The Truth Board

A Blog by the Editors of
The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Victims of the Same Violence

Last year I joined an all female service organization on my college campus called Belles. Throughout October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we held silent protests on campus. During these protests we stood along busy sidewalks holding posters with domestic violence statistics. We received various reactions from students, both good and bad. One thing that we could agree on during our reflection was that male students either seemed particularly uncomfortable or disconnected to our protests. Uncomfortable because they may have thought this was an attack on men and disconnected because domestic violence is a women’s issue. Or so I thought.

During a reflection one meeting we watched a Ted Talk with Jackson Katz, an anti-sexist male activist and speaker. I quickly learned that the commonly accepted idea of domestic violence being a women’s issue contributes to the problem itself. Katz argues that by referring to domestic violence as a women’s issue it gives men an excuse to “tune out” because the matter does not apply to them. 

Another problem with calling this a women’s issue is that people are asking the wrong questions.  A lot of time people victim blame women when they first hear of an assault. They ask, “Well, what was she doing in that situation?” and “What was she wearing?” I have been guilty of this too. The truth is, knowing whether she was wearing short shorts or tight pants is not going to stop her abuser from attacking again. Also, I can assure you that nothing she was wearing justified what happened.

These questions do not get to the root of the problem. What we really need to be asking is: Why did this man do what he did? Why do so many adult men abuse young children? These questions are not meant to attack the perpetrator because in all fairness, it is more than likely the that the perpetrator was a victim of domestic violence too. In fact, the perpetrator is nothing but a minute spec in the whole picture because he or she is simply a product of his or her surroundings. 

“What about all the boys who  are profoundly affected in a negative way by what some adult man is doing against their mother, themselves, their sisters? What about all the young men and boys who have been traumatized by adult men violence?” Katz states, “ The same system that  produces  men who abuse women produce men who abuse other men. Most male victims of violence are the victims of other mens violence. So that is something both women and men have in common. We are both victims of men’s violence.”

This concept of perpetrators being victims themselves never crossed my mind. I knew that children who grew up witnessing domestic violence were more likely to abuse others in their adulthood, but I never considered them to be victims. It is unrealistic to think that we can decrease domestic violence by punishing all abusers; therefore, it is important to understand where the abuse derives from. 

According to Katz, we need to change the practices and socializations of men into something that will not lead to abusive outcomes. Sports culture, pornography, and various institutions play a huge role in the construct of men in our society. 

Katz then introduces the bystander approach. A bystander is not a victim or perpetuator, but a friend, a colleague, a teammate, or coach. When bystanders hear sexist, degrading, or racist commentary, Katz believes it is their responsibility to intervene because if one does not intervene they are accepting the statement as it is. 

This concept seems easy enough, but it is definitely easier said than done, especially in the male culture. It is difficult for a male to intervene without being considered sensitive. Katz gives the example of a group of men playing poker and one man making a sexist joke. I could imagine it being difficult to stand up and say something like “Hey man, that is not funny, that is sexist. Think about your mom and sister.” It will create an awkward moment for everyone on the table and instead of being commended for a morally right comment, the guy who spoke up will probably be called a pussy. 

I could imagine this scene happening in several other settings as well; however, this awkward moment of tension is worth it. I agree with Katz who states that the bystander approach will “create a pure culture climate where the abusive behavior will be seen as unacceptable.” He wants our cultural climate to get to the point where anyone who acts in sexists ways, will lose status. 

I cannot wait for the day that the obnoxious guy that yells “faggot” or “slut” across a party or locker room will be looked down on more than the guy who is “sensitive” enough to call him out. 

Watch the complete Ted Talk here:

For more information on domestic violence visit:

Alexandria Rousset 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Perfect Little Escape


“You go home, you don’t live in the city,” a young man wearing grey sweats, faded tan moccasins, and a black hoodie topped with a black leather jacket yelled across the coffee shop. The man across the coffee shop rolls his eyes, “I’m four miles away.” The punk rock man turned hipster responds, “Still not in the city,” and the men laugh at their inside joke, while I awkwardly sink into the comfy brown couch thinking Crap, I am not from here either. This feeling quickly fades as the friendly barista taps my right shoulder to hand me my white mocha. Oops.  I must have missed my name while eavesdropping on these two loudmouths.

I am sitting in Sierra Madre’s busiest hotspot: Bean Town. Where is Sierra Madre you may ask? The cozy city with a population of 11,000 lies in the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains. If that means nothing to you, Sierra Madre hugs Pasadena, the home of the Rose Parade. You may have come across this 2.9 square miles of land when embarking on that 14 mile stair master people call a hike, Mt. Wilson, or maybe you caught a glimpse of downtown in the background of the movies “The Wedding Singer,” “The Princess Diaries,” or “Kicking and Screaming.” If you are a plant lover, you will know that Sierra Madre is home to the world’s largest Wistaria vine, which is why Sierra Madre holds the Wistaria Festival every year. Other than that, you may not have heard of Sierra Madre, but you might soon if the rumors are true. I heard from a personal trainer at Sierra Madre fitness who heard from his boss, who heard from a local, who heard from a realtor at Podley Properties that Katy Perry and John Mayer are looking for a home together in town. Yes, it is that kind of town, the kind of town where secrets are a lot more like PSAs than small talk. 

Bean Town is filled with modest, mismatched furniture, rustic wooden tables that look like they once had paint on them, and brick walls colored with vintage signs and local artists’ artwork. The turquoise faded bookshelf houses several board games with missing pieces and coffee-stained paperback books. Despite the high wooden rafter ceiling and brown concrete floor, you are filled with warmth from the coffee aroma and friendliness when you walk through the door. The older folk are full of stories and ready to burst, while the young adults here all appear to be artists of some sort, or hipsters. No, not the hipsters who tie a flannel around their waist, rock brand new Doc Martens, and claim to have known all the Coachella artists before they went mainstream. These Bean Towners are the kind of hipsters who are not originally from Southern California. They are from San Francisco, Portland, or maybe Seattle. Their clothes don’t match, their hair is greasy and they discuss progressive politics, foreign films, or Allen Ginsberg in a witty, sarcastic tone. 

I have been coming to this coffee shop for over ten years now. Whether my siblings and I were racing in for the famous Fosselman’s ice cream or I was meeting up with friends to “study,” I have always loved the atmosphere of Bean Town. It wasn’t until after I moved to college that I realized what a strong sense of community there was amongst customers, locals, and regulars.  Steve Hardy, 55, has been a regular of Bean Town for over a decade. The 6-foot-2 artist with sand-colored hair spends every night from seven to close at his second home. “Bean Town has a mixture of every kind of personality in the world. This is the crossroads of the world. I’ve heard all kinds of languages: Spanish, French, German, Russian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese,” Hardy explains excitedly. “The interesting thing is it is not just different peoples’ backgrounds, it is different experiences.” Not everyone that comes here is from Sierra Madre; in fact, most of the customers are from different parts of Los Angeles. 

Hardy attributes the environment to the fact that Bean Town "allows more stuff to happen here and it is not a big deal." If Hardy feels like dancing, Hardy dances. If Hardy raises his voice and acts out, management will not call the police. "I say this proudly, I am weird, quirky, I am who I am, but it is easier to be an unusual person and fit in here." I think what makes Bean Town so special to the out-of-town customers is it is an unpretentious coffee shop near LA that is a perfect little escape. 

-Alexandria Rousset

For more information on Sierra Madre visit:

For more information on Steve Hardy visit:

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Be a Woman. A Woman of Distinction

“A woman of distinction is a woman that is empowered and doesn’t take no for an answer.”
“A woman of distinction is a woman that represents success. Despite her background, she can bring herself up to a higher standard.”
“She knows how to take care of herself and knows how to be independent.”

This past weekend, I heard various definitions for being a Woman of Distinction. What makes a woman distinct? What makes her powerful? What makes her feel powerful? These were the questions that were running through my mind as I watched one girl after another enter and leave the classroom I was in as I oversaw their interviews for my sorority. I have learned what it means to be a strong woman; an empowered woman that knows what it means to stand up for herself in a patriarchal society. To me, she is the woman that will speak for what she believes is right even if it makes her seem as though she is about to be run over by the bull. She will look you straight in the eye with no fear.

Yet, if this woman is standing up for herself and for others why is criticized? Why is she being called a hairy feminist for merely taking pride in her gender and using it as a source of empowerment as opposed to seeing it as a reason for oppression? If a man stands up for himself, takes a stand while looking at you in the eyes without fear he is admired. He is seen as manly and ambitous. Yes, a woman is admired but not without backlash. A recent comic that has circulated throughout Facebook, portrays several different types of girls, all being reprimanded for the way they are dressed or what they stand for. Society really never is satisfied with the way a woman tries to represent herself. 

This is especially true for women in the workforce. Last semester, in my Business Ethics class, my Professor stated his theory for why we see a lack of not just women but different ethnic groups holding high-level positions. “The board is always searching for those that are most similar to them; for the ones with the same ideals. Who are these? White men with a higher education.” It is no secret that women have surpassed men in achieving a college education, but when she tries to climb the business ladder (in any career, not just the business world), she is told that she is neglecting her female duties to her husband/boyfriend, her family, and her home. We are constantly being fed this notion that no matter what a woman may want out of life, her primary role will always be in the house. Even children in this day and age still believe in the traditional gender roles.

But what society fails to realize is that these are not her only duties. A woman has a duty to herself. She has a duty to her gender and anything else that constitutes as her identity. She doesn’t try twice as hard as her male counterpart because she wants to, but because she knows she has to. No, I am not saying that men don’t earn their positions, they do. They work hard to obtain their education and their careers. But wouldn’t you work harder if you have been molded to believe that you have to be married by a certain age? That once you decide to settle down you have to let go of everything you have worked for to take care of your children. I know plenty of women that, while proud of their children, regret giving up the jobs they loved dearly. It was their choice, but they admit to having been influenced by their husbands and own traditional families. If they could go back and find a way to be Supermom, they would.

Women of Distinction. They’re a growing force. They are forces to be reckoned with.

Should you fear them? Yes.

Admire them? Absolutely.  

Be one? Don’t even question it. 

~Genesis Montalvo

How I Watched The Superbowl

There was a Superbowl? Well, some may argue that the Superbowl in fact happened but as I watched the “game” two Sundays ago,
I noticed it was consumed with Seattle killing it and Denver egregiously letting the Seahawks win. I was really rooting for the Broncs, especially after seeing Richard Sherman’s raging rant but apparently it wasn’t their day to shine, with the Seahawks stealing the game, leaving a final score of 43-8.
So, in order to not be utterly bored at the Superbowl party I attended I tried to look for something to do. I didn’t want to hang out by the chips and salsa bar, which I’ve noticed is a common mode of distraction at parties, people just pounding down senseless calories. I also didn’t care for Bruno Mars so I wasn’t present during the halftime show. By that point I had found my distraction. Playing with an owl. This may sound weird, even impossible but it definitely made the game go a lot quicker and I met a new unique friend.
                  Now an owl doesn’t quite constitute a normal pet. And in fact, he wasn’t brought into the household as a pet, rather a hurt owlet, who fell from a tree and was rehabbed by the family hosting the party I was at. Taking care of birds was in fact no extraordinary task for them, since they own hawks and practice Falconry, which, according to Wikipedia, is the “hunting of wild quarry in its natural state and habitat by means of a trained bird of prey.” Since taking care of birds was an area the family has much knowledge about, they have welcomed “Spooky” into their family, and he is now approximately 9 months old. Of course I myself, know NOTHING about birds, except for the Family Guy tune “Bird is the Word.” But somehow I knew I wanted to hold this owl, and was fascinated by his regal markings, defined feathers, and stark golden eyes. I asked to hold him and was given a falconer’s glove, which is a leather glove meant to protect the hand and the forearm from a bird’s sharp talons. Spooky was tied to a perch and wore a bell around his foot. He had a leash attached to him so he could not fly away. Thinking that his bell was a cute little jingle bell, similar to what you’d find on a cat collar, I asked why it was attached to Spooky’s foot. Apparently the bell is used so that when you fly the birds, you can hear them from a far distance. I held my arm up to his feet and he climbed onto my glove. We had to detach him from his leash and attach him to a leash built into my glove, which I put snug under my thumb to hold him in place. And then we were done. Amazingly I was actually holding an owl. I held him for the remainder of the game, about two hours, and sat with him on the couch, walked him around the pool, even took him in the kitchen. I was amazed at his docile nature and was told that if he hadn’t been around humans so young that he would probably be very wild and hard to handle. I was shocked to learn that his diet consists of quail and mice. It was definitely intriguing to learn about a bird that most of us don’t ever encounter up close. At the end of the game, when the party was over, and everyone filing out I realized I had to give Spooky back to his owners. I was told that eventually they want to let him assimilate back into the wild, because he will probably be happier that way. But I told them if they ever needed an owl babysitter to let me know. I have already visited him once since and will forever be fascinated by horned owls.

Posted by: Eliana Sheriff

Monday, February 10, 2014

Contradictory Life

I would be dead if I didn’t write,
But I hate writing essays.
I want to be the best,
But I like being lazy.
I try hard to be a good person
But my thoughts are worse than what I say.
Tainted, jaded no longer a baby
Yet polite and tactful, a full-grown lady.
“Figure it out!”
But you better not fuck up.
“Get out and vote!”
“You have to wear white”
But I want to wear black.
“Listen to the government”
“Here, take this medicine”
Aware yet faded,
no longer dependent
there’s a lot in the world
that needs to be mended.
The rules of society.
Scam after scam
Lie after lie--
Thieves at the top,
Honest at the bottom.
Tainted, jaded no longer a baby
Yet polite and tactful, a full-grown lady.

By: Mary Carreon

GoDaddy Ads?

Superbowl commercials are great. For the first time in the season instead of flipping the channels to pass the time between media timeouts or challenged plays, ad agencies showcase their utmost creative work. The spots can range from a quick fifteen-second ad to Chrysler’s memorable 2011 Super Bowl ad featuring Eminem that ran for over two minutes., an online domain registration website, has certainly captured the attention of the viewers in the most recent years. In the past, the advertisements have featured sexy female cops performing strip teases on top of cars, sexy female news anchors performing strip teases on top of a coffee tables…I think you’re starting to see the trend. They even satire their own creative approach. In one commercial a woman appeals in front of a congressional hearing, she was trying to argue that her commercial shouldn’t be censored —while also trying to keep her shirt from falling off as she twirled around…all in the context of a commercial.

When I was a kid, we used to talk about the Super Bowl commercials Monday morning in homeroom before the teacher arrived. I was 12 years old in 2007 during Super Bowl XLI when GoDaddy featured over a dozen women in tiny white tank tops inside a conference room being sprayed with champaign by a midget.

 My friends and I had no idea what GoDaddy actually was. We could see two things in these commercials through our virginal eyes: breasts, and a bumper at the end of the skit prompting a website. We all thought GoDaddy was a PORN site. I’m not kidding you, some boys even defended that they had gone on the website firsthand and watched porn.  When I look back at it, they probably had gone on the website and confused unaired advertisements for porn.  We didn’t know anything about coding, domain purchasing, or website building, we took it for exactly what we saw on the TV during Superbowl Commercials.

This is the problem.  GoDaddy’s commercials were so objectifying of women that the consumer couldn’t associate the brand with their actual product.  Sex is was only thing that they were selling. Prior to 2013, there was hardly any information in the TV spots that displayed their services or capabilities.  Take it through the eyes of a twelve-year-old boy, a potential customer who could use GoDaddy as a platform because he can’t code or form his own domain. The ads didn’t make sense —it wasn’t a good campaign.

Eventually GoDaddy realized that their brand was heading in the wrong direction. So in mid-2012, they hired a new agency Deutcsch New York. “We’ve matured. We’ve evolved,” CMO Barb Rechterman said in a statement. “Our new brand of Super Bowl commercials will make it crystal clear what we do and who we stand for.” Their first new era ad was the all too memorable close up of a make out between Bar Rafaeli (the sexy aspect of GoDaddy) and Jesse Heiman (the nerdy tech side of the service). The advertisement certainly kept the shock and awe hopes that they were looking for and as the CMO stated, it made it crystal clear what the business offers.

If you think that there is too much censorship in today’s media, that’s beside the point. GoDaddy was so explicit with using sex appeal in their advertisements, that the rhetoric overpowered the very product that they were trying to sell. Their most recent commercial has proved that GoDaddy has matured as a brand. The 2014 Super Bowl featured a real woman who quit her real job as an engineer on live TV, to pursue her passion of putting on children’s puppet shows. GoDaddy’s website empowered her with the platform to do this. Anyone can sell sex appeal; GoDaddy’s 2014 Superbowl campaign truly impressed me.  Not only did they fully showcase what they do as a company, they featured a real woman as an entrepreneur. Props to GoDaddy.

-Matt Connelly

Watch Gwen quit her job here

Sunday, February 9, 2014

My experience with Bitcoin

Since I learned about Bitcoin about a year ago, I have been very intrigued by the cryptocurrency. It is not accepted by many businesses and establishments yet— although this is slowly changing— but this hasn’t mattered in my eyes. I am just intrigued by a currency that is worth dramatically more than the dollar, could possibly usurp the dollar, and that isn’t controlled by any nation. (Although I consider myself to be fairly apolitical, I definitely have a libertarian streak that shows at times). Its historic volatility, while unsettling to many, is something I find attractive; after all, I am rather volatile myself.

With this being said, I own less than one-hundredth of a Bitcoin, and I have never tried mining Bitcoins— mining involves computer skills and processing power that I don’t currently possess. The little currency that I have I obtained through Bitcoin faucets, which are essentially free sites that “leak” currency— thus their being called faucets. In other words, I like the idea of Bitcoin, but I haven’t really put too much effort into trying to earn them myself.

Part of the reason that I am blogging about Bitcoin is because I am curious as to whether other people have mined— or even heard of it, for that matter. I would like to know other people’s experiences, however limited. I want to know why people have or haven’t used Bitcoin, and how they found out about it. I was going to write a comprehensive paper about this topic for another one of my other journalism courses, but at this point the scope of this topic may be limited to this blog.

Speaking of the uses of Bitcoin, I do want to clarify that I think that the currency ideally should easily be able to be used for purposes that are legal. These can still include somewhat nefarious activities— recent articles have highlighted that two Las Vegas casinos will be accepting the currency— but they are still more legitimate than the dealings of sites such as the Silk Road, where drugs and guns of all varieties filled the marketplace. (The site was recently shuttered). I can’t wait for the day when I can pay for my food, my rent, my clothes, my entertainment, with Bitcoin, if that day ever comes.

Although there are the aforementioned reasons that I like Bitcoin, one thing that I don’t like is the fact that it is not completely anonymous, despite being advertised as such— all transactions are kept publicly online. This may sound picky, but I would prefer private transactions to be private— one reason being that I don’t like the idea of the government being able to intervene. The less public that records are, the better of a chance I would eventually be accused of tax evasion by the IRS for a currency that I truly believe transcends the borders of sovereign states. And I’m just a private person in general; even though I wouldn’t plan to purchase anything illegal, I’d rather have my purchases be kept completely anonymous to others, much like they are if I purchase something using my credit card or cash.

Bitcoin has other “fatal flaws” that make people think it may not ever spread like wildfire. First of all, you can’t reverse transactions, according to an article by Wired titled “Once You Use Bitcoin You Can’t Go ‘Back’— And That’s Its Fatal Flaw.” This means that if you don’t receive an item or service, you can’t just get a refund; you lost your money. There has also been talk of an elite few who own a majority of the currency. People have been accused of hoarding Bitcoins— which would be a problem with any currency— and this will only get worse at the value increases, particularly once the cap for them being mined reaches its end. (Bitcoins are only distributed in a finite amount).

Due to the flaws with Bitcoin, and because I am honestly interested in any cryptocurrency, I do want to also briefly discuss the other options that are either available presently or are on the horizon. One currency being developed by individuals at John Hopkins University is called Zerocoin. It aims to solve the problem of there not being complete anonymity. Interestingly enough, the technology behind Zerocoin was initially intended to be used for Bitcoin, but the founders are now creating a separate currency because the Bitcoin founders do not want their currency to appear as if it is untraceable to the Feds. I also have fooled around a bit with Litecoin and Dogecoin, while I’ve also read about Coinye West— yes, that’s a currency whose name is a parody of the rapper. Many of these currencies have a potential leg up in that they have a higher market capitalization— more currency will be “minted.” They also have a lot of room for growth— who knows if Bitcoin will ever again surpass the $1,200 mark it passed this past November.

All in all, Bitcoin is probably not going to gain widespread social acceptance and recognition, at least until it is a lot more intuitive and easy-to-use. A Bitcoin can be worth a lot of money, but if people don’t “get it”, it won’t be ubiquitous. I personally think that if they are able to improve the system, or if someone else is with a different currency, it may be the way of the future. (I definitely know that I want to be able to be refunded should I be scammed or whatnot). Regardless of what happens, I know that I’ll be closely monitoring the situation.

-- Daniel Steingold



“I don’t know why you’re a girl, you should’ve been born a boy.”  Thanks, Mom.  

All my life, I’ve never really been considered a “girly-girl.”  I’ve been a sports fanatic since the day I was born.  When I was little, I was the one who wanted to go outside and help my father build something or throw the football around rather than my brother, who would prefer watching TV instead.  I could live in basketball or athletic shorts and “bro-tanks.”  I’ve never had a passion for shopping, nor do I care about the latest fashions.  I don’t cake my face with makeup and love going days without it.  And if I had the choice between spending the day shopping or sitting on the couch watching basketball, you’d better believe I’d choose basketball.  I’m basically what my father calls “the son he never had.”  

Of course, with my love of sports and adventure comes years of playful teasing and questions from society.  I would always be the one sitting in a room full of guys watching the big game, while the rest of the girls would lock themselves in another room and gossip.  This would not always sit too well with the boys, who would tell me that I should be in the kitchen instead, or at least off gossiping with the other girls.  I have also been playing basketball since I was six, and for some reason, people are always shocked to hear about “a girl who can ball.”  This was the most evident recently at a friend’s birthday party.  A group of us were hanging out in her backyard, near a basketball hoop, when one of the guys asked if anyone wanted to play a friendly game of one-on-one.  I of course, volunteered to play.  He laughed.  “Oh, no, not you, you’re a girl.  That wouldn't be fair for either of us.  I’d beat you too badly.”  After about ten minutes of arguing, he finally agreed to play one game up to eleven points and scored by 1s and 2s instead of 2s and 3s (the way most one-on-one games are supposed to be played.)  Well, you’d better believe I kicked his ass 11-1, but of course was given excuses as to how “he wasn’t actually trying.”

Although I am clearly not a “girly-girl”, I refuse to call myself a tomboy.  According to, a tomboy is “an energetic, sometimes boisterous girl whose behavior and pursuits, especially in games and sports, are considered more typical of boys than of girls.”  By reading the above paragraphs, one might assume that I’m the perfect fit.  However, I do not consider myself one.  In fact, that word does not even exist in my vocabulary.  Although I’m not too into makeup, I’ll still put some on every time I leave the house.  I love nail polish, jewelry, and girls nights out.  I take care of myself and dress nicely, and I’ll admit that once in a while, shopping can be fun.  And I watch sports (mainly basketball and football) for two reasons: because I actually love the sports and (like all of my friends who don’t care about sports) to crush on the cute players.  

Society has placed different expectations for how little boys and girls are supposed to act.  Young boys are supposed to play with toy cars and action figures while girls play with dolls and Barbies.  Well guess what?  Growing up with an older brother, I spent most of my childhood playing with Hotwheels and basketballs, but I also had a pink room.  And dollhouses.  And Barbies.  I know times are different and people are starting to understand that stereotypical gender roles have changed, but society will always make it hard for them to completely go away.  So no, I am not a “tomboy.”  I am simply a girl who did not want to abide by the role that society had placed upon her.  Not because I love sports, or because I love nail polish.  But because I love both.

-Nairi Dulgarian


Friday, February 7, 2014

London I - Based on a True Story

Of all the things my parents have taught me, the lessons I actually follow have a way of canceling each other out. For example, I always remember my “please” and “thank you”s, and can be polite to a fault. This has led me to ignore other advice they’ve given me – namely, not to hang out with strange men by myself even if they have a very friendly pit bull.

The semester before this, I studied abroad in London. It wasn’t my first time living there. When I was two, my family stayed in the city for a few months. One of our favorite places to visit was Battersea Park, so I decided to head back there to see if I could jog a few memories.

I think anyone who knows me can vouch for how much I love dogs, so when I saw two playing in a grassy area near the sidewalk, I had to stop and watch. Eventually I got to talking with the two dog owners, a sporty-looking woman and a man who was somewhat disheveled. Enough time passed that the sky grew dark and the woman decided to finish her walk before the park closed. I was still talking to the man about his dog, so he invited me over to a bench to continue the conversation. Though I wasn't sure I should, I agreed for the sake of politeness.

At that point I began to feel a little nervous. I didn’t know anything about this man except that he had a dog, was most likely homeless by all the possessions in the shopping cart, and that he had that certain bite to his scent that usually indicates weed. He didn’t pay much attention to the park staff who warned us to leave, exiting only after I convinced him that I didn’t want to get in trouble while I was studying abroad.

Still, his dog seemed pretty happy, so he couldn’t be too bad, right? (I have a habit of judging people based on how good of care they're giving their dogs. Maybe I'm a little biased.)

I ended up mentioning to him that I hadn’t had fish and chips yet while I was in England. He decided that had to be fixed ASAP, so we walked over to a small take-out restaurant and got fish and chips and mushy peas. For those who’ve never had them, they’re exactly what it says on the package. Though I was still wary, he showed a lot of compassion toward his dog. When she momentarily ran into the street, he panicked and even began to lecture her for endangering herself like that. Plus I'd seen a friend of mine escort a homeless man into an IHOP to buy him breakfast, so I figured I could do a good turn of my own.

We ended up eating the fish and chips sitting on the steps of an old church. While we were talking, he told me he’d been to the States. He got tired of living there and got himself deported back to London by throwing a chair into the window of a Nordstrom’s. That concerned me. I tried to focus my attention on getting his dog to eat some of the meat from the fish we’d bought. Then he said that they’d been closing the park down early for a pre-Guy Fawkes night fireworks show, and that we should go and see it from across the Thames. I still wasn't sure about hanging out with this man after his latest story, but he was insistent.

My politeness was wearing out. As we were walking back toward the park, we passed a store advertising cigarettes. He asked for money to buy them. I told him I wasn’t comfortable doing that, expecting him to get angry.

He didn’t – he accepted my answer and we kept walking. He even gave me his jacket when I said I was cold. It still smelled like weed, but when I told him I didn't want to take it from him on such a freezing night, he said his sweater was enough for him. I couldn't make up my mind about this guy.

We waited for almost an hour outside the Thames in November. The fireworks hadn’t started on time. Wind battered our faces, and his dog almost jumped over the railing. I told him I had school the next day, and if we didn’t see the fireworks in half an hour, I’d have to leave then.

Five minutes later, we saw lights over the trees. Then I said goodbye and thanked him for the time, and he said the same to me. And while I've never been back to the park since then, I have a feeling he's still hanging out there, taking care of his dog.

- Lindsey West


Battersea Park 
Homelessness in London
Guy Fawkes Day

I Went For A Run In The Rain

I woke up today feeling like I haven’t been active enough lately. So, naturally, I decided to sleep in another hour or so. Just to make sure I would have to hurry to class. I didn’t get to eat breakfast. It was a great start to the day. I sat through a few hours of class, sitting with horrific posture the entire time. A physical therapist would cringe. Trust me, I was raised by two of them.

My mom and dad are both physical therapists, and I grew up hearing stories about how they would bike up and down California together, and run marathons, and a bunch of other stuff that I won’t ever be in the shape to do. So, with physical therapists as parents, I always felt somehow compelled to be in shape. But I have never heard of a kid who happily followed in his or her parents footsteps.

Back to today. After I got out of class, I was excited to change this pattern of inadequacy. I even talked to a few friends about surfing Friday morning. The waves are supposed to be alright, and I don’t have class all day. So, I’m at home, and I have just changed into running clothes. Then it starts raining. Awesome. I’m not motivated enough to run in the rain. And you can’t surf after it rains. I read an article about a guy that was ambitious enough to do so, and he got some kind of strange infection. Needless to say, I am not willing to risk that.

To my surprise, it stopped raining. I guess I had to go at this point. Whatever. I went, and it was still raining a little, and felt happy with myself. Not happy with the fact that I was really out of shape. Like really bad. I was struggling to go the mediocre distance I set as a goal for myself. I won’t even list it here. It’s too embarrassing. But I was happy that I was able to motivate myself to do something physical. I used to be a runner. I used to surf a lot, and work out like all the time. I don’t know why I stopped. I guess laziness is easier. Easier by a huge margin.

So now I am sore and I am trying to get all this down in some sort of coherent manner. The world must know that I am going to become more active. I will tell my parents too. They will be happy. I could go on a rant about how our generation is lazy, and how I am lazy, and how our parents did a lot cooler things than we did, but that’s not really the point. What I learned today by forcing myself to do something that I didn’t feel like doing was that it is all about the individual. 

I know that I shouldn’t compare myself to my parents. But it helps me, so I’m going to do it. If that is what it takes for me to be healthier, then so be it.

Some inspiration: