism. It’s in our constitution; it framed it. America doesn’t have a peaceful past, and it won’t have a peaceful future as long as it continues to push the same narrative. Our politics aren’t drawn in an image of liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Our news isn’t research-driven by facts and information. Our entertainment isn’t authored and executed by leaders in the arts and crafts, and our healthcare industry isn’t motivated by science and technology with the goal of a lasting and compassionate human experience. None of that exists because that’s not who America is. So, until we change the message, we’ll never change our moral compass, the results. You want to minimize violence and maximize the human condition? Create a society that nurtures the health and welfare of its people. Then, and only then, you’ll see a rebirth of American exceptionalism. The kind of exceptionalism the word originally represented. Also, stop referring to America as “she.” There is nothing feminine about America’s behavior or it’s past. Women do not act this way. From now on, I submit we use “he” when referring to America’s actions as a whole. I guarantee we won’t be as quick to brush over statements like “She was experiencing a growth spurt during the civil rights movement.” Translation: “He was acting like an ignorant, old racist asshole; cut him some slack.”

America: the world’s teenager who blames everyone else for everything it does to itself and gets mad when it doesn’t get what it wants when it wants it.
© Tanzer Words

Sacramento and the young girl

I’ve spoken to many, many homeless people, nearly everyone I come across. What breaks my heart the most is you can never really tell how far someone has fallen from their own grace.

I pulled into the bank right now and happen to get a spot right up front. I literally pulled right up to a beautiful young homeless girl. She couldn’t have been older than 18. I got out, walked right up to her and asked her what happen? She said, “what do you mean?” I said what happen? “Well, I’ve been abused for a long time by my boyfriend, ex-boyfriend, and I’ve finally had enough.” I said, great! Where is he now? “Northtown.” I said, first, fuck that guy. No one deserves to be abused. Ever. So, I’m very happy for you for sticking up for yourself. Are you hungry? “Yeah!” Cool, I’ll make this deposit and be right back. I walk back over and ask, is there anything you don’t like from El Pollo Loco? She thought I was punking her but I kept eye contact waiting for a response. She said, “no.” I went in and got her a combo meal. When I handed it to her she said thank you as kind as one could. This is while a dude with dreads was giving her $5. Humans can be wonderful. They really can. I then asked her, what are you going to do next? “Huh?” I said what’s next? You got out of what I imagine to be one of the biggest decisions of your life, what’s next? “I really just wanna go home.” Where’s home? “Sacremento.” I said, who’s waiting for you? “My parents.” Will they welcome you back in? “Yeah, but its just too expensive to get back…a Greyhound is $60 bucks.” I said hold on a minute. I went in my car and looked up Greyhounds from Las Vegas to Sacremento…$60 on the nose. I went back over to her and said you really wanna go home? “Yes.” I said Ok, I’ll give you the $60 on a few conditions. “What’s that?” You cut yourself a little slack. Whatever happened to you from that asshole was yesterday. Hell, it could’ve been 5 minutes ago, I have no idea but what I do know is you have a long road ahead of yourself. Kicking yourself in the ass over yesterday’s headline is not going to help you move on. Fair? “…Yeah.” That, and go home. I mean it. Go. Home. Nothing can heal a wounded soul like your parents – if they’re as nice as you say they are. GIve yourself another shot. What do you say? “Thank you so much. Thank you. YES!” I said do you need a ride? She said, “to the bus station….downtown?” I said yes. She thought about it and said…”This bus will take me right there. Thank you so much. Thank you. Can I give you a hug?” Of course! She walked to the corner bus stop and sat down. I watched her get on from two blocks away. From here I have no idea what happens to her but I hope she finds a new path in life. One that rewards her for being her.

If you made it this far, please for the sake of humanity, talk to people. Even people you don’t know. Sometimes, especially those you don’t. You never know where you fit into the timeline of life, how you may matter to someone, or what they may need from you.

If you didn’t, well, you didn’t and that’s…unfortunate. Perhaps for someone who may be way more in need than you.
© Tanzer Words

I wish

I wish.

I wish everyone was honest.
I wish everyone was loyal.
I wish everyone was caring.
I wish everyone was fair.
I wish everyone was empathetic.
I wish everyone was straightforward.
I wish everyone was dependable.
I wish everyone was independent.
I wish everyone was determined.
I wish everyone was cooperative.
I wish everyone was mature.
I wish everyone was well-mannered
I wish everyone was compassionate.
I wish everyone was tolerant.
I wish everyone was imaginative.
I wish everyone was intuitive.
I wish everyone was creative.
I wish everyone was passionate.
I wish everyone was complimentary.
I wish everyone was humorous
I wish everyone was ambitious.
I wish everyone was courageous.
I wish everyone was disciplined.
I wish everyone was a life-long learner.
I wish everyone was a good listener.
I wish everyone was self-aware.

Come to think of it, I don’t wish everyone was all of those things. I do, however, wish everyone would wish a bit more.

I wish.

© Tanzer Words

Medellín, Bogotá y Cartagena

As I wind down my three-week, three-city tour of Colombia, I am reminded of a few things. First, a preface about the country I fell in love with:

When I set my mind to visit Colombia, most everyone I knew wanted to stop me, or at least heavily caution me. It was as if the ghost of Pablo Escobar was still operating people’s projections in a cinema looped in 1980’s Medellín. Granted, Colombia has seen some serious shit, no one’s denying that. But what I find even more fascinating is humanity’s ability to hold onto things as if it were yesterday. In the US, we’re perpetually clenched in fear, afraid of the unknown, and it’s being driven through our brains like a captive bolt pistol in a slaughterhouse. We live in an unrelenting cycle of “everyone’s out to get us” because “we’re the best.” Well, allow me to shed a little light on that. Yes, the USA is remarkable, but not because we say we are, and unquestionably not because we think we’re better. We are incredible because of our profound gift of aid, infinite opportunity, and our welcoming spirit (of yesteryear). The policy of generosity exuded by the US when she’s acting on her best behavior far surpasses any country I’ve ever been to. The problem is, we’re in the middle of another growth spurt, and the best way to sell a used car is to make it seem better than all the other ones on the lot. It’s just that simple. I’m neither mad at her, nor sad for her, and most importantly, I’m not influenced by her scorn. As with all things, this too shall pass. With the grace of future generations innocently steeped in imagination, ingenuity, and of course an abundance of love, she’ll be back to her old, welcoming ways, this you can be sure of.

When I flew into Medellín, I didn’t really have an idea of what to expect. I mean I knew what everyone else knows: the aforementioned drug lord and his reign of terror, and the 1990’s label that Medellín was widely considered to be “the murder capital of the world.” But what did I actually know about the place, and its people? Nothing, really, and that’s just the way I like it. I choose to go places where I can immerse myself free of expectation. I like to refer to it as a “Baptism of Culture.” Well, Medellín was just that. From the moment I stepped foot onto Colombian soil I felt my disposition change, I was immediately welcomed in.

Medellín is a bustling city at the outset of its metamorphosis with an authentic commitment to 21-century means. With a dignified public transit system, The Metro, reaching far into the neediest and most vulnerable comunas (common areas), hillside escalators veining communities with its Metro, Internet “mesh networks” connecting non-service areas by a series of routers and antennas mounted on rooftops, the design of 5 library multi-parks, new museums, cultural centers, and schools to enrich the impoverished, Medellín is leading the world in initiatives, and its primary focus is building social wealth through investments in early childhood. The urbanization and globalization of Medellín are so unbelievable, it’s no wonder The Wall Street Journal named this city the most innovative in the world in 2013, and why it was chosen to host the World Urban Forum 7 in 2014.

The two echoing pillars of Medellín today are democratic architecture and education with dignity. It’s their strongly held belief that they must find the will to find happiness in tragedy. Truer words have never been spoken. Medellín even offers free walking tours of the city as a rebranding of sorts. This was eloquently articulated by the outgoing Carlos, one of the many bright, young tour guides on the scene today: “The new Medellín is not only yours, mine; it’s ours. And together, we are working very hard to show the international community that we are not only safe, we are also desirable.”

There is a famous children’s book indoctrinated by Colombians, written by David McKee called, “Ahora no, Bernardo” which translates to, “Not now, Bernard.” The story is about a boy named Bernard who is constantly ignored by his parents. Even when he tries to tell them about a monster outside in the garden, they still don’t pay attention. Bernard is subsequently eaten by the monster, who then takes Bernard’s place in the house and still, somehow, goes unnoticed. The moral of the story, again, as told by Carlos, and as seen through the Colombian Biblioteca’s public schooling programs is, “Our children are our future and if we don’t take care of them, teach and listen to them, we will be creating a whole new generation of monsters.” So simple. So pure. So true! Bravo, Carlos. Bravo, Medellín. Bravo!

Bogotá was a very curious read to me. It felt exactly like what one might expect a capital city to feel like: sprawling, historic, and systematic. This high-altitude hub, located on the Bogotá savanna (the uplands in the center of Colombia in the Eastern Ranges of the Colombian Andes), is the largest city in Colombia and features colonial-era landmarks, some of the country’s most popular museums (Museo Botero, exhibiting a personal favorite of mine, Fernando Botero’s art, and the Museo del Oro, displaying pre-Columbian gold pieces), and is the home to senior agencies of the executive (Office of the President), the legislative (Congress of Colombia), and the judicial branch (Supreme Court of Justice, and the Constitutional Court). Taking a 5-hour private tour through the city included the following: touring their financial, legal, and executive district, seeing the President’s house (Casa de Nariño), exploring the aforementioned museums, the graffiti district (which is an extensive and picturesque walk), trolleying up a hillside to Monserrate, and finally, the Assumption of Mary observed holiday-turned-street fair where the entire downtown was closed in an “Escape from New York-esque” doomsday parade where anyone and everyone could sell just about anything you could think of, and that they did. I feel like I learned quite a bit, most notably, what it’s like to patronize the largest, most chaotic, and unsettling garage sale I have ever attended.

Highlights include La Candelaria, Zona T, and Monserrate. La Candelaria is a historic neighborhood in the downtown district. The architecture of old houses, churches, and buildings had a Baroque and Art Deco feel to it. Super cool! Zona Rosa de Bogotá (or “Zona T” named after its T intersection) is a neighborhood with many pubs, restaurants, malls, shops, and nightclubs. This neighborhood is also known as one of the most exclusive quarters in Latin America and it felt like it. And finally, Monserrate (a 17th-century church with a shrine devoted to “El Señor Caído” or, as it was translated to me, “Fallen Lord”) is a majestic and holy lookout 10,341 ft. above sea level. It’s a stunning, and romantic observation post with a 180-degree view of the city’s skyline. All in all, a pretty amazing reveal into the republic’s capital.

Cartagena, the “old city,” or “walled city” as it’s commonly referred to, is a colonial, historic, and heavily fortified fortress town with narrow, cobbled streets, and a settler’s structure. This open-air sanctuary has a constant stream of music, dancing, and busking, a killer restaurant and mixology scene, and is overflowing with notable architecture. The street performers were truly on another level. First, there was the hip-hop element, my personal favorite. While the kids seemingly didn’t have many instrumentals to choose from; Dr. Dre’s “Still D.R.E.” and “The Next Episode,” 50 Cent’s, “In Da Club,” and one other I didn’t recognize, they were still spitting, fluent and fresh new rhymes daily. Then there was the sea of mimes. From traditional mimes (as we know them in the States) to old-world theatrical mimes, real actors awaiting any denomination to be dropped in the hat, sometimes for hours, before they sprung into the show. Lastly, you have the characteristic Victorian violinist, local artisan’s selling their hand-crafted chachkas, food vendors in the streets, and all somehow harmonizing to a cacophony of laughter, and the metronomic clock of recurring Horse and buggy movement, the old world clatter as it does. Plaza Santo Domingo acts as the heart of the city hosting outside restaurants, performances, and it’s helmed by Botero’s statue, “La Gordita.” The never soon enough breeze, food and drink, and a ceremonial backdrop of the surrounding buildings make Cartagena a magnificent fairy tale!

From taking a free city tour into underprivileged neighborhoods and getting to see Medellín’s next generation willfully learning in a public forum, liberally expressing their questions and watching their creative minds allowed to flourish in front of a world stage of visitors (without question, my favorite part of the entire trip), to walking on set of the world’s largest anarchic flea market, to the sound of thousands of people celebrating symphonically in the streets, I am reminded of a few things: 

•    Wearing shorts in Medellín makes you look like a tourist. Wearing pants in Cartagena makes you look like a tourist. Bogota doesn’t give a shit what you wear.

•    Every city has a busking Iron Man. I don’t just mean Colombia; I mean everywhere, which prompted me to think, there’s got to be a business model here…The International Busking Iron Man’s Union?

•    Don’t slam the doors in Taxies. This is not an exaggeration; every cab driver in the country doesn’t like it. They really don’t. Like, it’s a thing…and no, I don’t know why either.

•    In Colombia, there is an 11th commandment: “A papaya dada, papaya partida.” It’s a colloquial expression, which basically means, “What has been given, can be taken.” It translates into watch yo shit, and don’t give people an opportunity to take said shit. I feel like everyone everywhere knows this without the use of prop-fruit in an idiomatic example.

•    It’s my experience thus far, that no matter where you dine or drink in Colombia, you can take an unfinished bottle of purchased alcohol with you when you leave. Like, “I’ll have 5 shots of Don Julio Reposado, please.” “You should just buy the bottle, it’s cheaper.” “But I only want the one round of shots for me and my friends- I can’t drink that much tonight?!” “No worries, take the bottle with you.” It’s legal. Everywhere!

•    Buying a size 11.5 shoe in Colombia is like trying to publicly talk about Pablo Escobar and I didn’t even try to publicly talk about Pablo Escobar.

•    Some of the local street vendors selling fruit have microphones to apparently tell you their fruit is better than the guy‘s fruit *right* next to them. Loudly, and in a continuous loop. How does the guy without a mic stay calm? Or, sell any fruit? And why doesn’t he just move down the street?

•    Directional or guidance tactile paving is used on every single sidewalk I walked on, in all three cities. It begs the question: Is it really that hard to take care of our blind? Colombia doesn’t think so.

•    No matter where you are in the entire world, everyone loves the song “Yeah,” by Usher, unless it comes on at your place of employment. Then, apparently, you have the right to hate it. Otherwise, it would seem like it’s your civic duty to act a foo when it hits.

Recurring excerpts from previous works:

•    Electric razors for men are harder to find in Colombia than gold and I didn’t even look for gold. Forgetting your charger renders your electric razor useless after an unfortunate switch-on during flight. 

•    A kind smile and gentle disposition are all you need to communicate across the globe. Well, that, and the Google Translate app. 

In closing, be kind, it’s the only form of currency accepted worldwide.

© Tanzer Words

Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam

As I wind down my three-week, three-country tour of Southeast Asia I am reminded of a few things. First, here’s a birds-eye view of the road less traveled.

Thailand is a beautifully rich country filled with content and confident people. They seem quite satisfied with what they’ve achieved and equally ok with what they haven’t. It’s a remarkable thing to witness a people so enriched by their day-to-day that they exude a sense of pure oneness and feel everything is as it should be. These are always traits of a stress-free and calm existence and I really resonate with that. A lot.

Cambodia really struck a chord with me. Cambodians are a weathered yet innocent people, kind, generous and accommodating and still wholly and respectfully guarded. You can see generations of stories in their eyes while the infancy of acceptance right on the surface. Never, and I mean never have I seen a more profoundly kept souls-secret in a people to date. The impact even in the short time I spent there will last a lifetime. Powerful place.

Vietnam is one of the most curious places I’ve ever been with a complex social makeup right on the surface. This is 21st-century metropolis directly on top of sidewalk economy and both seemingly living in harmony. Their rush hour rivals anywhere I’ve been on the globe and by 7 pm, the day crew takes refuge leaving room for the night shift. I’m speaking to full-contact traffic in every direction in a surreal dance of bees at the nest and then as if choreographed the night owls come out to play. Complete chaotic synergy, it’s amazing. Even more noteworthy are the people I came across. Both close interactions and acquaintances were very outgoing. These lovely, funny and sociable folks would outright make fun of our style, brotherly bond and poke fun at our accents all the while keeping it light and never crossing the line of disrespect. I’ve never seen such truly charming and witty people at the onset of meeting. It was such a delightful and unexpected surprise.

From riding a scooter the entire length of an island to celebrate a full moon on Koh Phangan- an event that exists everywhere on the globe and usually without hubbub, to climbing the largest religious complex in the world seated in a lush and majestic 500-acre panorama in Angkor Wat, to drinking banana wine in the marshlands of Mekong, I am reminded of a few things:

  •      Walking through the streets of Bangkok I finally know what it feels like to be a woman. I couldn’t walk more than 50 steps without getting cawed at like a construction site damsel in distress. It’s good to know Stella still has her groove even if it’s for money.
  •      More people equal more stress; fewer people equal less stress. Never forget that when you’re trying to recalibrate.
  •      The car horn in Asia is used a lot. More than I prefer.
  •      I’m pretty sure now that when I see Asian travelers in the States wearing masks they’re not sick, they’re just protecting themselves against air pollution.
  •      Religion is an idea which means vastly different things to different people. Practicing it is a state of mind. Projecting it is a state of weakness. No one anywhere cares what you like or don’t like about his or her deity until you try to explain why you think they’re wrong. Unless asked, don’t answer and even then think long and hard about how much you really care about someone else’s privately held personal beliefs. Then, and only then decide whether or not it’s worth your breath to engage. Chances are you’ll find people are way more beautiful in mystery.
  •      Electric razors for men are harder to find in Southeast Asia than gold and I didn’t even look for gold.
  •      Staring at the ocean can cure most things gone awry in your life. Most.
  •      A kind smile and gentle disposition are all you need to communicate across the globe. Well that, and the Google Translate app.

In closing, be kind, it’s the only form of currency accepted worldwide.

 

© Tanzer Words

Boulder, Colorado

As I wind down my one-week stay in Boulder, Colorado sitting in the Denver Airport, I thought I’d pen a bit about my new favorite small city.

Boulder is as enlightened as it is exquisite and as charming as it is vibrating, a real breath of fresh air. Imagine a city of 90,000+ people split between Silicon Valley-types and collegiate fresh-brains converging in a progressive yet laid-back think-tank. Health, well-being, quality of life, education, and art is rampant here and everyone I ran across was open, well-read and just downright cool. These folks were easily some of America’s biggest and brightest freely engaging in metaphysical, political, social and religious discussions without self-importance. I’ve never seen such warm, high-intellects ready for stimulus in my life and it felt great!

Flying in from Dallas, I spent a week with one of my very dearest friends Rich and his girlfriend Elena and boy did they know where to go. We ate at exclusively farm-to-table restaurants, sipped exotic teas and coffees flown in from Bali, had charcuterie plates of locally sourced meats and cheeses, drank an entire day of organic juices and milks, awoke to the smell of his local bakers daily offerings, snowboarded on two world-class mountains, took painting classes, went to escape rooms and even booked a last minute photo-shoot with a local model and fashion designer. I mean Rich even gets their personal supply of milk and yogurt from a dude’s garage that he knows the code too! If that weren’t enough, we were even fortunate enough to have a chef actually bring our food from his farm to our table and shared the backstory about it. Super. Cool! Author’s Note: To be completely honest, I thought I was quite progressive until this trip but I hadn’t been exposed to this degree of socially-conscience engagement before and boy was it a treat. It brought the natural, pure and positive reflexes right out of me, as it should anyone. Most generally live in such a sense of expectancy and denial about resources so let it suffice to say I’m an awoken man from this way of life and responsible consumption that I will be making a concerted effort to evolve even more. Humbly, onward…

So, as I wind down my one-week stay in Boulder, Colorado I am reminded of a few things…we need not make mountains out of molehills, cry over spilled milk or recite any other silly idioms that have been engrained in our heads by the village elders. Nope, Boulder, Colorado is a new story, a peacefully advanced small town that doesn’t need any outsider’s bullshit. If you decide to go there, which I can’t suggest enough, go there on your best behavior because they deserve it, and they’ve earned it. See here’s the thing I gathered about Boulder in one week- Boulder is like a fresh-start utopian hideaway, a reboot for quick-consumerism and corporate takeover. Yes, they have a Starbucks and McDonalds but they also have three times as many spirit-cleansing outposts ready for the daily baptism. There’s so much forward-thinking conduct right on the surface it’s downright contagious. So the next time you’re planning a getaway, might I suggest Boulder, Colorado? It may just remind you that the best vacation you can offer yourself is the one you give your conscious mind, not the vacation you’re presenting as escapism.

© Tanzer Words

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