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April, 2015:

I Wish I had a more Walkable City

 

One of the things I love doing during The Undeniable Tour was taking walks. I often spent my first evening in a new city getting my bearings by walking around the neighborhood. In many cities (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle) I could easily find a grocery store, drug store, coffee shops, things to do, and plenty of people watching within a mile of my hostel. I loved it. I barely drove when I was in the cities because it was more convenient and more fun to walk. My friend to relocated to Seattle from Gilbert, AZ said they gave up their car because they could walk to most of the places they needed to go. For everything else, there’s public transportation, taxis, Uber, and rental cars.

Phoenix Arizona Downtown Night Aerial Photo from Helicopter by Jerry Ferguson from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Phoenix Arizona Downtown Night Aerial Photo from Helicopter by Jerry Ferguson from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I didn’t have any plans last Friday night and I decided I wanted to get out and take a walk around 7 p.m. And then I thought about what’s in my neighborhood within walking distance and there really isn’t much, so I loaded up Rosie the basset hound and we drove a few miles to Tempe to walk along Mill Ave. She loved all the new smells and letting everyone love on her. (My apologies to the staff at The Handlebar. I let her walk into the bar when a group of patrons near the door was excited to see her.) I enjoyed getting out to relax in the warm night air.

It’s ironic that Phoenix, a desert city, is so spread out. You would think that the hot weather would inspire builders and people to want to stay close to work and day-to-day conveniences. With a walkability score of 38 (out of 100), that is definitely not the case. (Phoenix’s bikeability score is 52.) The walk scores for my home and work zip codes aren’t that much better, at 49 and 54 respectively. I looked up Tempe since I lived near the Phoenix/Tempe border and they fared better with a walk score of 50 and a bike score of 75.

I think there is hope for Phoenix. It appears that more people are moving closer to the city and there seems to be a higher demand for conveniences within walking distance and effective public transportation. I’m lucky than I’m not as dependent on my car as others since I lived right next to a bus stop and I’m close to two light rail stations, one of which that has a park and ride. I’m starting to consider what I would have to do to be able to bike to work, especially on the days when I don’t see clients and I’m just working in my office. I friends gave me some recommendations about the best way to transport my laptop with me.

One of the things that’s missing from many neighborhoods is having grocery stores, drug stores, and similar conveniences close to home. Even downtown Phoenix and many places along the light rail lack these essential businesses. Our transit system is doing a great job at getting us to major venues and town, but they’re not necessarily getting us to where we need to go on an everyday basis.

For now, I will have to drive most of the times that I need to go somewhere but I hope that will shift and Phoenix will become a place where transit lines and bike-friendly routes will become the most desirable locations for day-to-day conveniences.

Carry that Weight: Accused Rapist calls it Harassment. I Suspect it’s Natural Consequences.

Did you see the story last week that Paul Nungesser is suing Columbia University? He’s the student who is accused of sexually assaulting Emma Sulkowicz (and other students), which inspired Emma to create the performance art piece called “Carry that Weight” after he was cleared of responsibility in regards to her alleged rape by the school.

Visual arts major Emma created this piece for her senior thesis where she committed to carrying a mattress everywhere she went as long as she attends the same school as her accused attacker. Paul is suing the school, claiming that “Carry that Weight” is a harassment campaign against him and as a result, its damage to his reputation and job prospects. He also claims that he has been on the receiving end of pervasive threatening behavior by other students who call him a “serial rapist” when he attends school events.

(I must use terms like “accused” and “alleged” because this is a situation where the suspect has not been found guilty of any wrongdoing in a court of law. Please don’t interpret this to mean that I don’t believe Emma or any others who speak out about being sexually assaulted.)

Protester with Placard by WeNews from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Protester with Placard by WeNews from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

This development in this situation leaves me frustrated and emotionally torn. On the one hand, I am a strong advocate of the idea that people are “innocent until proven guilty.” I believe in this ideology because I don’t want to see that justice system manipulated or people being punished based on one person’s word. I believe when a person is accused of a crime, they deserve in their day in court and that it’s the prosecution’s job to build the case against them.

On the other hand, my limited experience with the criminal justice system has taught me that sexual assault cases are very hard to prove. As a lawyer I find myself regularly quoting Tom Cruise’s brilliant line from A Few Good Men: “It doesn’t matter what I believe. It only matters what I can prove.” Sometimes justice can’t be done because the evidence isn’t there to paint a clear enough picture of what happened. That doesn’t mean that the victim isn’t telling the truth. Studies show that very few people lie about being sexually assaulted.

If Paul attacked Emma or any other student (and I believe he did), part of me endorses the idea that he and others like him that get away with sexual assault deserve the natural consequences of their actions. They deserve to have tarnished reputations and to be called out for the wrongdoings that they committed. It’s too easy for a rapist to go unpunished because there isn’t enough physical evidence and/or the statute of limitations has run out. And then they can turn around and victimize the person again by claiming they are being defamed when the victim has the strength encourage to call out their attacker for what they did.

Given that Paul is suing Columbia University and not Emma directly, I think he’s just trying to get money out of the situation. I would not be surprised if he filed this lawsuit in the hopes that the school will pay him a comfortable settlement in exchange for dropping the case.

Person + Passion + Social Media = Change

I saw two films over the weekend: The Hunting Ground and #chicagoGirl. Both of these documentaries featured young activists who are fighting against horrible problems – sexual assault on college campuses and abuses of power in Syria respectively. The something that I find it so captivating about both of these films is none of these activists waited to be asked to help. They just started doing what they thought was right, at many times putting themselves in danger, and doing what they have to do to try to make a difference.

I love seeing this type of passion in people – working on a cause every free moment, even at the expense of schoolwork, a social life, or sleep. This is when you know you’re working on something that matters, when you sit down to work on a project for an hour and the next thing you know six hours have passed. I love when I’m in this zone.

Fire Sparks by Kirrus from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Fire Sparks by Kirrus from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

The other thing I love about these films is seeing how social media allows people all over the world to connect and work on a cause. In #chicagoGirl, we see how 19 year-old Ala Basatneh is a major player in the Syrian Revolution by coordinating activities from a Chicago suburb and posting videos that end up on news stations like CNN. In The Hunting Ground, Annie Clark and Andrea Pino use platforms like Skype to connect with other survivors of campus sexual assault and teach them how to file a Title IX complaint against their school if they don’t handle their case correctly.

It is so incredible to see what every day people are able to do with social media. It’s a platform that anyone can use to raise awareness, connect with others, and promote change without having to ask permission from the government or any other type of authority. I absolutely love it.

The problems related to campus sexual assault in the Syrian Revolution are ongoing. If either of these issues are important to you, please get involved however you can. And if there is another cause that you have passion about, don’t wait for an invitation to get involved. Join and online community related to your issue, and if there isn’t one, start it.

The Hunting Ground Sheds Light on the Realities of Campus Sexual Assault

I saw the documentary The Hunting Ground tonight, which sheds light on it the problem of sexual assault on college campuses. Many schools appear to under-report the problem and deal with it in effectively, many times discouraging victims from going to the police.

This situation is so frustrating because it appears that schools are focused on maintaining their reputations which increases the likelihood of getting and maintaining donors, in particular in regards to athletics and fraternities. The statistics regarding campus sexual assault are shocking and astounding, especially given that studies have shown that less than 10% of reports are false. In many cases, it appeared the school was more focused on silencing the victim then dealing with the problem.

They even featured an interview with a person who had been convicted of campus sexual assault and he described perpetrator’s pattern of behavior. It appears that the majority of people on a college campus do not commit sexual assault; however, those who do, attack multiple people.

Everyone Knows Someone Who Has Been Sexually Assaulted (From the One in Three Exhibit by Stacey Champion)

Everyone Knows Someone Who Has Been Sexually Assaulted (From the One in Three Exhibit by Stacey Champion)

One of the most devastating statistics presented was if this situation doesn’t change, over 100,000 college students in the U.S. will be sexually assaulted next year.

Now, I have to temper all of this information with the fact that the accused attackers are innocent until proven guilty and sexual assault cases are difficult to prove, especially when there is weak physical evidence. I can accept this as long as law enforcement does a thorough job with their investigations. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

After the film, I walked up and down Mill Avenue for a while. For those of you who were not familiar with Arizona State University, Mill Avenue is at the border of the Tempe campus where there are many bars. I found myself wondering, “How many ASU students will be sexually assaulted tonight?”

Based on what I saw many young women wearing, crop tops appear to be back in style. Of course, no person deserves to be raped regardless of what they were wearing (or drinking). But I wondered how many attackers will take advantage of this fashion statement to grab or fondle someone without consent.

Systematic problems like this make me so frustrated because it feels like the deck is stacked against victims and their allies. I don’t know what it will take to make universities step up and admit that this might be a nationwide problem and covering it up or pressuring victims to remain silent is not going to fix it. There has to be a way to make it more painful to try to dismiss this problem rather than deal with campus sexual assault effectively.

I applaud what Annie Clark and Andrea Pino are doing to encourage victims to file Title IX complaints against their school if they do not properly respond to reports of sexual assault. Until those complaints are reviewed, the lawyer in me may also suggest survivors to consider getting a restraining order against their attacker and suing them for civil damages in addition to filing criminal charges against them.

Dedicated to Making Rosie’s Life Awesome

Pirate Puppy - March 2015

Pirate Puppy – March 2015

Rosie and I had a follow up appointment with her doggie ophthalmologist a few days ago. It was mostly good news. On the upside, the pressure in Rosie’s remaining eye is well within normal range. Rosie will still be on 3 medications but we were able to reduce the frequency of some of her doses. I was encouraging; Rosie is such a trooper when it comes to taking her medications.

On the down side, our doctor reiterated that it will only be a matter of time until Rosie gets glaucoma in her left eye and she will go completely blind. I also learned that the medication that keeps the pressure in her eye down also gives her tunnel vision. The vet tech said the way Rosie views the world is like looking through a straw.

I didn’t realize Rosie’s vision was so limited, but that makes certain things make more sense. When my friend came over a few weeks ago, Rosie took longer than I expected to react to his presence. It wasn’t just that she had to see him with her good eye, she also had to get him within her limited field of vision.

Knowing that Rosie has limited vision and that she will eventually go blind makes me want to dedicate more energy towards making her life awesome. Staying within familiar places and making sure people and things are in front of her good eye probably gives her security but I also want to make sure she can experience all she can while she can. I hope I get the chance in the near-ish future to take her on a trip to the west coast so she can go to a dog beach.

I suspect if I knew I was going blind, that I would make it a priority to see and do certain things. I don’t know if Rosie knows she is going blind and she can’t tell me what’s on her “visual bucket list,” so the only things I can do is love her, be mindful of her limitations, and do my best to guess at what a basset hound would enjoy.

Traveling Reveals What’s Important

So great to see Tyler and Katie in Portland

So great to see Tyler and Katie in Portland

I spent the last 2 weeks on the road with The Undeniable Tour. I flew to San Diego and drove to Seattle, doing a speaking engagements and mostly staying in hostels along the way. I lived out of a small suitcase in the backpack, and I could have brought less if I didn’t have to dress like a professional or be prepared for such a wide variety of weather.

Hanging out with Clinton in Hollywood

Hanging out with Clinton in Hollywood

When I step back and reflect on my adventurers from a personal perspective, I see that traveling with such few possessions and traveling by myself reveals some of my core values. I hand selected my speaking engagements, lodging, who I interacted with, and how I spent my free time. It’s been a long time since the last time my days felt like they were my own and not dictated by deadlines and to-do lists. I often drove without music or the news playing in the car so I had lots of time to be alone with my thoughts.

Even though I am a gregarious performer, I’m a very simple person when it comes to my tastes and what’s important to me. I like super soft fabrics, memory foam mattresses, hot coffee, and excessively hot showers. I like to be near the ocean even though I hate getting sand in my shoes. When I had down time during the tour, I often went for a walk, read my book, or slept. I wish my city was more walkable.

Reunited with Sarah in Seattle

Reunited with Sarah in Seattle

I enjoyed chatting with my fellow travelers in the hostels, but I wouldn’t say that I socialized with them. I was in each city for only a couple of days at most so I was picky about who I spent quality time with. I’m really glad that this trip allowed me to see so many of my friends, some of who I hadn’t seen in close to a decade. There have been several times I’ve contemplated putting a map of the U.S. on my wall and marking where all of my friends live with push pins to help me remember who to look up when I’m on the road.

Living out of the suitcase reminded me how little I need to be happy and comfortable. It made me want to continue my diligence in regards to living a minimalist lifestyle. Since returning to Phoenix, I’ve added a few things to my donate-to-charity pile.

This trip definitely showed me that it’s important to periodically take a break from my everyday routine and surroundings to reflect on who I am, where I’m going, and what’s important to me. As much as I enjoyed sharing information and ideas with my audiences about how lawyers and law students can use social media and the blogging in their professional careers, the weakest gained from this trip for me personally was it gave me some time and space to think about my priorities.

Hostel vs Budget Hotel – Give Me a Hostel Any Day

I’ve been staying in hostels for most of The Undeniable Tour, mainly for economic reasons. There was one area that didn’t have a hostel so I opted to stay in a budget-friendly hotel. After comparing the two, I’d rather stay in a hostel any day.

My bunk at the hostel in Hollywood

My bunk at the hostel in Hollywood

Feels Safer
I feel safer staying in a hostel dorm room than I do staying in a hotel. For one, there are other people around. Every night in a hostel this trip, I’ve had between 2 and 23 roommates. There’s no funny business going on with an audience. The door to the dorm room has a lock and everyone has a locker in the room where they can lock up their luggage, but I’ve seen people leave their laptops on their beds without worry.

Each hostel has a staff, and most have someone working the desk 24 hours a day. They’re the gatekeepers who keep non-guests out. Many have front doors that are locked at night, unlike hotels that are usually open all the time.

Because I feel safer in a hostel than a hotel, I tend to sleep better. Usually it doesn’t bother me if someone snores or turns on the light once I fall asleep.

Communal Kitchen
Hostels come with kitchen that is stocked with all the typical kitchen tools so you can bring food and cook for yourself. Many hostels have a “Free Food” section of food that’s been left from previous guests too. Everyone seems to be respectful of others’ food – you label your food when you put it in the fridge or cupboard. If anything, people seem to be offering to share what they have.

Community Resources
Hostels are made for adventurous travelers. More than hotels, hostels are teeming with maps, lists of nearby restaurants, shops, and attractions, and many hostels organize outings for their guests.

Better Value
When I travel, I typically need a room to sleep and Wi-Fi to check my email. Sometimes extra bells and whistles are nice, but they’re not necessary. And it’s ironic that the more expensive hotels charge for Wi-Fi whereas many hostel stays come with free Wi-Fi and breakfast. I’d rather pay $22-50/night to stay in a bunk bed in a hostel than $50+ to stay at a budget-friendly hotel.

If you are interested in connecting with me while I am traveling please follow me on Twitter. If you have any questions or comments about The Undeniable Tour, please shoot me an email.

Ruminations on the Road

Relaxing for a moment at the Trees of Mystery

Relaxing for a moment at the Trees of Mystery

I’ve been ruminating about my sexual abuse and the person I used to be for the last few days. I’ve had memories of my past and parts of others’ stories of abuse (real and fictionalized) entering my mind at random times. They’re nothing compared to full-blown flash backs which leave my completely paralyzed until the memory has run its course but they are thoughts and ideas that invade my brain and random and often inopportune times.

It came on fast and strong while I was walking through San Francisco. Ruminations are not new for me but they are something I haven’t had an issue with for a few months. Memories and ideas by themselves are not harmful but they can be distracting, and at times distressing. I told myself, “Ok sweetie, calm down. It’s ok that you’re having these thoughts but you’re scheduled to speak in an hour. Perhaps you should focus on that.”

I got through my talk just fine, but that random invasive thoughts continued to enter my brain whenever I had down time. As I was driving north towards Oregon, I tried to step back and look for themes running through the memories. I noticed my thoughts had underlying issues of anxiety, rejection, vulnerability, being attacked, and craving comfort. I grew up in northern California and I wondered if being near the places and people that are connected to the time of my abuse and the maladaptive behaviors I engaged in to cope with it was stirring me up emotionally.

I wonder if the thoughts will subside the further away I get from California. Perhaps I’m getting emotionally agitated because The Undeniable Tour is almost done and I have so much crammed into the back half of this trip. I guess time will tell.

Minimalist Travel Update – Doing Laundry on the Road

Golden Gate Bridge!

Golden Gate Bridge!

A few days ago I wrote about what I’m doing to separate my dirty clothes from my clean clothes during The Undeniable Tour. I roll my clothes to save space in my bag. At the end of each day, I flip my shirt inside-out and roll it up with my socks and underwear I wore that day and put the bundle back in my bag.

I did my laundry on Day 8 of the tour while I was in San Francisco. I had worn each article of clothing I brought with me except for my bathing suit and my yoga pants. I took those out of my bag along with my blazer and sweatshirt and took my suitcase down to the laundry room.

Rolling my laundry worked out great! As I tossed each bundle into the washing machine, I held on to the edge so it unrolled as it went in. I loaded the machine in about a minute and I had no issues with laundry sticking together.

I will definitely keep doing this for the rest of my trip. Rolling my dirty clothes keeps my luggage tidy so I can easily and quickly get ready in the morning, which is a huge asset when you’re living in a hostel and have to get dressed in the dark if you’re awake before your roommates.