Observations of an Overthinker

Guilty. Thankfully. Rightfully.

Guilty. 
Thankfully. 
Rightfully. 

1. Can we please continue the important conversation that police are vital to a just society but they are not above the law? 

2. Can we please agree to hold the police to a higher standard? Can we also agree having this conversation in no way maligns the profession or those who serve? 

3. Can we please remember the police are not authorized to kill citizens even if they resist arrest? 

4. Can we please stop saying “Blue Lives Matter?” No one is blue. 

5. Can we please stop saying “Defund the Police?” No one wants that. (And however misunderstood this messaging may be, it is harmful to meaningful dialogue.)

6. Can we please stop expecting the police to manage multiple duties they are not trained or paid for, then act surprised when we have to hold them accountable for the results? 

7. Can we please continue talking about police reform? 

8. Can we please talk about all of this without taking a side? 

This verdict is as much about the millions who marched and spoke out as it is about George Floyd. A verdict that says we demand a more equitable union for every American and want justice for George Floyd at the same time. That no one is above the law, not even the law. 

Today, America is one step closer. 

© Tanzer Words

The Burden of De-escalation

After rewatching the George Floyd footage and seeing new bodycam footage, I am reminded of how incredibly complicated policing is. That said, we do not give a pass to certain jobs. Or, at least we shouldn’t.

Being a police officer is one of the most difficult jobs there is, and it requires a high level of training and social understanding to be successful at it. Or, at least it should.

Duties include: enforcing the law, ensuring the safety, health and possessions of citizens, and preventing crime and civil disorder. This means the most challenging people among us; intoxicated or with mental health conditions, distraught or otherwise—as long as they are not posing a significant threat of serious bodily injury or death to themselves or others—deserve the same treatment as the most accommodating and agreeable among us. This is not only the law but rights afforded to every person regardless of race, religion, color or place of origin.

Thus, the burden of de-escalation does not fall on private citizens—it falls on police officers.

If every person respected each other and their possessions equally, abided by the law, and did what they were asked to do when they were asked to do it, we would not need the police. However, people who abide by such social agreements are generally never in trouble with the law anyway.

The first city police service was established in Philadelphia in 1751 so that individual liberty may flourish. That means 270 years ago, we recognized that a certain faction of society would require extra care to coexist.

If in 1751, we knew special consideration would need to be established for some citizens, could it be possible that an even smaller percentage of people requiring restraint may unintentionally become the law? If so, once we identify those who are unfit for duty, shouldn’t they be terminated? If we all still agree, why are there two sides to this subject?

Again, we should not give a pass to certain jobs. This view should not be controversial. At least not in a society that requires law enforcement in the first place. 

© Tanzer Words

Run. Hide. Fight.

Run. Hide. Fight.
This is the advice experts give to survive an active shooter event.
If you can get out, run. If you can’t get out safely, hide. As a last resort; if your life is at risk, fight.

While I believe this advice is helpful, apply it to past environmental or highway safety epidemics then let me know where you stand. It is ridiculous to think in 2021 we are stamping fortune cookie formulas to mass shootings. Fifty+ years ago we established national independent protection boards to improve public safety. It is time to do that with guns. Long overdue, actually.

03.16.21: “8 Dead in Atlanta Spa Shootings”
03.22.21: “Boulder Shooting Leaves 10 Dead”

Last Tuesday and today. Six days apart.

Here are a few action plans I found with minimal research.

Gun safety: Reduce the imminent risk of lethality through sensible gun laws and a culture of safety.
1. Sensible gun laws: Reduce easy access to dangerous weapons.
2. Establish a culture of gun safety.

  • Reduce firearm access to youth and individuals who are at risk of harming themselves or others.
  • Hold the gun industry accountable and ensure there is adequate oversight over the marketing and sales of guns and ammunition.
  • Engage responsible gun dealers and owners in solutions.
  • Insist on mandatory training and licensing for owners.
  • Require safe and secure gun storage.

Underlying contributors to gun violence: systematically reduce risks and increase resilience in individuals, families, and communities.
3. Public health solutions: Recognize gun violence as a critical and preventable public health problem.
4. Comprehensive solutions: Support community planning and implementation of comprehensive community safety plans that include prevention and intervention.
5. Trauma, connection, and services: Expand access to high quality, culturally competent, coordinated, social, emotional, and mental health supports and address the impact of trauma.

Prevention Infrastructure: ensure effectiveness and sustainability of efforts
6. Support gun violence research: Ensure that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and others have the resources to study this issue and provide science-based guidance.
7. Health system: Establish a comprehensive health system in which violence prevention is a health system responsibility and imperative

New Frontiers: continue to learn, innovate, and increase impact through research and practice
8. Community healing: Prevent community trauma.
9. Mental health and wellbeing: Invest in communities to promote resilience and mental health and wellbeing.
10. Support healthy norms about masculinity: Explore the pathways between gun violence and harmful norms that have been about maintaining power and privilege.
11. Impulsive anger: Explore the linkages between anger and gun violence.
12. Economic development: Reduce concentrated disadvantage and invest in employment opportunities.
13. Law enforcement violence: Establish accountability for sworn officers and private security.
14. Technology: Advance gun safety and self-defense technology.

Finally, deconstructing the political debate of mental health vs gun laws in one paragraph.

“There’s no evidence that I know of that shows that people in the U.S. have more mental health issues, especially violent mental health issues. Compared to other high-income countries we are just average in terms of non-gun crime and non-gun violence. The elephant in the room, the thing that makes us stand out among the 29 other high-income countries, is our guns and our weak gun laws. As a result, we have many more gun-related problems than any other high-income country. Every other developed country has shown us the way to vastly reduce our problems. Our guns, and our permissive gun laws, are what make us different than France, Italy, the Netherlands, South Korea, New Zealand, you name it.” – David Hemenway, Professor of Health Policy at Harvard

We can do better. A lot better. Is now a good time?

© Tanzer Words

Anyone alive has already accepted this social agreement.

Should everyone get a COVID-19 vaccine? Yes. (If you are fit.)
Will everyone get one? No.
Is it safe? Extremely.
Do some people think it isn’t? More than I care to acknowledge.

Safety of COVID-19 Vaccines (as per the CDC):

  • COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.
  • Millions of people in the United States have received COVID-19 vaccines under the most intense safety monitoring in U.S. history.
  • CDC recommends you get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you are eligible.

I was hesitant to post this but I know countless people who are looking to get vaccinated. To be clear, my hesitation stems from respect for people higher up the waiting and requirement list looking to get vaccinated first. (Even though I am considered high risk, I have chosen to wait until tonight.)

Rockie and I signed up multiple times with a local college to volunteer with vaccine distribution in hopes of circumstantially getting any leftover doses at the end of the day. Unfortunately, they have canceled every registration thus far (decided to close Tuesday, shift canceled Thursday, etc). I said to Rockie today, let’s just drive over to a local pharmacy and see if they have a waiting list. We walked in at 3:50 pm and they had 2 Moderna shots left. We just got our 1st vaccination! Our 2nd and final dose is already scheduled!

To the hoax, anti-vaxxer, wearing a mask is a joke, and this is a global conspiracy to control us community, don’t be surprised if you are unable to participate in society’s luxuries (Air travel; domestic and international, concerts, sporting events, etc.) if you refuse to get vaccinated. I do not believe anyone should be forced to get vaccinated. But, not unlike other social regulations put in place restricting behaviors that directly threaten public health, safety or well-being (EPA, CPSC, etc.), you should not be able to cause harm or put others at risk. Anyone alive and reading this has already accepted this social agreement.

There are only two ways I have read to get us back to a semi-normal global society: A population is immune either through vaccination or immunity developed through previous infection. The “WHO supports achieving ‘herd immunity’ through vaccination, not by allowing a disease to spread through any segment of the population, as this would result in unnecessary cases and deaths.” I agree. I wish we would have acted this way much sooner.

After a year of non-response, I am over the moon we have an administration that cares about this and has made it priority #1. I can not express how incredible it feels to be back in a healthy society where we lift one another up. I want to get back to normal as much as anyone. Yet…we are humans. We are susceptible. We are complex and often overconfident (while underinformed). This is not necessary. Up-to-date information is there for all to see. Take the politics out of the equation then see where you land. Science and proper personal health have kept us alive this long and continue to improve our lives daily. I plan to keep following both.

Here’s to a healthier and safer 2021.

© Tanzer Words

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 and Spanish 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

Joe Biden Pre-Debate Focus Group Invite

I received a Biden-Harris Pre-Debate Focus Group email asking me if there is anything else that I would want to tell Joe as he prepares to face off against Trump (“We’ll select a few messages to pass along!”) I thought, sure, why not?

Hey Joe, thanks for the offer of inclusion. Sure, I have a few thoughts. I hope they help.

Stick to your game plan. Stay approachable, decent and well-informed. Continue to promote awareness about COVID, climate change, and science. Further the immigration, racial and civil rights conversations. Provide solutions after stating the problem. Propose actionable commitments that are Day 1 policies once you’re in.

Be a leader for all Americans. Make authenticity great again. Make accuracy great again. “Make A Great America” — channel JFK and why you first ran for public office, and please don’t forget that this, too, is a “big fucking deal.”

Talk about jobs. People love talking about jobs and they love to hear about new, better-paying ones even more. Especially from someone who was born in Scranton. Only people from Scranton have ever heard of Scranton (until you). Use that.

Proudly support the military servicemen and women. Talk about your son. Talk about John McCain.

Don’t fall for the deflection/projection QAnon bullshit. Let it land on its own lonely runway far out of your purview. When the Pizzagate/pedophile/”Plane Of Deep State ThugsWhac-A-Mole starts popping up — and it will, because what other tricks can Trump perform? — just stare at him, directly in his eyes, and remain steady and serious.

Turn the most expensive airtime available into a silent burial for his conspiracies. Underline his ignorance for the entire world to see, and without saying a word. Make him squirm like the alleged dealmaker he so proudly proclaims to be: sweating and sniffing alone on primetime. Deny him a response of anything unworthy of your lifelong career in public service. Deprive him of the narcissistic, sadist dopamine shot he needs to persist.

Let him talk himself out like a sleep-deprived toddler. Then ask, “Is that it?” or ”Are you done?” Then starkly lay out how your first day in office, with a new attorney general and a new task force led by VP Harris, will focus on criminal trials, tribunals and prison sentences for anyone found guilty — from caging children to negligent homicide — Trump, the family, Barr, Miller, all of them will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Bring class and character back to the main stage. Be the president. Even if for one night, give tens of millions of people the comfort and hope they so desperately need as a brief respite from the madness that is 2020. That has always been Trump — cruelty, chaos, and now descent into madness, taking the country with him.

Finally, and as I always tell anyone getting ready for one of the biggest gigs of their life, have fun. No matter what happens after Sept 29, or even Oct 15 and 22, you are a far better man than he will ever be. Don’t forget that. Any man who’s endured as much pain as you have — more than most will ever know, and yet still retaining the ability to smile — that, alone, makes you far more qualified for the People’s House than most before you.

You have my vote. Please honor it.

© Tanzer Words

America is a team sport and both teams are losing.

America is a team sport and both teams are losing. Even the refs are now being sidelined by the sponsors to control the narrative in hopes of winning the America Bowl.

Until you see actual national sports franchises operating at stadium capacity in the US, there is no motive other than protecting human life.

I wish Americans had enough sportsmanship to see past their team jerseys.

In life, winning is not nearly as important as helping your “opponent” cross the finish line.

© 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

I am tired of whitesplaining.

I am tired of Trump.
I am tired of coronavirus/science deniers.
I am tired of racists.
I am tired of whitesplaining.
But not too tired to be an ally.

Why does everything need to be explained like we’re children? No one supports looting. Of course, there are good cops. Of course, there are bad people. Stop looking for singular examples of virtue in defense of prejudice to make yourself feel better.

Why are we always looking for who else is at fault instead of what we can do to help? Stop trying to preserve your sense of self-esteem by avoiding awareness of your own flaws or failings. Stop victimizing yourself. Instead, take a closer look at how you’re knowingly (or unknowingly) participating in racism. Sit in your discomfort for once. Process complicity by listening and resisting white defensiveness. Be ok with not feeling ok.

If you truly think you’re infallible and have never discriminated against anyone in your lifetime, cool. Doubtful, but cool. To be clear, I have too and I am not proud of it. Every white person I know has. But please know we don’t need you—an altruistic warrior for historical white accuracy right now. If you’re truly a lifelong nobleman, support the unheard. (But you already knew that, right?)

Lastly, stop trying to frame a “reasonable” response to intolerance. I’m glad white people still feel ownership over their feelings. Is there any chance the protests are in response to a lack of ownership of theirs? Stop trying to control the narrative. If any of the protestors had an equal seat at the table—an equal voice—this wouldn’t be happening.

We need a moral authority for all Americans in the White House. But we don’t have the right now. But we do have the power of organization being shown in countless cities right now. Use your influence for good.

Support Black Lives Matter.
Support the National Police Accountability Project.
Support Campaign Zero.
Vote.

But most importantly be an ally.

© 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

Are we still divided?

This is not going away soon so why are we still divided?

If you lost your job, and I lost mine, for an unknown amount of time, we are in this together. You and I. We are the new electorate.

At the time of writing this, the US has 142,000 known cases of COVID-19 and counting. More than any other nation on the planet. It’s crippled our economy and put millions out of work. It’s scientifically irrefutable we could’ve minimized the spread of the virus if we had a leader who would’ve listened to experts months ago and implemented the proper protocols. The educated and uneducated responses from multiple world leaders has been gamed out globally and is there for all to see if you enjoy facts. But unfortunately, our’s is woefully incapable of seeing the big picture. He’s unaffected by this virus, thinks in terms of wealth, governs for wealth and misrepresents the truth to protect wealth. Even worse, he and his re-election campaign could benefit from slowing the solution by controlling the narrative and mandates. Slowing the aid. Demanding “respect.” Most unfortunate, if there’s ever an actual end we will have learned a lot more about our empathy for one another (or lack thereof) than the actual virus.

Just in case I hear the, “If you’re so sure he’s doing a terrible job, what would you do?” Glad you asked.

1: I’d mandate a nationwide shelter-in-place similar to what’s happening in major US cities (NY, WA, CA) right now effective for 30 days. Or, until the scientists, epidemiologist and infectious disease experts can agree we’ve flattened the curve. This is not simple or exacting science and requires sound leadership, flexibility, and open-mindedness to achieve. The goalpost is constantly moving, innovation is changing rapidly and we’re in uncharted waters. But, that doesn’t change the incubation period. At least not yet.

2: I’d halt all non-essential travel nationally and internationally for the same time under the same guidelines.

3: I would mandate all essential businesses (grocery stores, pharmacies) have an occupancy cap at 10 or more people at a time or the 6′ social distancing rule, whichever’s greater per store. (Under the same guidelines.)

4: I would put a moratorium on all bills for 30 days. (Under the same guidelines.)

5: I’d make free at-home or drive-thru test kits available for everyone regardless of insurance.

I know there are 50 more things to do. This is just to illustrate a starting point. But mostly, I’d use the most powerful platform to try and guide the American people through this crisis with the humility it deserves, the compassion it so desperately needs and the character it’s lacking. And, to the best of my ability–guided by the expert’s–I would give the American people the clarity they want to acclimate quickly without creating more uncertainty and panic. All, while sprinkling in some positivity and harsh truths. I would surgically laser in on the significance of why an entire nation may need to shelter-in-place for 30+ days to help stave off the greatest pandemic of our lifetime.

I can already hear people telling me to “shut the fuck up.” I hear you. I can also hear people saying, “You don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.” I hear you too. And you know what, maybe I don’t. And I’d be the first to say it on national television. One of my favorite answers in the history of the English language is “I don’t know.” I have never, once, gotten mad at anyone for any reason for saying that as long as they cared to learn. However, I can’t take anyone seriously that claims to know everything with little facts to back it.

We can all agree no one in the history of our country could’ve been completely ready for this. I get that. But, wouldn’t you feel a little better if your leader didn’t say, “I alone can fix it” (the system) when he was trying to gain your vote and then says, “I don’t take responsibility at all” (for the COVID-19 response readiness) when he’s on the hook to save your life? Just a thought.

I’ll make Trump supporters a deal: I’ll stop placing the onus on inept leadership during the nation’s greatest crisis to date, which has put me completely out of work if you start publically communicating a desire for him to let the experts take the wheel. Hell, I’ll even gladly accept the 2020 results if A: they’re fair and democratic and B: if we even have an election. Deal?

© Tanzer Words

Imagine

There’s another, much less important, argument going on right now about the #GalGadot rendition of “Imagine” by John Lennon. It’s a viral video full of “entitled rich people” who are apparently “tone-deaf” because they, too, felt helpless and thought spreading some joy would help. So… to try and even the playing field, I decided to rewrite the song with updated, timely lyrics that include all walks of life, not just the rich. Here ya go- (please be kind with me)

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace, you
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world, you
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Just kidding. It’s already perfect and you knew that. But some of you forgot. Remember we are all in this together.

© Tanzer Words

COVID-19

We are without question in uncharted territory. I think the single most important takeaway from this pandemic so far is we should start to reevaluate and acknowledge nuance. There’s a remarkable, and often unspoken component and responsibility to being alive and that’s subtlety. We seem to have forgotten how important it is to be nuanced.

Humans love to be certain. In control, secure and confident; certain. You see it with our politics, religion, love, power, ego, style, the list is endless. But I’d like to offer this:
Someone can be mad about losing work while still sad, scared and panicking. Both can exist at the same time.
Someone can “make this virus political” and still be patriotic. Both can exist at the same time.
Someone can also believe everything is being handled correctly to stop the virus and still be patriotic. Both can exist at the same time.
Someone can be mad at people “buying up all the toilet paper” but not understand the person impulse buying may be coping the only way they know how. Both can exist at the same time.

Not everyone is equipped to know how to do things the way you do or how you may want them to and that’s ok. It may not make you feel any better but just take a breath and think about it. You trying to stop people from panic buying is also your way of coping. I’m not suggesting hoarding serves the good of mankind at all. But… until we get a scientific fact-based analysis of what’s going on with the actual numbers, free test kits for everyone regardless of insurance, and in turn, start working on prevention and mitigation, its gonna be a free-for-all. During this time, try to be a bit more understanding.

I’ve made no bones about how I think this is being handled. But that bears little to no result for average people (like myself) trying to wade their way through reality. I don’t blame people for freaking out. I’ve just said we should all try and take a deep breath and do some reading. Most every single person on the planet has a mobile phone that can access anything known to man with the click of a button. Use it. Read. Research for yourself. And please, cross-reference what you come up with. Trust. Science!

The only good thing I’ve seen come out of this so far is everyone I’ve come in contact with has been humbled. There’s simply no time for narcissism during a global pandemic. If Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, Tom Hanks and Rudy Gobert etc. can get it, so can you. Try to relax a bit, respect each other the best you can and be there for one another. When I was leaving my house yesterday I rolled down the window to my car and said to the neighbor, “Hey man, lemme know if you need anything. We’re here.” You should’ve seen the look on his face. Granted, I am private but I’m not unkind. Pick up the phone and call your friends. Say hi. Get out of your head for just a minute or two. Talk to people. We will get through this.

We are without question in uncharted territory. Are you looking for a silver lining…start to reevaluate and acknowledge your nuance. We’ve overcome much worse as a species. We’ve got this but we may need a little help. Don’t be afraid to ask for it. More importantly, don’t be afraid to offer it.

© Tanzer Words

Diner

Politics in a nutshell.

Guy, dressed in tight pants and gelled hair gets out of a Tesla in Billings, Montana: “What is this elitist prick doing here?”

Guy, dressed in Wranglers and a cowboy hat gets out of Ford dually in Manhattan, NY: “What is this dumb hick doing here?”

Guy, dressed in *either outfit* walks into a diner in *either city* and says “hi” first, politely, with a smile on his face showing eye contact, and even offering his hand: everyone’s friendly and looks for common ground.

Consider that the next time you judge someone for what they look like, enjoy, or do for a living.
© Tanzer Words

Stranger?

One of the things that concern me most about our current climate is everyone just wants to win. I can’t follow that mindset. I’m not on a team and I’m not actively trying to harm anyone to meet goals I set for myself. I’m not even financially, physically or mentally in a contest with anyone but myself. And the idea that we’re trying to “own” people is just ugly. Being a compassionate person isn’t a group sport. It’s about the bigger picture. The next time you see a child try to recognize the kindness, understanding, and responsibility you feel. Even if it’s not yours, try to identify the incredible obligation you feel being around a child. Then when you turn around, remember its ok to see adults that way too. You may even surprise yourself with how happy you feel being nice to a stranger.

© Tanzer Words

Halftime

This Super Bowl halftime debate is so crazy. It’s exactly who we’ve become, though. Everyone’s immediately an expert. And boy, do we love to complain. Here’s what I find most ironic:

1: I have numerous male friends who idolize male misogynistic 80s singers/bands who were shirtless – some even pants-less – objectifying women. These same guys have spent decades trying to emulate their appeal. Producing shows after them, learning their solos note-for-note in their bedroom, etc. Years! But, *these* women are too risqué.

2: Why are middle-class, suburban, white woman ok with a shirtless Adam Levine *one year ago* but offended by Shakira or JLO in evocative stage attire this year? Rhetorical.

3: Every single armchair expert who believes they’re more technically proficient can’t even write one song let alone manage a career 1/8th of Shakira’s or JLO’s. These women are world-class entrepreneurs. Multi-faceted superstars. Anyone who actually *works* in the same field would never knock them for their hustle. Their successes. Their accomplishments. For reference:

Shakira: singer, songwriter, dancer, record producer, businesswoman, and philanthropist.

Jennifer Lopez: actress, singer, dancer, fashion designer, producer, and businesswoman.

4: Most interesting to me: to all the purists who think the Super Bowl halftime show is an integrity contest, it’s not. You simply have no idea how mass entertainment programming works. The Super Bowl halftime show “represents a fundamental link to pop culture, which helps broaden the television audience and nationwide interest.” It was in Miami. And it was produced with Miami in mind, not a prog-rock guitarist’s Dream Theater poster wall.

But, “They didn’t sing live!” No, no they didn’t. Once again, this is not a sincerity match. This year’s Super Bowl raked in 102 million viewers. When… IF… you can get 102 million people to watch you, you can then demand to sing live. Then, and only then, will we know whether or not you’ll be able to. Until then, maybe just consider watching/enjoying the show without having your toolbelt on.
© Tanzer Words

Ricky Gervais

It’s that time of year again when everyone hates wealthy Hollywood-types for having an opinion that isn’t theirs.

I never understood why we make fun of people for having an opinion. (feel free to make fun of mine.) There isn’t a taxpaying job under the sun that doesn’t deserve the right to question political authority. Not one. The only job that should be held to a higher political standard is politicians. No one cares if their mechanic curses, the nail lady tells an off-color joke, or if the cashier is wearing an Anonymous shirt. They all get a pass. It’s when liberal wealth is speaking everyone feels the need to point the finger and publically shame. I got news for ya: actors and singers have just as much right to put themselves out there as you do. Facebook and Twitter even leveled the playing field. So saying, “you wish actors would shut the fuck up and just accept their award” doesn’t make you any different. Mirror: you’re now accepting an award for disliking theirs. Also, this isn’t about Ricky Gervais. He’s brilliant. Always has been. And, worth $110 million. Imagine that? But c’mon, he’s just playing the room. I bet he’d do the same at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. That still doesn’t make him right or wrong. He did what any forward-thinking comedian would do in that situation. He let the air out of the ballon. I would’ve done the same. But that isn’t solving world hunger nor addressing the illusion that costal affluent are one side and flyover-Fred is another. We’re all in this together. Some of you say shit that makes my head spin like Linda Blair. I’m sure I do the same to some of you. But, again, we’re in this together. So why don’t we stick to holding politicians accountable—whose salaries we pay—and try to unify everyone else regardless of their job, political affiliation, or ethnicity. You know, make the world a better place for your kids. Yes, yours. I have none but care about the world we leave behind.

So y’all can stick to yelling at Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro all you want. I’m gonna stay focused on Congress and the White House where change is legislated.

© 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

Can you love?

No one is born a racist. These are learned traits. Products of our upbringing, environment, and vulnerabilities. Biases formed from broken promises seeking superiority and acceptance.

Can you be manipulated?
Do you seek approval of others? Do you want to be part of a cause? Do you need a sense of identity or purpose, a desire to belong?

Are you angry?
Do you feel entitled? Like someone owes you something?

Can anyone get you to believe what they want without your critical thought, suspicion, or consent?

Truth is, we’re all fragile, sensitive beings hurting in some way or another. It’s part of being mortal. We’re all susceptible to social isolation, unworthiness, lack of self-esteem, feeling unattractive, impoverished, abused or worse, affected by trauma or genetically predisposed to biological vulnerabilities. We’re all grieving in some way or another. It’s just a matter of how you express your emotions, exercise your fears, and rationalize your judgments.

How do you cope with your struggles? Do you seek to further educate yourself in reason and empathy? Are you compassionate? Helpful? Merciful? Do you want to believe there is value in others? Meaningful design in our differences? That we share a common good? That we all matter?

Would you like to be loved? Can you love?

© 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 Escondido Orange Salesman

You ever notice how hard it is to make the right decisions without ruffling some feathers? How difficult it is to keep everyone happy? How many little pockets of questions, misunderstandings, and uncertainties you have unresolved, just tucked away? Or, how many different roles you have to play to get through one day? The different characters for different people game: walking on eggshells for one person, holding back anger and anguish for another and not severing ties with toxic ones? It’s an endless game we play with ourselves and for what?

Stop being 100 fractional little yous for 100 different people and start being 1 unified you for whoever’s left. Sure, you’ll lose some friends but were they ever one to begin with? Once you make the choice to stop trying to be everyone else’s everything, your life will explode with simplicity. Take your training wheels off, walk away from toxicity, and work on accepting yourself for who you are.

To those that are afraid and insecure of who they are: we all are. Every single one of us has someone or something we look up to as somehow better, more successful, prettier, richer or more spiritually evolved. Every single one of us. Embrace it. Make it a challenge to yourself to achieve that which you value. Aspirationally, look towards it as a positive influence in your life but by no means should you allow it to hinder your journey or darken your light.

We are all on a highway with countless offramps, speed bumps, accidents, and flat tires looming. Maximize your path by taking control of your wandering mind. Focus. Navigate your course and don’t let anyone or anything stand in your way. When you get a flat, which you will, change it and discard the baggage as you would a used tire. Then, get back on course and smile at the beauty along on the way. Maybe even pull over and grab some oranges from that guy in Escondido. I hear they’re great.

Everyone and everything looks better when you’re at peace with yourself.

© 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

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