It’s About the Outrage Game

So this is now how we do things in America…

A lunatic goes into a school and kills fourteen students and three adults. The country is horrified. And rightfully so.

A group of young articulate students from this tragedy emerge to protest the gun situation in this country and get backing from mostly undisclosed sources that have influence and power. The students are very poised, impressive. How could they not be? They’ve went through things that none of us could imagine. Now, they’ve become the face of a movement…a movement that those same sources behind them, the ones that have power and influence seem to prevent any involvement from other student advocates who have dissenting views on gun control.

The mainstream media — which are largely composed of highly educated left leaning white people from urban areas and on the west coast — eat this up. The vast majority of the news and cultural media are heavily for gun control. All of this helps the anti-gun cause.

It’s been perfectly orchestrated. As, in many ways, it should have been.

Some on the right start start going after these students in ways that hard core partisans can be. Viscous, classless. Attacking teenagers who saw other teenagers get gunned down. Teens who very likely had that youthful innocence and enthusiasm. Many others on the right cowardly defend this.

A few of the students, while being overall poised, start to go a little too far. Meaning, their stridency is causing them to lose their effectiveness as they seem arrogant. That’s because, at least one, David Hogg IS arrogant. He’s likely caught in the moment. He’s been put on a pedestal. And he’s instantly become a national spokesman. Every comment, every tweet, every THING he does is going to by examined by some on the right who want to attack him. The left (of course) doesn’t realize this because they want to trash the right and those who are strongly for gun rights. The adoring media starts to realize this but the student’s “handlers” don’t because they may well be would-be left wing autocrats. And hard left advocates watching are too caught up in their own hate to temper their own stridency.

So Hogg goes on and on and — to no surprise — right wing talking heads like Laura Ingraham start attacking him in classless ways because that’s what we do now in this country. We shy away from talking about issues an go after people personally. In fact, most of us prefer that. Why bother having civil debate?

Hogg is doing this as well. He no long talks. He makes announcements.

One of those announcements is a call for a boycott of Ingraham’s sponsors. So sponsors bolt her show. They don’t need this. They have to protect their brand. I get that. I’m in advertising and PR.

Ingraham sees this as well and tries to sanctimoniously fall back onto Holy Week to get out of the situation. Oops, I apologize because I don’t want to lose money and…in honor of Jesus. But Jesus didn’t call for us to be nice for only one week of the year.

In the meantime, Hogg, whose head in now the size of Trump’s, continues.

All this does is create more division and, ironically, more diversion from the issues that Hogg and his backers hold dear. We’re now lobbing bombs at one another about a battle between a second rate right wing pundit and a traumatized teenager who can push too hard in some directions as he struggles to handle the spotlight.

And it shows me two things:

1) I can’t stand hard right wing talking heads.

2) I’m leery of left wing would be autocrats who seek to prevent dissent from their views from becoming legitimate.

You could switch the above ideologies. They just fit this situation.

This is how we do it in this country. It’s no longer about 17 dead people. Or how we deal with mental health. Or the availability of guns. Or school safety. Or the principles behind the second amendment.

Or, most importantly in my book: why some people want to kill and what we could do to address that.

But nope. It’s not about any of that. That’s why we don’t really address issues in this country.

It’s about the outrage game.


Digitally Deleted in DC

I didn’t start Thoughts From Vinton Ave to write about my social life.  This is more of a space where I can relate personal insights.  But when those two things intersect, a blog post happens.

Perhaps it’s best that I point out two things about myself for people who don’t know me.

One is that I’m a single father.  My son is 19 and I’ve had primary physical custody for most of his life.  Yes, his mom (my ex-wife) is involved and lives nearby.  She’s a great mom, she’s close to him, and I have a solid relationship with her.  But I was the one that did the bulk of raising him…a point that I’m fairly proud of.

The second is that being a single parent means sacrifice.  I put some aspects of career on hold.  Career for me meaning working in marketing, advertising, and public relations.  At times, I had to put opportunities aside.  That’s life.  That’s sacrifice.  It was worth it.  But it came at a cost, some of it financial.  So to help supplement, I waited tables from time to time.

Anyway, when the Great Recession hit, and as companies cut back on marketing, my sources of income inverted.  Instead of being a digital marketing guy who waited tables on the side for extra income, I became a waiter who once and a while picks up marketing gigs for extra income.  Believe me, it’s not how I want to live.  Not at all.  But that’s life.  And there’s a saying in advertising (actually it’s my saying).  Just like many say 50 is the new 40, when it comes to advertising, 35 is the new 60.  In other words, it pays to be young.  Real young.  Being young is now part of my past.

Oh, while I don’t really want to wait tables…I have to say this.  I work at what arguably has been the finest restaurant in the Greater Washington Metropolitan area for the past 50 years…and is ranked by Open Table as being one of the Top 100 restaurants in America.

Now that I got all that out of the way, here’s the story…

This past Saturday night, I got home from work and popped open Facebook.  Soon there was a new friend request…from someone who will stay unnamed.  I accepted.  She was obviously perusing my profile and was leaving a couple of comments.  I checked out her profile then emailed her and thanked her for the friend request.  Soon we were having one of those light but flirtatious conversations that seemingly happens only late at night.  Or, more accurately now, early in the morning.

She was local (Alexandria) and divorced with two kids – one who had just graduated from high school.  She wasn’t  from the US originally but came here in 1989.  Her Lithuanian good looks mixed with her Venezuelan upbringing made her all the more interesting.  I think she was the one who “made the first move” by asking :

So why are you still chatting with me?  Destiny or boredom or loneliness?

Which was soon followed by:

How “single” are you (THINK before you answer. You’re dealing with an extremely smart woman here)

I answered truthfully.  Very single, but not stressed about it.  I explained my past as she did hers…she was divorced five years and had a hurtful breakup a year earlier.  She hated “serial daters”.  She mentioned that she felt that men aren’t attracted to women with kids.  She acknowledged her age may be held against her…until she found out my age.  It was a great little get-to-know-you conversation.  She finished it off with:

I’m going nite nite. It was kinda a good nice surprise chatting with you.

You know what?  It was kinda a good nice surprise chatting with her as well.  I guess I’ve been “single” for so long that I forgot that there’s this whole ‘nuther world out there.  Went to bed happy.  Woke up the happy as well.  And I thought about her the next day while I was working a damn double (meaning a twelve hour shift, both lunch and dinner) at the restaurant.  I was looking forward to (and hoping that) we’d be chatting again that very night.   To be sure, when I got home, she had playfully written:

So Mr. Trenn, I really thought I was going to hear back from you? What happened? Did I scare you? Or are you playing the stupid hard to get game?

I responded with:

No. I was playing that “I had to work all %÷&#$€× day game.  But I did manage to think of you about 37 times today. So there.

Now, it was Sunday and she was confused.  Why was I working?  Uh-oh.  Well, here goes…

I’m a waiter. The recession did that to me a few years ago. My heart is in digital advertising. Trying to get back into that…Don’t want to be a waiter. You asked why I hadn’t dated in a while. That’s part of the reason.

That went over like a lead balloon.  Not only did the topic of conversation change…her attitude changed as well.  She mentioned that while she was excited for her son as he was to soon leave for college this fall, she was also nervous.  I merely pointed out that this was likely the first time he would be away from home for an extended time and got this in response:

Well yeah, duh! He just graduated from high school. So yeah, he’s going AWAY to live in Boston to attend college. Hello??

Hmm…her attitude that once started out as being playfully snarky was now less playful and more snark.  And it continued in this manner.  Not overtly harsh.  But quite cool and distant.  And slow to respond.  I tried to say something nice…that soon her worry about her son will turn to beaming pride.  The response?  Silence.  And more silence.  After about 10 minutes, I asked if she was still there.  Nothing.  But then:

Was saying good night to my daughter.  I’m also going to bed.  Good night.

OK…just like that.  Conversation over. Confused, I went back to check out her profile.  Got the telltale “OOPS  This profile either no longer exists or you don’t have access to it”.  And looking back to our conversation, I was no longer allowed to reply to it.

I had been blocked.

WTF?  She had blocked me.  Just like that.  I had done nothing wrong.  I had been honest. I was flirtatious, but not suggestive.  I had praised her as a mother and had complimented her on her son.  No matter.  I was blocked.  Gone.  Done.  Adios.  And her attitude changed right after I told her that I was a waiter.

What makes this insulting – beyond the obvious lack of respect – is how one finds out all of this.  While she’s off to bed or perhaps chatting with someone else, you’re left to discover all of this on your very own. You try hopping onto her profile, only to find out that…hey wait a minute…what’s this?  At first, you’re befuddled.  Where did it go?  It was right here a minute ago…  It then dawns on you that you were unceremoniously digitally deleted.  No recourse.  No finding out why.  Like getting tossed out like scrap paper.  Gone.  Done.  Adios.

Perhaps I’m wrong, but the lack of respect she seemed to display right after I told her I was a waiter was also displayed in the ease of her decision to do what she did.  I have no shame in being a waiter, but I will admit that that attitude does bother me.

It confirmed two things I already knew, although one was partially forgotten.  I realize that here in status conscience DC, the fact that I’m a waiter makes me less marketable.  That’s not me whining nor does that mean that I have a lack of confidence.  It’s just the truth.

The other is that here in DC there can be a certain shallowness and self-centeredness in people when it comes to dating.  More so than most places I do think.  People not only create such high and narrow standards that they cut many great prospects out…all the while complaining how picky others are.  And they can carry on in such a shallow manner that it breeds an overall cynicism in many.  This episode reminded me of that.  I’ve been out of the loop so long, it probably stung a little.

The reality is that this, truthfully, is not a big deal.  It involved two quick conversations within 24 hours.  We never met and we’ll likely never meet.  And that’s fine.  In fact, if this is her attitude, she would have been a waste of time.  Time I could spend doing better things.  And again, I don’t apologize for being a waiter just as I didn’t feel conscientious for being a single father.

Nevertheless, I take three things with me…

First, ironically, a conversation that started out with her playfully giving me grief for not contacting her ended up with her ending it by completely eliminating me from her life…apparently because I currently wait tables for a living.  Her attitude clearly showed that.

Second, she was someone who had pointed out her own dislikes of the dating scene (“serial daters”) and her own experience of having of being “discriminated” against (having kids, age discrimination)…yet she showed no willingness to have the type of open minded tolerance that she likely hoped men would give her.  Receiving tolerance is great.  Giving tolerance is inconvenient.

Third, and very telling, is that not only did my honesty of my own situation and my acceptance of her situation not, in the end, win me any points…but the fact that I tried to be genuinely nice to her HAD ABSOLUTELY NO POSITIVE EFFECT AS TO HOW SHE ULTIMATELY VIEWED ME OR TREATED THE SITUATION.  I was likely viewed to be a loser and therefore I was gone.  Digitally deleted.  Gone.  Done.  Adios.  The quality of my character – albeit displayed in a very short time period – didn’t mean shit.

Again, that’s DC for you.  And while this whole episode reminded me that, yes, there’s another whole world out there…something that I probably needed to be reminded of, it also reminded me of one of the reasons I haven’t been actively looking to date.

My friend, homeless no more…?

Apparently, my homeless friend is in the process of getting a place to live.  The place he found is near the college he wants to start taking classes at.

The amazing thing is that it took someone (me) to simply say to him that his situation is unacceptable – for him.  For six months, he accepted being homeless for reasons I don’t understand.

Maybe sometimes people get so use to accepting a negative fate that they don’t see that that same fate is something that can be overcome.

Maybe some thing that to challenge and fail to change that fate will result in a worse condition than the unacceptable present.  I don’t know.

Either way, I’m glad I was their for him.

One person’s plight…

A couple of nights ago I got in a conversation with a guy I know. He told me that he felt that he could put his trust me. We’re not really friends…co-workers for the most part.

He’s 43, Vietnamese American, about 5’2″ tall. He’s an extremely hard worker, one of the hardest I’ve ever met. Very professional. Very conscientious.

His personality – and his appearance – is similar to that of the minions in the movie “Despicable Me”. Tiny, determined, always willing to please. He’s the type of person that others will find somewhat hilarious…in an affectionate way. At his previous job, his nickname was – to no surprise – “Turbo”. He’s the type of person that most women would describe as being “cute”…most men may subconscioulsly think that as well, although we don’t use that word.

Last night he told me he was homeless. He’s been homeless since last August.

It’s been subfreezing here for about ten days now.

His biggest dream has been to get a four year degree in biology. I’m not sure why as I don’t know if he is looking to do something in related fields. I get the sense, at the very least, that it’s actual concept of having that degree. He’s determined to get it. It aches at him because he doesn’t feel complete. And I think that the reason that it aches him so much is because he’s lost both parents (something he often mentions) and he sees a degree as a way of fulfilling his own dream…a dream made possible through the sacrifices that his parents made by emigrating here years ago.

So each night, around midnight, he pulls into a covered parking lot of a gym, pulls out his sleeping bag that he says is made for temperatures that can get to -20 F and hopefully gets some sleep. He can shower in the gym because he’s a member…the monthly fee of $49 provides him this opportunity and is a de facto paying of rent. He’s got his rice cooker in his car. He still has his dream, but he has this fear that it’s slipping away.

And I’m the only one who knows this.

Allan Arguello, RIP

This is a post I wish I didn’t have to write.  But I do.

A couple of days ago I had just parked my car and then popped open my smartphone to check email and Facebook.  I was stunned to see an update on my friend and former co-worker’s status.  It was the announcement of his death.  He had quietly passed away in his sleep at 33.

It’s not that I knew Allan extremely well.  I worked with him for four years at Cafe Deluxe in Tysons Corner.  His beefy presence behind the bar was a welcome sight.  I like and admired the guy.  He was real.  He was genuine.  He had a quiet dignity to him…a inner strength and a maturity that belied his age.  He was a class act.

One thing that stands out in my memory about him.  He had gone on vacation to his native Nicaragua where he took tons of pictures.  When he brought them into the restaurant, he wanted me to see them.  I loved that because I have a curiosity about the world and i was honored that he wanted to show me his homeland.  He was proud of his Latino roots…as he should be.

I don’ t know how old he was when he came to the States.  I do know however that he had fully integrated America into his persona.  He was a devout Redskins fan, driving around with those little flags/banners rising 3 feet from the front of his car while he was driving .   He also loved anything about the Maryland Terrapins.

One thing that I thought about him over the past couple of days.  I say t his from my own experiences and observations in my life.  While he never had the opportunity to become one, Allan would have made an excellent father.  His heart, his smile, his devotion to his family, and his work ethic tells me so.

I don’t know of a better compliment I could come up with from my own observations.

Rest in peace, Allan.  We’ll all miss you. is “in” for 2014…and thanks Leigh Anne!!

I’m digging this sudden upsurge of traffic I’m getting on my page.  I have no idea how or why it’s happening but apparently it is. is a pretty cool idea.  It allows people to create one page personal profile sites that (at least should) feature a large photograph along with a bio and links to the person’s social media presences on various social networks.

Some of the people who’ve taken the plunge are quite impressive.  Successful creative types from all over the world.  Europe, Africa, Pakistan, Australia, India and the Americas. I’ll soon point out several of them, but I’ll start out by concentrating on my new connection there…Leigh Anne Estrada, an enthusiastic marketing consultant from St. Simon’s Island, GA.  She’s got her own consultancy, Creative Marketing Ideas, where she helps a slew of local and regional clients with their marketing efforts.

She’s obviously read this blog as she’s suggested that I start using kettlebells  in my workout.  Yes, good idea.  I’m upping the ante on the work on my abs and I’m planning to add several exercises to my routine for that.

Time to get back to work – and to do some more exploring on