Saturday, October 31, 2015

Memories of the Modesto Peace Center by Samuel R. Tyson - A Founding Member

By the time the Peace Center came into being, the Saturday Night Group had all but disappeared when so many people went to Canada.

The remnants were available for the new effort, although it was originally limited to draft counseling. The draft work had been ongoing in an ad hoc sort of manner by individual volunteers. Vietnam took counseling from the theoretical to the hard facts of reality. Lives were very much in jeopardy.

The true organizing work of the 1970s was not by or through the Peace Center with its limited vision. Something different popped up – nuclear power. The proposal to build nuclear energy facilities west of Waterford brought opposition. At various times it became necessary to take on Pacific Gas & Electric, General Electric, Livermore, Turlock Irrigation District and Modesto Irrigation District. It was a new learning experience to perform this service under pressure. Stanislaus Safe Energy then came into existence to block, refute and deny any such facility. Of course Government bodies and the Stanislaus and San Joaquin Farm Bureau were all for it.

For once the Modesto Bee did it – a half page story with pictures of the half dozen activists standing up on the front lines for Safe Energy. Public meetings, Dr. John Gofman speaking, the pancake breakfast a three month Notice of dissenting was created and then the Harvest Supper was started as a second fund raiser. Safe Energy’s last major public event was at the 1987 Stanislaus County Fair of 1987 in the midst of the super conductor-super collider protests. The proponents of this super warfare program were the University of California, Livermore, liberal Democrats, Chambers of Commerce, as usual, the school system and of course Governmental agencies.

In between these events came the farm workers to Modesto, 8000 on foot or car to add to the 1000 or so already at Graceada. Vietnam was over so a lot of energy was now available energy to work on farm worker issues. Gallo was far and above the great villain as a large outfit not interested in being limited by the Farm Worker’s Union. What was Modest to do with such an invasion and with it, its inflammatory possibilities?

Having done crowd control by invitation several times in San Francisco’s anti-war marches, it was an interesting challenge for me. Organizer Chuck Gardenier and I agreed it would be useful to have a non-violent presence on March 1, 1975. Since there had already been joint meetings with the California Highway Patrol, Sheriff deputies of several counties and the Modesto Police Department.  Chuck and I were known to them, to say the least. There had been violence during the march in Merced County recently. So in blue jeans and jacket with a red arm band, I was a presence all along the side to take (block) intersections or along the front as Modesto was cut in half from Gallo to Graceada Park. Holding half of Needham for the crowd, the traffic got real messy, but there was no violence. The Modesto Police backed off and left the crowd to discipline itself.

When the Latin Americas group decided to stage a sit in inside Tony Coehlo’s office during the Nicaraguan Contra imbroglio, I was brought in to do the non-violence organizing. Now with the people ready to sit in, it could be done all at once, a big bang, as it were. It appeared more useful to split into three groups for a  larger impact. So, poor Jane Jackson, who knew many of us, had to be at her desk three days to watch people be arrested. It was not that Coehlo was a poor congressman but as one in a leadership position, more was needed and could have been done to end the conflict.

Whatever organizational skills there may be, it cannot work without other people. Foremost were Howard Washburn and Howard TenBrink who were both there from the beginning at the monthly Fellowship of Reconciliation Meetings. He was in Nevada, Self Help Housing (SHE) (Visalia), Everyman Building, Coehlo’s office and in later years collating the Stanislaus Peace/Life Connections.

Howard Washburn – Rural Life Conference (1940-1950s), first director of SHE (1960s), tax resister at Fresno, Livermore, Vandenburg, who tragically, with much of his family, was killed in an automobile accident. Jake Kirihara (Livingston) SHE board, Livermore, Coehlo’s office, United Technology Middle plant (Merced County).

Mel Harvey was of this breed in Nevada, arrested for leafleting at the IRS in Modesto (I was not ready for arrest, nor was Betty Tillotsoin or Frank Muench), Oakland Induction Center 1967. Mary Harvey upon the Everyman sentencing in 1960, went to Nevada, crossed the line and was arrested,  given 30 days in jail – the only woman in the Tonpah jail (she was on the second floor). These folks were there; open and allowing themselves to be available for joint action over a period of many years.

For its time slot, Safe Energy found Dan Pollack (Ecology Action) a stalwart. Jim Higgs came along in the 1970s but did not break out until the 1980s, with more than one visit to Livermore and Santa Rita.

Involved with the United Technology venture and sit ins at Coehlo’s office – Jim Higgs was a long time Peace Center board member. He could be frustrating, certainly. But he did hang in with Peace Center activities as long as possible.

Kay Barnes, who overcame her military raising to come to look at Peace. For nearly 20 years she did the little things to keep the Center going, as a volunteer. As usual there was little thanks, if any at all.

Not doing in public does not mean the service is worth less. One does not relish the value of such help until it is gone. A venture to Livermore was not her thing. An example of her commitment: When coming out of the Stanislaus County jail for sitting in at Coehlo’s office, I was totally disoriented. It had been a hot day and the air conditioner broke down, leaving the inmates dripping and half clothed.

For once Zane Clark, or whoever was running the place,  arranged for inmates to shower out of regulation. Mine was at midnight, but the cell was crowded, with most inmates on the floor.

The next morning, I was pushed out the door after minimal sleep. But there was my guardian angel, Kay, to transport my carcass to Waterford. Christmas. This was a service more than once was provided at the Choose Life Christmas-blocking at Livermore. My going number there is under 1000 as one of the lags (1960) though they can have 10,000 entices to Santa Rita in a year. No organizer can do it without help.

When one is lucky there are those who can be leaned upon for years.

Those who dare to follow conscience under fear, but refuse to allow it to dominate or paralyze action and are in this sense free.

After exposure to various situations,  there is an esprit which may well appear to be arrogance.

Experience has taught certain lessons. There are probabilities of behavior and results. However, planning based on effectiveness tends to backfire as the means become distorted by the desire.

Results are long term. It is ludicrous to expect change of a useful nature in under five years. Patience is not a virtue much cultivated, because our ego demands satisfaction.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Nobody Cares

For several years now, I have been trying to save the world. Seeking my own salvation through the redemption of others, I have ended up with several sociologically dry case study books, a new language and a perspective unique, yet at the same time impaired by my own lack of experience. Experience I will never have. If I am to be so fortunate.

I was a good neighbor. I was a good priest. I was ethical and never once did I wince in the face of danger, manipulation or ridicule in the public square. I gave more than I had to give of my time, money and most of all - my self. I gave everything with a pink bow, emblazoned with gold lettering that spelled out "ACTIVISM".

Activism is a catch-all drawer of a word. It means so many different things to so many different people. For me it was more than a title, it was a condemnation. At the very best, it was a label that gave a clear indication to the community that it was OK for me to be ineffectual in relieving the plight of lesser, undesirable human beings, because I was nothing but shadow to begin with.

I held on tightly to the ideal that matters of life and death were to be taken with the utmost urgency. With the utmost importance. But that particular ideal, as with so many others, had long-since slipped away from the consciousness of the community. Along with any hope of compassion, empathy or understanding. All of these priceless precious things had been exchanged for narcissism and personal "Quality of Life" goals.

I thought that I could bring these ideals back again. I thought that I could surly demonstrate by example passion and devotion to others in such close proximity that it was worthwhile to address the needs of the suffering, whoever they may be. I thought wrong. I was wrong. Its true. You cannot revive a corpse.

In the face of further ridicule, slander and even persecution by my own religion, I write the truth to you now. The truth that no body really cares about anyone else but themselves and with good reason. To care about the plight of another human being is to take that suffering upon yourself, albeit in a different form, but suffering nonetheless.

For all of my valiant and noble effort, I am left with so much reward. A reputation that precedes me everywhere I turn, wrought with falsehoods and lies. I am penniless, unemployable and forever spilled over with suspicion and looked upon as nothing more than a maniacal, bothersome, trouble making dissenter. I am now seen exactly as those I have served - an undesirable human being.

And that is just on the outside. On the inside, my memories haunt my dreams, nearly every night. Filled with horribly unspeakable evil. Gang violence, child abuse to a horrific degree and lonely deaths along the creek's banks, all of which I will never be able to prevent. Now I see their wounds, tears and death states in every moment of my life.

I am nothing but a loser, having thrown my life away because I am so insane, I actually thought that I could lead the lost to reason. I thought I could redeem them somehow. I was wrong.

Now I am nothing but a shell of a man, hoping that my fake confidence will buy me a little more patience with the few friends I even have today.

Even finding solace in the refuge of my original religion has been fraught with misunderstanding and cult-like abuse. Led by a self-proclaiming thug that touts violent tendencies as a badge of honor, he sports the colors that have married me to children's funerals for so long that I have now come to know how inescapable these tragedies are since they are taken so lightly by so many who are protected forever behind the very veil that I myself have provided - "They just don't understand".

My angst over the injustices that have caused me to see so many dead bodies is so fierce and fiery, that it has mentally incapacitated me. I am forever locked in a dungeon of despair and anguish over things I could never have prevented in the first place.

All I can tell you anymore for sure, is that you nave no idea how terrifying and horrible it is out there. All because no one really cares about matters of life and death anymore. All they care about is themselves.

Copyright 2014 Robert Stanford all rights reserved.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

I am the Grandson of Professional Cowboy of the Canadian Hall of Fame Jack Wade. These prints are derived from original photographs that I inherited from him. This is from his own personal collection and all of these photographs were acquired by him through his rodeo career, on site.

Every framing is custom done to fit each individual photo and is done by hand.

A letter of authenticity will be included with every item per request. For notary is an additional $20.00 - Multiple purchases can be combined on a single notarized letter if you wish.

All Shipping is free for all items.

I am still in the process of posting prints, so check back often. You can also sign up to be notified of new posts by entering your email in the box on the left hand side of this site.

I have categorized the prints and these are listed below and on the right side-bar of the site. Enjoy.

If you have any questions or special requests, please contact me at my email below. The prints can be any size you wish, just email me and I will respond with a quote of how much it will cost.

Thank you,

Robert Wade Stanford
1509 K Street #193
Modesto, CA 95354

Jack Wade listing in Canadian Professional Rodeo Hall of Fame

Jack Wade was born June 6, 1910 at Wakefield, England and came to Halkirk, Alberta where he lived until 1936, with three sisters and six brothers.

He started his rodeo career in 1925 at Battle River, Alberta, riding mane hold mounts. He claims he made more money there in two days than ranch work paid in two months.

For ten years he farmed and took in most summer rodeos in Alberta. In 1932 he trailed a chuckwagon and some bucking horses to Calgary. One horse, Typhoon, won the Calgary’s best bucking horse money. Jack drove chuckwagon for a time in the Calgary Stampede, until 1936, when he entered his first rodeo in the U.S.

Jack went to Sidney, Australia in 1938, winning the Steer Wrestling, returned in 1939, only to have a horse fall and Jack broke his foot.

Some of Jack’s accomplishments were All Around Cowboy 1936 in Dauphin, Manitoba and winning the Pendleton Round Up. He also won:

World Bronc Riding – 1939
Calgary North American All Around – 1940
Calgary Steer Decorating – 1940
Calgary Steer Riding – 1940
Calgary 2nd Bareback Riding – 1940
Calgary 1st Bareback Riding – 1942
Iowa State Fair All Around – 1941

He married Jeffie Gray of Hardy, Arkansas on June 2, 1942 in Little Rock, Arkansas. From 1947 to 1953 he judged in Calgary as well as St. Paul, Minnesota, Omaha, Spokane, Ponoka and Stettler, to mention a few. Having quit the rodeo run in the early 1950’s and finding little work in Canada, they moved to California. Here Jack drove an Auto Transport for 17 years.

Rodeo Print Categories

Australian Easter Show - 1938
Bring In The Clowns
Brownwood, Texas Rodeo
Bruce Stampede
Bull Dogging
Calf Roping
Calgary Stampede
Cheyenne Frontier Days
Classic Rodeo Shots
Cowboy Poses
Extreme Bronc Riding
Extreme Bucking Brahmas
Iowa State Rodeo
Jantzen Beach, Oregon Rodeo
Livermore, California Rodeo
Madison Square Garden
Phoenix, Arizona Rodeo
Prarie City, Oregon Rodeo
Red Bluff, California Rodeo
Reno, Nevada Rodeo
San Diego, California Rodeo
Trick Riders

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Robert W. Stanford

"The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who in the name of charity and goodwill shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee."

Ezekiel 25:17, Pulp Fiction

Along my daily path, by the fork, the chickens have fortified their ranks with bunny rabbits. Now late at night, what at first appears to be leaping cats, are rabbits. At least two dozen encroaching upon the fork and the chickens that reside there. Almost as joyful as the older dogs that bark upon my approach, only to subside at the sound of my voice. “It’s me!”

Of course, it didn’t use to be that way. Literally, years ago, I would leave seething canine ferocity in my wake down every Airport District street I would walk. Not any more, just the occasional bully dogs, we all come across no matter how many of our own shoe prints are etched into the dust which shall never be covered by sidewalks. Now, I leave broken hearts and whimpering in my wake, as so many dogs want me to spend more time than a passing pet and reassurance of what magnificent animals they are. But there is always tomorrow…for me, at least.

Not so much for JD Love, who’s memorial still graffiti’s Oregon Park appropriately for the surrounding neighborhood. Walls that many of us, probably including his own mother, are not looking forward to seeing be re-painted. Despite the murderous numerical references to the CA state penal code - 187...and Norte.

Now he is forever a part of the Modesto Airport District; a part of it’s culture. That is of course, at least until Nazi Joe Muratore, the sixty-two thousand dollar thief finally gets his way and has the entire 1.2 square mile area that comprises the Modesto Airport District razed in favor of a financial shell game to be forever played with outside investors and the actual Modesto City/County airport that separates us in the Airport District from the bordering area between Ceres and Modesto, aptly named, “No Man’s Land”. Two ghettos separated by Lear Jets and caviar. All the while, useless to those that are in reality just like us, is their fork in the road.

Pollo, Polo and Looney were standing outside of the now infamous non-tobacco front shop one day.

And then, just like every other day, dark clouds appeared and commenced engulfing the atmosphere with grief. One of us was missing - Lil’ David.

“Why pollo?”, he softly asked me. “Why did the cops have to lie to her like that? They said that they would protect her. And now look at David.”

Through his tears, it was not that I had nothing to say, but at this point, it would have sounded insensitive and uncaring for the situation at hand. Not because it was a rant against local law enforcement, but rather, because it would sound more like an “I told you so!”. It just really wasn’t the time for another political lecture against the ways of the tyranny that has now befallen us.

All just another piece of scenery stripped away from me, just like animal control always picking up the wrong strays. Or my neighbors that delight in killing my dogs. Taking something away from me that makes the Modesto Airport District a beautiful place to live. Leaving a tragically ended memory in it’s place, with much pretentiousness.

I have found it to be not just the trauma of these murders that take me away to a place of intense and bitter anger, but their repetition. Is this really what I have chosen to do? Watch everyone die, while trying to show them which side of the fork to take instead?

Seems pretty noble, since there has been nothing but sacrifice of every part of my being and rewards that seem rather inedible.

Walking past the fork in the dawn of a new day is quite different than two to three o’clock in the morning. It’s like night and day. No longer are there only the stragglers and scrappers afoot. Now there are the familiar faces. Faces I have greeted more than twenty-four hundred times.

Everyone knows my name, where I am going, what I do, what I eat - everything - with affection - just like David did.

They see in me, something they can depend and rely on - hope. They see hope in me because they have watched my struggle for so many years. They can see now, that the only way I will be leaving them, will be as their own family members leave them - as a murder victim that not even the Modesto Police Department gives a second thought to.

Copyright 2012 Robert Stanford all rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Nothing Changes On New Years Day

Don't Forget To Pay For That Donut!
I didn’t see the roosters as I passed by the fork this morning, although a few hours earlier, at about three, roosters could be heard from all around, walking through the Modesto Airport District(1).

It was like they were calling to each other, back and forth in turn. One could almost reach out and touch their grandiose plans of having the Modesto Airport District completely dominated by fowl at the crack of the true dawn. A rooster revolution of sorts. Plotted through their hidden language.

I was so impressed with them, that I have decided to forego any rants that I would care to indulge regarding the avian flu and weak county interventions for personal aviaries of fowl. I will let these brave birds have their hope. Unless the economy doesn’t turn around, at which point I may be charged with chicken rustling.

Yet in the morning, seeing lush fields of chickens starting about their foraging day is just so invigorating on my slight trek to the start of my day. Especially when they are in the street and I start chasing them to and fro across the road. One really has to be aware of traffic when…chicken spotting.

Walking through chalk lines, some real - some imagined, I would think that others like myself would care to take comfort in the luxurious safety of good scenery.

So that in the midst of a dozen, obviously robustly large roosters planning some sort of a…coo - a master plan, if you will, of domination.

Just the energy of being within that interchange, while some guy that lives in what appears to be an RV has an exploding bonfire going in a burning barrel. A different scent every night, or should I say, “every wee morning”.

On some of these wee mornings, he incinerate particles board. Bonfire fuel acquired by chopped up furniture abandoned in another lot made vacant by Strand/Depot(2) type developer arson.

The formaldehyde fills my senses like Testers model glue in a plastic bag. At any moment I begin picturing myself writhing and twirling, while lying perpendicular to and abutted to the gutter of the sidewalk surrounding the county park.

Only the menthol provides any relief. And the coffee.(3)

Coffee acquired at the Vietnamese refuge camp, we are now not suppose to talk about or advertise for. I suppose something came over the wire. Of course all of this information comes from Chin. The one that says I eat like a cat. The one with that birth mark that looks just like a tattoo one would get for killing someone in a Vietnamese prison.

The same tattoo that she didn’t want to talk about anymore(4), not more than just a few morning ago(5) she dared point to it and made some vague reference to the hard life that she endured, trapped in a Vietnamese prison. But one knows that she is safe now in the confines of a Vietnamese refugee camp disguised as the Ye Olde Donute Shoppe.

It’s not a refuge for everyone though. That was finally decided when the latrine was redone in tile and the very best in bathroom fixtures. It must be part of the Asianic cultural reaction to disrespect from a community that completely thrashed the bathroom to the point of necessitating it’s complete replacement. Everything.

“Pollo.” She whispered.(6) “I go into bathroom today and people have sex in there.”

“What? Seriously? That’s horrible. I keep telling you. Just don’t let anybody use it. They can go to Jack in the Box.”, I replied, six years ago. That was before the re-model.

And a year or so after someone committed suicide in the Jack in the Box bathroom. Now they have to “buzz” you in.

Today, on any shift, they refuse no one. Most of the time they don’t have to, since the bathroom is occupied by families shooting up heroin they acquired from just around the corner. It’s so heart warming to see a mother pushing a stroller, accompanied by her older offspring - scurrying into the Jack in the Box bathroom to inject herself with heroin and nod out in a bathroom stall for an hour or so.

“Um, can you buzz me in?”

“Sure, go right ahead.”

That was the same family that approached every single one us, one morning - pimping out her oldest child to panhandle change for his mother’s heroin fix.

“Hey can I use your bathroom? I need to change my baby.” The zombie mother asked Chin.

“You want to use the bathroom? OK. You can use the bathroom. I will go and unlock it for you and you can go use the bathroom.”, Chin chipped into the undead whore of heroin and mother of three.

“SSSS - hey!”, I side whispered to the Mother Teresa of Vietnam.

“What what what is it?”

“Don’t let them use the bathroom.” I silently said, yet ever so sternly, while vigorously shaking my head back and forth.

“Pollo! She needs to change the baby. You can’t expect her to go Jack in the Box. That too far.”

And with that, it was not long until loud knocks were to be heard.

“Hey! What you do in my bathroom?! You need get out now! Pollo. Man. You were right. Why I not listen to you.”, Chin said to me, her hair unusually ratted out as though it had been styled that way, when in reality, it was from the sheer stress of the entire family having locked themselves in the bathroom for nearly five whole minutes now.

“Just give her a few more minutes to finish shooting up and she might be easier to get out.”, I said, as though I were giving report to a general regarding enemy troop alignment.

“Shoot up?! What you mean Pollo?!”

“Nothing. Nothing. Here, I’ll take care of it.”

And with that I was once more overcome by an air of exaggerated over bearing maniacal role play as I cast the family into the cold dampness of the street.

“And stay there….bitch.”

Coming back into my Morelia(7) fold, I am able to fill in half a dozen people with the situation’s past, present and probable future in less than 30 seconds. After all, I have to get to work. I can’t just sit here all day talking about some junky mother shooting up with her kids watching locked up in a bathroom of a Vietnamese Refugee Camp overtaken by Mexicans. Even the Vietnamese refugees have to adapt.

It’s the perfect backdrop for my budding Spanish - Vietnamese refugees aggressively trying to keep dozens of Mexicans at bay with dirty Mexican words screamed with Vietnamese accents. It’s really special when Chin starts waving around her Babe Ruth slugger and threatening to kill everyone if they don’t provide her with enough session money for a Black Oak Casino(8) weekend.

1. For the lone traveler through the internet that may have no interest here….this is a private article. Be gone with you - NOW! To feather dust.
2. Two Modesto, California historical monuments that didn’t have to pass the giggle test of any landmark preservation laws, state or federal due to arson by local developers.
3. Coffee so good, it deserves to be my hook lead in. Keep reading.
4. When they, “arrested the man and the girl”.
5. Or more.
6. Like, “psssst”.
7. A group of approximately 36 rotating Mexican friends, all quickly claiming to be born within an eagles nest at the very top of the tallest mountain in Morelia, Mexico.
8. Actually, it was at Jackson Rancheria Casino that I was accused of eating like a cat. At a buffet, it was. And upon further recollection, it was actually her husband that accused me of that, after seeing my self-made sampler plate with only 3 items from the entire buffet. That’s right. He had to drive us back in my van to the David Bowie’s Low album that night.

Copyright 2012 Robert Stanford all rights reserved.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dog Day Afternoon

“As it would certainly seem to seem as of late, not so many things are quite as dull as one would most likely prefer. Not here anyway.”
                             Robert Stanford answering any question posed.

There was a time, of course, that walking through the Airport District was a myriad of gunfire and dog barks/bites. Pepper spray was certainly a must have. A quick car and path to the Memorial Emergency Room for pit bull victims (always children). The Grand Am I had at the time, did the job well.

It did not take too much education to make this entire situation subside. Especially in consideration that for the entire County of Stanislaus, the Modesto Airport District had the highest amount of animals sent to the gulags of the Stanislaus County Animal Control (We don’t call it the “humane society” anymore, of course).

And then there was that time, not so long ago, that I lost a pit bull to a kidnapping and then it was used for training a fighting dog, all for the purpose of killing my dog. I think this was some sort of a gang assault against me, but the children that witnessed it said nothing about that per say. Of course, to avoid any legal entanglements like a possible 187 charge for either one of us, I just don’t go there. In any way.

Though I do often use my snitch abilities to report illegal dog breeding and fighting, but it is just not as satisfying as a sawed off shot gun would seem to be.

And of course that’s where it starts. Local feuds and fights over dogs and dog fights. That’s just life in the Modesto Airport District. For pit-bulls and those that love them or use them.

I did not raise mine to fight. But I guess that is all over now, what with the presumptuousness of the tweaked out natives of the Modesto Airport District and their dog-fighting heritage.

Why shouldn’t they have the right to steal my dog and use it for live training bait for a gun-powder fed, hard ran dog raised for nothing more than an illegal activity so many seem to overlook as an infraction here in Stanislaus County?

I was once mauled by four pit-bulls in the street, one morning. Like a pack of demons - lovingly cuddly and soft puppies came out of the middle of nowhere and seduced me into dropping to my knees to embrace them on the side of the road, with the foreboding thought on my mind, “Oh God, now they are all going to be following me.”

And then of course, there was that time I found myself on my knees once more, gently head butting a cat on the sidewalk. I turn my head to notice an MPD officer shaking his head and grinning at me. I would have waved, but that does not go over to well in the area. The affiliation with law enforcement is frowned upon by many, mostly the white residents, such as the multi-generational corn fed speed freaks that kidnapped my dog to feed it to theirs.

But there are enough of them that I have to work with, that I try to keep any type of a law enforcement affiliation on the “down low”. Now that I work out of a bail bonds company in the Modesto Airport District, this problem is fading as well as they are better able to peg me now, as opposed to before, when they were mostly overcome with confusion when I told them that I was not a social worker, but would not describe myself any further than using the words activist, advocate, sponsor, etc.

It’s also one of the primary defense points showing it’s true colors regarding Stanislaus County Sheriff Deputy Investigator Kari Abbey’s falsely received assertions from fringe media, not even pervasive in the community, that under the color of law, she exercised unfair advantages over tenants that lived in this same area. This would be virtually impossible, and as an officer, herself, well known to her, that it would more than likely constitute recklessness to the point of suicide by gang if she was to openly flaunt to her tenants that she was affiliated with law enforcement. But like the rest of the general public, you may not have been aware of that.

I have had countless violent encounters with dogs in the Airport District, generally in the early hours of the morning. It did not take me long to learn that the trick to surviving an attack by an animal, is the ability to appear to that animal to be so menacing that they feel like they would have no chance, thereby running away from you, rather than you running away from them. That and a hot cup of coffee works pretty good too.

The Modesto Airport District as of 2004 through 2005 is mostly comprised of Mexicans now. A much healthier and positive culture than the red-necked corn fed NAZI speed freaks that previously dignified the primary demographic of the Modesto Airport District, no matter how humble their dust-bowl fashioned beginnings may seem to be by any, including myself.

But I still miss my dog.

Copyright 2011 Robert Stanford all rights reserved.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

When it's Christmas out in Ho Chi Minh

Robert Stanford reporting live, from the Modesto Airport Business District.

Thus the story so far….

So the flower shop across the street has now disbarred me from boutiqing1, I am quite sure. It is a combination of the words “kidnapping” and “extortion” that they cannot seem to get past.

Either that, or the older man of the shop is quite shaken, scared and all the more offended, after I chased after him one day, in a performance designed to dissuade those that would defecate along the back doors of the office. Perhaps it was a mistaken identity, but either way, a shortcut to where again?

But that’s just what happens when you walk out onto the stage of that kind of a reality. You just don’t know what you will find. What you will face. Many assumptions will be made of involuntary necessity of survival. Depending on the situation of course. Or not.

And in the seemingly newly dedicated way, the “Mission District” has set about building up within their few city block domain. King of the homeless problem. Expanding the detox center - new life for good people. Well “Praise the Lord”.

I wanted to get some pictures, but the abatement crew that came to abate the asbestos in the building ruined my best shots. Who do I sue?

Interesting, the struggles the Modesto Union Gospel Mission has endured under the felinity and circumspect attacks of the La Loma Neighborhood Association’s assault upon the homeless in a Melville storyline manner with Mike Moradian at the helm. No matter, though. Just another contestant for the Robert Stanford Local Celebrity Death Pool.

I even have it figured out what I shall stamp in blood red letters across his apple pie face. I was going to use it for Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Kenneth Tam, but thought better to bite my tongue for the time being, in favor of coming back later for Tam with some interactive video of a rape scene from the movie Pulp Fiction. Therefore, I find it comforting and satisfying to use it to brand Mike Moradian’s portrait - FAGGOT.

It would seem that the Voice of Modesto's very own Less Nesman, Emerson Drake, has left the building, never to be heard from again? It’s all hush hush and on the Q-T - like that police report the publisher filed on his laptop and precinct lists. I certainly hope that when I am old and decrepit, that I do not see middle aged men as nothing more than a group of juvenile delinquents that neer do well, not paying attention to me in my poli-sci class. Mindy should really put him in a home now.

And of all days to day. I cannot get the thought out of my mind of carmen, standing there, with the Modesto Bee in one hand and holding his weenie in the other.

Probably because he will be sporting a hot-dog cart at his makeshift Italian diner hustling for votes with party poppers and kazoos - complete with a coned party hat that is just 10 sizes to small for him……’s his birthday after all. Today is the day2.

Of course what do I know, if I were still in the running for mayor, I would probably be selling out gay hot weenies at the Brave Bull trying to makes sure the marriage equality vote knew I was firmly in their corner. I figure they would just go along with the rest. Especially after those weenies. I know Kasey would let me do a Donna Summer DJ session if I showed up in drag. Or not.

Walking around the corner the other day, suddenly everything became unfamiliar and dark as the wind blew about handbills of announcement that only jimson root could tell. And an old lady with large hairs growing from her chin looked up from the cumbersome misused baby stroller and cackled, “How cum yoo not in jaaayle?”

I said nothing. I just kept trying to wake up and then I saw him. The old man that had once been so friendly now peeked up and over at me as he scurried inside to the safety of his building to be warm and protected from two words - “kidnapping” and “extortion”.

To get to the Vietnamese refugee camp or home, I have to cross in front of the Modesto Union Gospel Mission. Tempestuous it is. Once having to walk home from work crippled by my very shoes, I limped across the fresh tarmac, yet stopped midway. I looked down and took off the shoes that tortured me so. As I looked up and over, I saw a young man grinning at me. Or so I thought. I did not have my glasses and he was far too away for me to see. There may have not been anyone there at all.

“You’re quite an interesting character.” The youthfully beaming apparition said to me. Or not.

“Yeah, why is that?” I asked sharply, as though I had several cars to be lubing in Brooklyn, all the while, proceeding to take off my socks.

“You just are. You work at that bail bonds place, don’t you?”

“Why?”, I hissed. “What do you want?”

“Nothin, I just….”, and with that I briskly stormed away from him, unencumbered by ill fitting shoes as though I was born to walk through the Modesto Airport District without fear of neither needle, metal or glass.

Tonight the Brown Shirt NAZI guards of the Modesto Gospel Mission were even farther away. To me it looked as though they were rising up, preparing to shoot me down with .22 cal. pistols and then proceed to call animal control for a “pick up”. Or not.

Maybe they would whisk my body into the building and feed me to the homeless. One could only hope, considering the five million dollars they brought in for the year 2010, the gruel they currently serve those unfortunate enough to have to endure the sacrifice of their very Constitutional rights for a partial portion of a disgusting meal.

Here. You can have mine.

No, no. I’ll be allright (live longer). Cigarette?

Ducking into the safety of the Vietnamese refugee camp, it is in and of itself, the perfect camouflage. The perfect cover. The perfect disguise. Where everyone knows your name. Well, my name at least.

“Pollo. So they away take the man and the girl?”

“Everyone is out now. Yeah. But it’s all political. You know. Like in Vietnam.”

“I not joking now. You need be serious. I worry about you. You be careful.”

“It’s all political. Seriously. Everything is fine - they are lying in the newspaper”

“You want coffee Pollo?”

“Yes, please. You know, I would love some coffee. Some coffee would be great. Thank you. Yes. Coffee. Coffee coffee coffee”

The Vietnamese Refugee camp is on the Yosemite Boulevard, which is just a fancy name for a short stretch of the 132 interstate.

And here, along that interstate in this God Forsaken valley is this place. A place where Vietnamese hospitality is taken advantage of as though it were franchised.

A refuge from the rain, the cold, your problems or the police.

Not from me though.

I saw her grinning twice as wide today, from in the back of the camp, in the kitchen. It was the Den Mother. “Hi Pollo!”. Obviously relieved that I was not arrested and taken to jail along with “the man and the girl”. “You OK?”

“It’s political. It’s all political. You know, like Vietnam.”

“Pollo!” The other one snapped, “We not from Vietnam. We Cambodian.”

“Same thing. I saw Apocolypse Now.” I said smugly, as though I was tossing imaginarily long locks of hair across my other shoulder.

“What? What Pollo?”

“It’s a movie. It’s about the war.”

“Oh, the war. I little girl then. That long time ago. You want donut, Pollo? I give to you.”

“He don’t need more donut. He get fat now!” The Den Mother said, upon coming across to the counter to join us. “You OK?”

“I’m fine. Really. And so are they. This is not what they tell you it is. It is totally different”

“You promise? You don’t want donut? I sorry for what I said. You not fat. You need more more donut!!!”

Our laughter chimed as a reminder to me that everything was meant to be the way it is today, despite how uncertain it might seem all too often. As though there is no use to resist and fight for the preservation of moments such as these. Right Here. Right Now - a refuge. A home. A place free from those that would enslave, imprison and kill us without any recourse to the law for us.

Just like Vietnam.

1. Sorry, it was unspellable.

2. Actually, I wrote that last week. So it’s really not his birthday today. And yes he is still alive. But I got fifty says he won’t make to election - ricket’s - they move fast.

Copyright 2011 Robert Stanford all rights reserved.

Friday, September 16, 2011

I Wish It Were Federal Friday

Written September 16th 2011 a couple of days after Aleo Pontillo and Janelle Llorens were arrested on charges of kidnapping and extortion by a rogue justice system in Stanislaus County


I Wish It Were Federal Friday


Robert W. Stanford


With nothing more than a glance across an empty desk I can see what intricate games she may be in the mood for, seemingly guided by the phases of the moon, they are only random to me when I don’t look up into the night sky to keep track of the astronomically astrological force that guides the ocean’s waves.

Familiarity breeds habits of escape. Especially at a time such as this, as my glace reveals who her real friends are. Me.

We use to sit closer, without the empty desk between us. She didn’t want me to go, nor did I as much care to, yet by the same worry and fret that had caused me to lose track of the paths of the moon, so too did I need to position myself for a secluded power base in the midst of Bad Moon irony.

Trading names like bubble gum cards, ours was the language of twins. Others that listened could not quite understand as we exchanged names, like machine gun fire – the ammunition jacketed in the details of a payment history, telephone record and residency report. Perfectly, we complimented each name by providing the date the other lacked. We had momentum. Ah, that’ synchronicity.

What better job could one have, then be able to work n a environment that is all too easily transformed into a Soho café?

With the chatter of nail paint and quaint experiences wrapped within moments of brief silence, only to be bundled among moments of what to others seemed like some esoteric wordplay – as though two detectives had been working the same case and began to compare notes from memory.

So hedonistic I had become while entrapped in the arrogant elegance that Soho café had offer. And then of course there was that girl. Suddenly she and he were gone. Leaving nothing more than myself and my twin.

We had lost our audience that had never once thought of walking out.

As though an era had ended somehow, it seemed, looking across the aisle, out of habit expecting a glance, or two, yet nothing. There was no one there. So discomforting, and it’s not even Federal Friday yet.

“You’re goin’ down Stanford!!! You’re goin’ down!” he said, his carefully fixed gaze of the board meeting mine. “I’m gonna crush you Stanford.”

Then pushing back a bit into his seat, he lifted his Herculean arms and said, “You’re white man.”

And then a bit louder, “Hey! Dumbass! It’s your move!”

Slowly I relaxed the dramatically acted squint in my eyes, “What?”

“It’s you’re move! C’mon maaan.” Rising his hand half way to his forehead as though he thought he was about to suddenly experience a migraine.

“Oh, ahem. OK. Here we go…” and it was King’s Pawn to King Pawn’s three. All within the motion of moving my piece, his palm began to be rubbed on his leg and become the tell that I was successful in my attempt to at least create an immediate distraction for him. Knowing that he would insist on wanting my attention on the game at least close to what his was. We both wanted a better game and we knew how to get it from each other if for no other reason than it was our one thousandth game.

Such a charming piece in my life it was. Another natural environment that I shall, for all my days, liken to a remote resort. Yet forever haunting me would be the inevitable public perception that I see to this day, is all too real. That rather than fancying myself having vividly inspirational and deep conversation with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, it would be more likened to H.G. Wells playing chess with Jack the Ripper, in grand revolutionarily debatable conversation of the siege of the New World Order – for us, as we are increasingly oppressed today by the same Police State as foretold by the most brilliant individuals throughout Americas history, today, the 4th Reich of the United States of America. Nothing more, than a forever burning red, white and blue flag, dipped in chocolate sauce.

And now that Federal Friday has come and gone, no longer do I bear the yoke of that despair. That anticipation of what others may think.

What others think of me is power that they believe they have over me, as well as others. Something to hang over one’s head as it were. Wisdom from the very sandboxes of kindergarten. If you do not believe as they wish, then they will subtly demonstrate the lack of their faith in your moral turpitudes. Birds of a feather and all that, you know.

But I am not so sure that applies to me. No. Not me. I am on the teeter-totter. It is nowhere near the sandbox.

My ride is much wilder.

So I try not play with them and just like unwashed hair, my image begins to look rather “rogue”. Which is OK, since many ultra-conservatives have assured me that they believe in me enough to wait and see if they believe in my cause. There is a God after all, I suppose.

Through the desperation of moments that test the very definition of my courage – many differences of opinion between myself and members of the community quickly dissolve like water into wine. Like darkness into light. The discovery of what is most important, without being so judgmental as to mock God himself.

It all started one morning in the Vietnamese Refugee Camp disguised a  remodeled Winchell’s Donut franchise – Ho Chi Minh.

Since I last wrote about the camp, many confused my reference to our Den Mother, as MA – the top of the Vietnamese food chain gang, borne of the necessity of years of genocidal warfare. The survival of refugees and lard. Having spent time in prison, coming away with a tattoo so crafted from generations upon generations of Vietnamese tattoo artists. So inked that it is disguised as a birth mark, just under her left eye.

A tattoo one gets for killing another in a Vietnamese gulag.

Or so, I delighted in teasing her.

“Oh, Pollo!” she starts out, gathering the other regular’s attention, “Yeah! I take a shiv. I stab him with a shiv, man!”

It’s the same joke told in a different way every day. This day could be heard Spanish translation of what we just said. And then more laughter. As each of the patrons throws out his or her try for a quick line to carry on the joke. Accept for the new customer of course, having not been in there at the 7AM rush, and if they be bold enough to still be there with us, they are nervously clenching their teeth, yet not laughing.

They inevitably do not understand our humor. It belongs to us, after all – They don’t live in the Airport District. It has been steeping for 7 years. The same joke – every day – like so many unfinished crossword puzzles.

The laughter from the half dozen Mexicans lulls the unsuspecting new customers into accepting the reality that this actually is, a remodeled Winchell’s donut franchise and not a Vietnamese refugee camp.

And then the next day everyone read the newspaper or had it read to them.

By a glance across the count, I could tell that Federal Friday had finally come. Chin wasn’t going to play the Vietnamese gulag killing joke today.

It’s just not funny anymore.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Pain, Suffering and Families Dying Out From Methamphetamine Abuse In the Modesto Airport District


Robert Stanford

For a sociological perspective, myself and Jorge Perez conducted a tour for the teachers of Modesto’s Johansen High School of the Modesto South Side, Empire1 and the Modesto Airport District.

Jorge Perez explained plainly to the school bus-load of teachers, the recruiting practices of South Side Gangs.

As we sat in the still hours of the morning, that time that the dew is just about completely gone, inside the school bus, pulled up along side the park, Jorge Perez unfolded, in no uncertain terms, the ongoing true reality of gang recruitment, combined with the seriousness of a matador facing off understanding with the Norteno Red Cape as an abrupt wake-up call. “This is where these kids are coming from.”

“Excuse me”, one of the teachers asked, raising her hand as though grandmother’s Kleenex was about to escape the comfort of her sleeve. “Did you say as young as sixth grade?”

Jorge stared from the steps of the forward door of the bus out into the South Side expanse through the back window  and in a surprising undertone answered succinctly and precisely, “Yes”.

“Oh my…” she said, through the fingertips rapidly forming a shield across her mouth to protect the outside world from the  shock waves beginning to ripple through her very being.

All from an experience of sitting where that sixth grader is going to sit while awaiting recruitment. Awaiting to be “jumped in”2 to a Gang to sell drugs for the gang - an instant Prop 21 gang enhancement for the sixth grader, who shouldn‘t have to know any better to begin with.

Of course, she had it well, as I had mistakenly prepared the teacher sitting next to me that this was more of a historical society tour, rather than a tour having really nothing to do with anything more than a dramatically infused experience of demonstrating the potential of youth in the ashes of suffering, pain, violence and death.

Reciting property titles of the local Empyrean bar and admission requirements according to decade, I became so caught up in my own esteem fulfillment of manipulating through over talking her to the point of relating anything that was said to the admission policy and era of the Empyrean bar.

All meant to be a grand platform to explain generational pockets of a 1.2 square mile area4 in which entire families are dying out due to methamphetamine use.

A deadly affliction that entered the family through the mother of invention during the war3. Something that began when their heritage first took up in the Modesto Airport District in the late 1930’s and 1940’s - Fathers absent due to hardships and war left single mothers to care for themselves at a time in which women made approximately half of what their male counterparts made in the local canneries all to support a household comprised of themselves and their children.

Children borne of a time of prosperity in their parent’s lives. Just a couple of years prior to the dust bowl that came to destroy everything they had worked all of their lives for. But those outside of the Airport District had not had the opportunity to see them before they became poor.

To work the double shifts, most of the working single mothers in the Modesto Airport District at this time, resorted to ingesting bennies5 to endure their sixteen to twenty hour shifts in a facility that in the summer, smelted glass and did not have the conveniences of the Gallo glass plant, today.

People from other areas of the town would look down upon these “Arkies and Okies”, calling them, “Down in the Gallos”.

In the 1930’s and 1940’s drug addiction was not widely understood by any means.

Most of the problems with drugs in the area had traditionally been opiate in nature, through opium used in the raw by the Chinese at the turn of the 20th century, to the injection of the plant refined as heroin. Some heroin imported in different formats of purities.6 However, speed was quickly becoming the acceptable drug of choice - “Mother’s little helper”. The one to be used before you completely give up.

Kids being kids, of course learn as they are imprinted in other ways7. Therefore, as these single working mothers adopted a lifestyle with other single working mothers in their “neighborhood” or “District”, as I like to call it, the children they were supporting understood all too clearly that to succeed down in the Gallos, or anywhere else, was to use amphetamines.

And, once again, there was little if any information at the time in any form that would educate them that this was an addictive method, saving their only experience being the likelihood that they would have been able to see after so many generations today what the end result was going to be - that this very drug was going to completely kill off their entire family line. Of course this is 2011 and that was in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s.

Mothers and fathers living with their children and grandchildren, with the adults of the household working sixteen to twenty hours a day, down in the Gallos. All strung out on speed if they were old enough to pop the pills.

Especially affected as they were growing up into the Vietnam war and the plethora of drugs that dominated the hyper-epidemic drug phenomena throughout the world. Not that this was a new event, mind you.

And still to this day - families remain. Dying from the habitual use of what social speed freaking has become - Crack and Meth. A white line nightmare. Death. Death. Death. Then nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

Nothing but ashes and another generation of children in some instances, yet not in others.

But it was these children that remained which was primarily a part of my concern when it was suggested that one might care to think on those that might be saved in a triage sort of way in the Modesto Airport District.

Both Jorge Perez and I, Robert Stanford, valiantly proposed a single call to action for each teacher on the four hour cruise that day. A call to reach out and show caring. To mentor. Every child needs one.

Due to the jacked-up, white methamphetamine and heroin addicts that comprise a significantly large portion of the Modesto Airport’s demographic, their recent two decade die off combined with the housing foreclosure crisis has been filled with Mexican immigrants with different problems but identical needs.

However, during the migration of the Mexican population which occurred at the same time as the “housing foreclosure crisis”, they became preyed upon by PMZ8 affiliates preaching from the short sale scripture.

Re-Fi men and women in sharp business suits descended upon the historic properties like a plague of unwatched hyenas, luring poodles out into a trap through play, only to feed on the family pet. 

This was perpetuated by such as organizations such as El Concilio that had catered to building bridges between Re-fi cons (real estate agents) and the quickly in fluxing Mexicano immigrant population by taking healthy contributions from Wells Fargo, County Bank and other institutions while allowing Mike Zagaris himself to serve prominently on their board.

Not that Mike Zagaris speaks Spanish, but what business could be had from serving on the board of an organization that simply stated by their own declared charter and mission as a Civil service organization for the Spanish speaking?

Perhaps the same as Steve Madison experiences as serving on the Salvation Army board.

An organization that serves displaced families that have come in floods as though it were another migration similar to that which originally and still fills the Modesto Airport District due to the “housing foreclosure crisis”.

In short, what are quite simply, these displaced families that have worked so hard for nothing?

Steve Madison’s victims. As are anyone that can’t find work today in Stanislaus County.

But Madison will not elude to displaced families, the elderly or the disabled. It’s all about the homeless wino hobo for Steve - those are the only ones we need to care about.

And in the best interests of everyone involved in their existence (or around at the time) is to get rid of them and save yourself the trouble of picking up your own trash (again).

And like the asbestos ridden bricks secretly buried9 in the vacant lot of another bribe to me from down in the Gallos for a “Victory Garden” - what better way to cover your evil deeds and dispose of the soon-to-be bodies but by gifting them to you?  

I had spoke to a sociology class a few years before, in which the spot chosen was not ideal for me due to so many personal experiences of death, pain, suffering, joy, love, sunshine, children laughing, etc. for so long in Oregon park.

Yet at the time I just found myself there - words came quite easily to me then, as I was speaking in public at the very least a half dozen times every week and sometimes many more.

Not this time though. All I could think of was homicide. I felt that I had completely failed at what I was trying to accomplish by allowing myself to show that I was certainly not as emotionally detached from my cause as I should have been. For an overtly macho and non-effeminate male, such as I, it was quite an embarrassing episode.

Feedback that I received showed otherwise, however11

As it was with the sociology class before, though, so it was here once again as we arrived and began to pull up to Oregon park.

Jorge Perez introduced me as though I was the king of the Modesto Airport District, which I have no choice but to agree with, certainly having paid prices here no one else has, he still left me with quite large shoes to fill in my presentation.

A presentation I had not prepared for.

Rather, I had inadvertently wasted any preparation time that I had once possessed10 by trying to seduce the teacher sitting next to me into becoming fixated upon my historical observations of the die off occurring to the white population, that at one time, to a greater extent than now, dominated the demographics of the Modesto Airport District. But due their untimely methamphetamine fueled deaths - not any more.

Once again, I was overtaken by those things that men should never do. God’s mistakes, if you will. The tears brought by memories of joys intertwined with the most horrible of imaginable tragedies.

I thought, also once again, that I had failed, being unable to remember anything that I had said, due to having been overcome with the vapors of my own scarring emotions.

I asked the coordinator of the ghetto field trip, what she thought in a practically apologizing manner12.

To which she succinctly and surprisingly simply answered, “No, God that was great! I even wrote down what you said.

You said, “You can change someone’s life if you just show them you care.”

1. (Empire - out Interstate 132 toward the direction of what was once thought of to be Paradise, until it burned down by the power of the railroad and wheat Nero’s of the Stanislaus day. {Google this: PMZ Agricultural Heritage Killing Machine})

2. Jumped in - Usually in the Modesto South Side as well as other areas of gang influence, jumping in means to be severely beaten by several other “gangsters” for permanent initiation into the gang. The price of leaving ever, being that of death.


4. The Modesto Airport District

5. Prescription speed in table form. I.e. Cross Tops, later to come robin eggs and black beauties - speed.

6. And it was these formats of purities which changed somewhat the alignment of their ruling planets based on ingredients that may or may not have been added to the substance as a “cut” - (an ingredient to increase the drugs weight for sale) with it - but this is an entirely different topic of astrological drug recovery - similar to acupuncture in method and theory, except more “astronomical” from a Western imprinted human mind‘s perspective.

7. Hope you read the foot note, or you shall not be able to experience the brevity of the sentence that this footnote refers to.

8. PMZ - Petrulakis, Madison and Zagaris - The Overlords of the City of Modesto. What are they in all reality? Answer: Strip Miners.

9. Like so many forgotten septic tanks of 1968 through 1972 as the City of Modesto “sewered up”. KABOOM!!!! {someday - you watch!}

10. If one can actually possess such a thing.


12. Just in case, since I could not remember anything that I had said.

Copyright 2011 Robert Stanford all rights reserved.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Gentle Be The Night

Gentle Be The Night
Robert Stanford

On January 25th in the afternoon, 3 people were shot in a Modesto Airport District Asian Market. That was a few days before the time of this writing. Spending long hours in the epicenter of the Modesto Airport Business District, I have decided to disclose some of the events and thoughts of the past couple of days. Just in case someone were to forget…

I inadvertently stole a set of keys last night as I left the Business District for the Residential. Yet another reminder of my state of mind as of late as I felt them inside my black leather pocket while pacing over to the Vietnamese mess hall. An illusion, as it were, perpetrated by a healthy need to run away from runaway thoughts.

With no pertinent song going through my head this evening, I hoped to look up from the antiquated sidewalk beneath my strolling feet to find old man Chino’s car in front of the Vietnamese Refugee Camp. Alas, no car.
“Hurray”! I thought, pedantically to myself, as the grape eating fox in an old fable of lore, as my mind took over my very spirit and replaced my present experience for no more than a split second. Enough time, however, to reminisce of another day.

A day I scanned the antiquated sidewalks of the Airport Business District in desperation. A keen eye on the outlook for a prized set of bottle caps for my collection. Royal Crown.

At the corner of Oregon and Benson, there was an antiquated car repair/tow shop, where old men would gather with their beer and hidden pint-whiskey bottles, speaking of what a bastard Nixon was. Some of the old junkies from the area would need a little nip of sugar and would purchase the only soda-pop that was stocked in the store’s vending machine – Royal Crown.

The pewter looking bottle opener, firmly bolted on one side to the front of the machine’s locked steel and glass door was inoperably broken in half. The owner of the shop was usually too drunk to find the bottle opener I had once brought to him. An offering it was, in exchange for his silence regarding my crimes of ditching and hitching the Pacific from Empire.

The junkies would venture to Yosemite with unopened bottles of RC Cola, and have them opened by various people in various places that happened to have bottle openers. Failing that, they would open them somehow from the Pool shop to the Iron Gate. And it was along this fascinating sidewalk path that I had built my colossal and prized bottle cap collection.

But that was more than thirty years ago now. A much more innocent time, when I was ignorant of all of the stress and suffering about me on the streets of the Modesto Airport District. My only concern being one of getting caught having stowed on the Pacific Railroad train and jumping off from Empire Elementary (now “Teel”)  into the Modesto Airport District.

Such a place in memory, cut out so perfectly for escape, until I can see my friend, cooking for the next day’s fare in the back of the Vietnamese Refugee Camp.  Another place to run to, away from those things too painful to remind myself are real for today. Swapping Menthol Kools for Cambodian cigarettes and back again, with experience and discussing proclamations about what is cool and what shall be cool. Rolling out the dough of tomorrow, dough stolen from the Americans.

I watched as the storm troopers descended on all that is now left for us of our extended family. A family that was a vital organ in the body that makes up the Modesto Airport Business District. Traffic everyone shared together as the Airport District has grown and evolved through it’s never ending quest for survival – and at times, even recovery. Again and again.

Urged on by others, I boldly jay walked across the street. Proudly holding my Bic lighter in my clenched fist I set at re-lighting the candles, incense and a couple of things I did not recognize back aflame.
The Security Guard at the Gospel Mission finally called me by my proper name again, “Mr. Stanford, how are you this evening?”

“Sad.”, I said.

And then suddenly some lady appeared out of nowhere. One had only to witness her clothes to know that she had probably never been on Yosemite Boulevard before, and had been, like so many others for the past 25 years, deceived by the outer appearance of the Vietnamese Refugee Camp. But we knew how to play our part. Besides, it was American dough – she would never even know the difference.

She did not want to partake of the stolen American dough though – that wasn’t why she was there at all. Just a small cup of Vietnamese “Cup-o-Joe” that within moments she was sobbing into, with her hands shaking out small amounts of the hot liquid, dripping across her fingers as her tears ran down her face, saying all the while, 
“I am so so sorry. This is so senseless. Oh God. I am so, so sorry. I put a flower and a little bear in front of their store….Oh God…..”

Our Den mother tried her best to comfort her, “It OK now. They in better place now. It OK.”

As myself and my otherwise giggling confidante looked deep into each other’s eyes, he said, “I don’t know. My friend he say he order some for us. It four dollar. we get five pack.  I like only one mint cigarette. I don’t know how you smoke those man.”

“I like the Cambodian ones. Not all the time though”

“Me no like either. The mint. One when you here. But that enough for me.”

The sobbing Lady from out of town looked over at us as though we were horse playing in the pews of her own mother’s funeral. So when she finally allowed our Den Mother to wait on other customers, I followed her out to her car.

“Excuse me. Um. Excuse me. Hi. My name is Robert Stanford, and I just wanted to let you know that I really appreciate someone not from here understanding us. I can tell you understand us. That is very special. I just felt like I should at least say that to you. Thank you. Thank you for caring…”

She looked at me with Betty Davis eyes and said, “What?”

Copyright 2011 Robert Stanford all rights reserved.