Musings of an Englishman who literally quit his life in Devon in mid-2012 to move to Tijuana to love a girl.
They ended up in San Diego where he became a TV anchorman (yes really...), they got married, and now they're living in England together.
Simple as that really.
Follow your heart, who knows where it will lead.

Crazy. Beautiful. Madness.

Friday, 23 August 2013

It's a mad, mad, mad, mad world...

THERE can surely be fewer crazier places in the world than the United States of America.
I've come to this conclusion after spending four months living here in San Diego - referred to as 'America's Finest City'.
The people, the politics, the language, the food, the habits, the thinking... it's all a bit strange to me, as an outsider.
Many people would think a Brit moving to the US would find himself right at home, with many things being familiar.
However the reality is that things, although similar, are ever so slightly different.
Of course over here different states can be governed by different rules, much the same way as the different countries in the United Kingdom can be governed differently within the United Kingdom.
But everyday things here in the promised land, are often bizarre and notably surreal through foreign eyes.
The big story here in the last couple of months has surrounded San Diego's Mayor, Bob Filner, or 'Filthy Filner' as he has been seemingly correctly labelled.

Bob Filner AKA 'The Joker'

You literally couldn't have made the story up.
Here goes... two months ago a woman came forward accusing him of sexual harassment.
At least a further 17 came forward over the coming weeks.
Accusations were wide and varied citing touching, forcible kisses and lurid comments.
He reportedly told one woman: "You would do better work if you didn't wear panties".
He reportedly asked another woman: "When are you going to get naked?" Followed by: "Come on and give me a kiss".
All while he held the mayoral office in America's eighth largest city.
Oh, and did I mention that he's 70 years old?!
And one of the accusers is a great-grandmother, and another a retired Navy admiral.
In the midst of all the accusations Filner apologised to his accusers, but denied ever sexually harassing them. His fiancee left him. And she called for him to resign.

Slowly but surely everyone (mostly everyone anyway) called for him to resign. Even the bums on the street - who I still seem to accidentally get into conversations with - echoed the calls through mumbled largely incoherent speech.
So amid these calls for resignation, he organised and hosted a press conference.
The nation's press assembled expecting to hear him say he was stepping down from his high-profile position.

Mayor Filner feeling the pressure

Instead, he apologised for his actions and announced he was planning to undergo two weeks of behavioural therapy at a clinic.
While as you can imagine, that didn't go down too well with the public and officials alike, he then revealed that he expected taxpayers to pay for the counselling.
His argument for San Diego footing the bill was that the city had failed to provide him with compulsory sexual harassment training when he came to office.
This of course resulted in his inability to prevent himself from carrying out the 'Filner dance', and putting one of his female staff in a headlock before making the 'panties' comment.
He also made some egotistical power-hungry claim that the city "needs" him.
Some stories are hard to follow-up. This story, as my editor succinctly described it at the time, was (for a newspaper) the 'gift that keeps on giving'.
And in terms of story content and features, he's right.
Earlier this week, rather than simply standing outside City Hall like every other reporter in town, I hosted a small tea party outside his office, inviting him to join us for a cuppa and a clear-the-air chat.
Of course, he didn't show.

Surprise surprise... a no-show from Filner

It's been the talk of the town for what seems like forever.
All political views aside, it's just unbelievable right?
He resigned today (Friday 23rd August) and, during his resignation speech, accused the media of acting like a 'lynch mob'.
It begs the question... so why resign if you're innocent?
One lawsuit has been filed by one of the accusers. And reports are now surfacing that a criminal investigation is already under way.
People here have asked me... "Would this sort of thing happen in England?"
And it just wouldn't. I think his house would have been burned to the ground long before he entered therapy. The British press - notorious for attacking supposed wrong-doers - would have had a field day tracking his every single move and making his life a walking nightmare.
Anyhow, enough about politics.
Did you know that in most parts of California you can get a note from a specialist doctor which allows you to buy 'medicinal marijuana' legally?
Thought not.

Many a day on my way to work I've walked past a group of relaxed bums in the park staring into space through a herbal haze.
Many a day I've also hoped that the strong-smelling clouds of weed smoke haven't immersed themselves in my work clothes thus leading my boss to question my 'extra-curricular' activities.
If the fact it's legal here in much of California (yes California... not Amsterdam) with a doctor's note isn't bizarre enough, ponder this nugget of information... you can actually call a pot shop and have someone deliver cookies, hash, weed or other variations of the drug to your front door - just like a pizza delivery service.
It has got to be a stoner's dream.
Ding dong (goes the doorbell)... I have an eighth of golden slumber cross hybrid variant for you sir.
An hour later... Ding dong (goes the doorbell again)... Good evening... I have six large pepperoni pizzas with extra cheese, seventeen tubs of chocolate fudge ice cream, and fourteen chocolate brownies.
Oh, meal for one sir?
I'm surprised Cypress Hill, Ziggy Marley and Snoop Dogg (sorry... Lion) haven't moved to town.
California goes 'green'

Having a quick scan online there are literally dozens of shops (actually officially referred to as 'medical marijuana dispensaries') across San Diego county. (My favourite name for a pot-shop-related website has to be 'toke of the town').

A San Diego 'weed map'

Most websites boast actual menus which you can order from, again... much like a takeaway restaurant.
Have crime rates fallen in San Diego because of the relaxation of the law? Who knows.
Apparently the law to allow medical marijuana use in San Diego was passed 17 years ago.
But in a city that's trying its best to help the environment... it seems to be getting a head start in other 'green' ways.
Can't say I've ever been a fan, preferring a pint or two of Guinness over a herbal remedy, but hey... each to their own.
Living in a city of about 3.1 million people (roughly five times the size of my home city of Plymouth in the UK), things are always going to be a bit different.
Crime in a bigger city will always be, well… a bigger deal - especially with the crazy gun laws here in the US.
The mere mention of a ‘gun’ at a crime scene would have resulted in front page news for my old newspaper, The Herald, for a week.
Here, a weapon sighting wouldn’t even feature in the city’s newspaper.
Example… a couple of months ago my cameraman and I were tasked with reporting from the scene of a police chase.
The brief we were given mentioned that a ‘known felon’ had been identified and chased across San Diego by police officers during the night.
The high-speed chase ended when the felon crashed his 4x4 into a wall across the road from a quiet residential area opposite a shopping centre.
When we arrived at the scene a San Diego Police Department (SDPD) spokesman revealed that the felon emerged from the car and began shooting at police officers with a shotgun, peppering the marked police car with shot pellets.
Shortly after, he was shot and killed by officers at the scene.
The true extent of the danger emerged when officers searched his car and found eight ‘pipe bombs’.
Naturally bomb disposal experts were called and the man’s body remained in full public view until after sunrise the next morning.
At that moment I realized once again I was a loooooong way from home.
Here in the US the voices are louder, the burgers are bigger, and the crimes are, well… they’re just crazy.
Further evidence of that? Here’s an edited version of a few story snippets from the last week in San Diego:
a). SDPD says a man shot three times in back showed up at a hospital tonight;
b). Shooting at about 5.40pm at a two-storey motel; a man barged into a room and pistol-whipped another man, gun went off, striking victim in the hand;
c). Woman’s body found behind dumpster at Vista strip mall;
d). Arrest in San Diego in relation to 2005 killing of girl in Tijuana who was thrown from a vehicle with hands and feet bound.
And San Diego is widely regarded as one of the safest cities in the US!
It is indeed a mad, mad, mad, mad world... and here, in the US, it's up there with the craziest.
But you know what? There's never a dull moment in this city.
And, as a journalist, you have got to love it!!!
Who knows what tomorrow will bring...


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