Category Archives: Did you know?

I have been a Native since April 28, 1993

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From October 2015 to August 2016, I was biding my time by delivering packages for Amazon Prime Now and people for Uber. One of my Uber passengers was an 87-year-old man who had been born and raised in San Diego, and had lived his entire life here. He immediately recognized an accent and we had a great conversation during the 10-minute ride, the tail end of which went something like this:

Uber Passenger: “Where are you from?”

Me: La Mesa

UP: No, originally. I’d guess Texas.

Me: Why Texas?

UP: The accent.

Me: Yes, Texas. But I’ve been here for 23 years. Surely I don’t still have a Texas accent!

UP: You do. Are you a Native?

Me: I don’t understand. I was born in Texas.

UP: But are you a Native?

Me: Okay. What’s a Native?

UP: A Native is someone who no longer GOES home because he IS home.

ME: I like that. I arrived in San Diego on April 27, 1993. By that definition, I have been a Native since April 28, 1993.

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

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Still here. Na na na na na na.

Did you know?

When I left College Station, Texas, the night of April 15, 1993, my original intent was to drive straight north to Canada to kill myself. I was too patriotic to do it in the United States. Let Canada deal with an unidentified dead body.

I had taken $5,000 in cash with me, though, and when I got to Canada, I still had $4,854 left. How could I kill myself while I still had $4,854. In cash. In my car. Let’s have a little fun first. So I drove Interstate 94 west from Fargo, North Dakota, looking for things to do, places to spend money.

Still had over $4,500 left when I got to Seattle, so I went to Vancouver, thinking that Canadians would love an American spending a few days and many thousands of American dollars. I was right. After spending just 60 hours in Vancouver, I was down to $3,500.

I’ll never forget the distinct difference between the two countries’ border patrols. Here’s the conversation going into Canada:

Canada Border Patrol: “How long are you planning on being in Canada?”

Texas Boy: “I don’t know. Probably a day or two.”

CBP, while looking at my Texas license plates; customized and lowered Saleen Mustang with blacked-out windows and Flowmaster exhaust making a louder-than-really-necessary rumbling sound: “Are you familiar with the work laws in Canada?”

TB: “No.”

CBP: “You need a permit to do any work. Are you going to be doing any work?”

TB: “No.”

CBP (still looking over my sleek Saleen Mustang): “Are you familiar with the gun laws in Canada?”

TB: “No.”

CBP: “You cannot bring any guns into Canada. Do you have any guns with you?”

TB: “No.

CBP: “Are you familiar with the alcohol laws in Canada?”

TB: “No.”

CBP: “You cannot bring any alcohol into Canada. Do you have any alcohol with you?”

TB: “No.”

CBP: “Are you familiar with the tobacco laws in Canada?

TB: “No.”

CBP: “You cannot bring any tobacco into Canada. Do you have any tobacco with you?”

TB: “No.”

CBP, once again looking at my Texas license plates—probably thinking, “Texas license plates. Customized sports car. No guns. No alcohol. No tobacco. Yeah, right.”—and pointing: “Why don’t you pull into that empty spot right there?”

TB: (Does as requested.)

CBP, five of them, spent four hours going through my car unpacking everything. They searched under my car, over my car, around my car. They found my little TV made to look like a computer monitor.

CBP: “I thought you said you were not going to be doing any work. Why the computer monitor?”

TB: “It’s not a computer monitor. It’s a television.” I showed them how to work it.

CBP, after finding an unopened five-gallon can of peanut butter that I had just bought in Seattle: “What’s in the can?”

TB: “Peanut butter.”

CBP did not believe me. They proceeded to open the can and poke long sticks into the peanut butter. They were checking the length the sticks to see if their depth in the peanut butter matched the height of the can. They did. No false bottom hiding guns, alcohol, tobacco, or anything else. Just a five-gallon can of peanut butter.

CBP then invited me to repack my car, which I did. As soon as I was finished, one CBP said I could go and told me, “Welcome to Canada!”

They did not reimburse me for the five-gallon can of peanut butter. I threw it in their trash can. Why knew where those sticks had been before being poked into my peanut butter?

I spent 60 hours in Canada before reaching the border to return to the United States. Here’s dialogue with the United States Border Patrol:

USBP: “How long you been in Canada?”

TB: “2½ days.”

USBP, waving me through: “Welcome home!”

I drove to Seattle, Portland, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, Modesto, Fresno, Bakersfield, Los Angeles, and San Diego, still trying to spend all my money and figuring that, as far as killing myself, it would be Tijuana or bust.

Well, it was bust. Still here. Na na na na na na.

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

The system is broken

Did you know?

A friend posted this meme on Facebook this morning:

Bob Corker

I can explain that.

I had U.S. Senator Phil Gramm as my Economics 301 professor at Texas A&M University in Spring 1976. At that time, he was Professor Phil Gramm. He was 34 and had a tenured position at $125,000 annual salary.

He went into politics in 1978 and retired as a U.S. Senator in November 2002. Twenty-five years in politics as a United States Congressman and then  United States Senator. Newspapers throughout the nation reported that he was retiring with $64 million in his “campaign war chest.” He got to keep that. Didn’t have to turn it over to the federal or state government, and I didn’t get a nickel back of my many financial contributions over the years.

So let’s do the math:

Tenured salary from age 34 to 65: $125,000 x 32 years = $4,000,000.

Politician: 1978-2002. Campaign war chest: $64,000,000. Excludes 24 years of salaries as U.S. Representative and U.S. Senator, and excludes annual retirement salary.

See how that works?

Now you know why rich people like the Kennedys, the duPonts, and my own rich-now-career-politician Darrell Issa, and so many others, go into politics. They have no desire to serve the public. Their only desire is to get even wealthier than they already were, get great health care courtesy of the government, and only have to work half the year. Of course, I have a different definition of work.

The system is broken, and has been broken for a very long time. The only thing we can do, in my opinion, is do away with career politicians. If eight years is good enough for the presidency, it should be good enough for all other political positions.

Many would argue for term limits. That’s almost a fix, but not quite. Here’s why: We have term limits for many city, county, and state positions here in California. Not federal positions, though. Most of the term limits are for eight years. Here’s how career politicians work the system:

Russel Ray is elected to the City Council and serves eight years before being termed out.

No problem. With name recognition, Russel Ray is elected to the County Board of Supervisors and serves eight years before being termed out.

No problem. Still with name recognition, Russel Ray is elected Mayor of San Diego and serves eight years before being termed out.

No problem. Now with experience governing a major city, Russel Ray is elected to the California House of Representatives and serves eight years before being termed out.

No problem. Now with state-wide name recognition, Russel Ray is elected to the California State Senate and serves eight years before being termed out.

No problem. Russel Ray runs for the United States House of Representatives but since this is his first federal election, he loses to the incumbent.

No problem. The next year Russel Ray is elected back to the California House of Representatives and serves four years before running for the seat of the retiring United States Congressperson whom he lost to four years earlier. He is elected. Many politicians lose the first time they run for a federal office, 90% of the time to the incumbent. Not until the incumbent retires does someone else inherit the office. Now Russel Ray is in a federal position, which has no term limits, until he decides to retire.

See how that works?

There’s not a single politician willing to fix the system because that would mean voting themselves out of extremely well-paying jobs with great benefits. Regardless of party affiliation, why would they do that? It reminds me of another meme about the current administration of morons governing America:

You're a special kind of stupid

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

….and I had a college degree

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According to the USPS, I now live in El Cajon CA, hometown of Jimmie Johnson, 2-time winner of the Daytona 500 as well as 7-time champion of the NASCAR Cup Series.

When I first started exploring El Cajon after moving out here, I discovered Jimmie Johnson Drive. It’s an extraordinarily busy main thoroughfare so I wasn’t able to get this picture until yesterday when I was on foot nearby after all the morning rush-hour traffic had dissipated and the traffic signals at both intersections were cooperating.

Jimmie Johnson Drive in El Cajon, California

Johnson’s rookie year was 1998, and, yes, he did win Rookie of the Year. Arguably, Jimmie Johnson’s best year was 2006 when he won the NASCAR Cup Series, the NASCAR All-Star Race, the Daytona 500,  the Brickyard 400, and his first Driver of the Year.

His first big year in terms of wins was 2003 when he won the NASCAR All-Star Race and the first of three consecutive Coca-Cola 600 races. He also came in third at the Daytona 500, on February 16, for which he won $717,526. His total earnings for 2003 were $7,745,530.

For the rest of the story, though, we need to go back to 2002 when he earned $3,788,268.  That’s a lot of money, and Johnson was living in a modest El Cajon home, which he decided to sell.

In early 2003 I, a home inspector at the time, got a call from prospective Clients, and agreed to do their home inspection for them. Whenever I scheduled a home inspection, I would always look up the public records to see how old the home was and who the owners were. The age would tell me a lot about the systems I would be inspecting, and knowing the owner’s name would allow me to address the owner properly (Mr., Mr. & Mrs., Miss, Dr.) if the owner happened to be there.

The owner in this case was Jimmie Johnson. Well, Jimmie and Johnson are somewhat common names, so no big deal. However, when I got to the house, there was a race car in the garage, being worked on, and racing trophies everywhere inside. That’s when I knew it was the one and only Jimmie Johnson.

I have been interested in racing ever since my second semester at Texas A&M University in Spring 1974. Terry LaBonte was one of my rampmates in Puryear Hall (sadly, Puryear and its mirror sister, Law, were demolished in 1997). Terry’s younger brother, Bobby, also got into racing, and both were extraordinarily successful. Terry & Bobby were from Corpus Christi, Texas, and since I was from Kingsville, 40 miles farther south towards the Mexico border, I had something in common with them. Our high schools were rivals.

Although Terry was enrolled at Texas A&M University, he wasn’t there much. He went home every weekend, or to Houston, to race in the local circuits there. Our rampmates didn’t understand why he was even at Texas A&M because he had no interest in anything that didn’t have something to do with cars and racing. Ultimately he did drop out of college and went full time on the racing circuit.

Terry’s first race as a professional was the 1978 Southern 500 (where he came in fourth and won $9,875) and his first win was the 1980 Southern 500. He won $222,501 in 1980. In comparison, I made something like $40,000 in 1980, and I had a college degree….

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Maybe he’s guilty

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I have always wanted to serve on a jury. Tomorrow I might get my chance. I have a summons for jury duty for tomorrow morning, 7:45.

I have received jury summons before but I have always been self-employed and being picked for a jury could have been disastrous for a one-man-shop. So I always took the option out for the self employed.

Now that I’m retired and not yet doing anything other than landscaping the new home, playing with Zoey the Cool Cat, and making plans for when I do start to do something again next year, I’m going to do everything I can to get myself on this jury, regardless of its nature.

Defending attorney: Have you ever served on a jury?
Me: No, but I’m sure he’s guilty.

Prosecuting attorney: Would you like to serve on this jury?
Me: Yes, because I know he’s guilty.

Defending attorney: Have you read anything about the defendant?
Me: Yes. I googled him. He’s guilty.

Prosecuting attorney: Do you have an open mind for these types of crimes?
Me: Sure. Guilty fucker.

Judge: No inappropriate language in my courtroom young man.
Me: Young? You wanna see my driver’s license?

Defending attorney: Are you a college graduate?
Me: Sure as fuck am.

Prosecuting attorney: Judge, he’s still using foul language.
Judge: He is, isn’t he.
Prosecuting attorney: Judge, make him stop. Make him stop, Judge.
Judge: Fuck no. I think he’s on to something. Maybe this fucker is guilty….

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

In memory of John Wear

Did you know?

I had a specific purpose in my life when I decided on April 30, 1993, to live in San Diego. That purpose was to live proudly as an openly gay man. I was 38. I wanted to experience anything and everything related to being gay. Many of my new friends said that I came out with a vengeance.

I often went places alone, like to gay bars at night. I was in Hillcrest, a heavily gay neighborhood of San Diego. I felt safe. Friends, though, continued to tell me to be aware.

Yesterday I took a guided tour of Hillcrest and its gay history. One of our stopping points was at the Hate Crime Memorial Plaque.

John Wear hate crimes plaque in Hillcrest, San Diego, California

THIS
HATE CRIME MEDICAL PLAQUE
IS DEDICATED IN MEMORY OF
17-YEAR OLD JOHN ROBERT WEAR
AND OTHER VICTIMS OF HATE CRIMES.

ON DECEMBER 13, 1991, THREE MEN BRUTALLY ATTACKED A GROUP
OF FRIENDS AS THEY WALKED DOWN UNIVERSITY AVENUE.
THIS INCIDENT WAS CONSIDERED A HATE CRIME BECAUSE THE
PERPETRATORS CALLED OUT “FAGGOTS” AS THEY PURSUED.
ONE OF THE YOUTH, JOHN WEAR, WAS FATALLY STABBED.

CITIZENS OF THIS COMMUNITY ARE DEDICATED TO ENDING
HATRED AND VIOLENCE ON OUR STREETS.

I vaguely recall stories about that incident but I was shocked reading the plaque on our tour. I found an article dated June 26, 1992, in the Los Angeles Times which I want to publish in its entirety here. I think it’s important.

Suspect Held in Hillcrest Attacks That Left One Dead : Crime: The fatal stabbing of a teen-ager in December galvanized gays and others in the community.

June 26, 1992, RICHARD CORE, SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

An East San Diego man is being held in connection with three attacks in Hillcrest last December that culminated in the killing of a high school student and galvanized gays and others in the community in a continuing vigil against hate crimes.

San Diego police Thursday booked Eddie Barton, 25, on suspicion of murder and attempted murder in the Dec. 13 fatal stabbing of 17-year-old John Robert Wear and the beating of one of Wear’s two companions.

Barton was already in custody at the County Jail downtown after police arrested him Tuesday at his home in the 800 block of Carlsbad Street. He was arraigned Wednesday on two charges of battery for attacks that preceded the assault on Wear, homicide Lt. John Welter said.

All the attacks occurred within a few blocks of each other. Between 10:30 and 11 p.m. Dec. 13, a man walking in the 1700 block of University Avenue was punched in the face by at least one of two attackers. A few minutes later, another man walking in the 1000 block of University Avenue had his nose broken in an attack.

Ten minutes later, Wear, of Del Cerro, and two teen-age companions were attacked in the 1000 block of Essex Street as they walked from their car to Soho, a popular coffeehouse a block away on University Avenue.

“In all three attacks,” Welter said, “witnesses stated that the suspects were yelling epithets of homosexual nature at the victims.”

Witnesses also gave similar descriptions of two assailants involved in the attacks, saying they sported short-cropped hair, combat boots and flannel shirts.

Welter said police are hoping to identify the second suspect believed to have participated with Barton in the attacks.

Wear, a senior at Twain Junior-Senior High School, who was not gay, was stabbed in the chest and died a day later in Mercy Hospital after receiving 250 units of blood in an attempt to save his life. One of his two companions, Bryan Baird, then 18 and a senior at Patrick Henry High School, was cut in the face. The name of the third youth, who was not seriously hurt, was not released.

Gay and lesbian community leaders expressed cautious relief Thursday at the news of Barton’s arrest.

Anthony V. Zampella, publisher of Bravo!, a magazine geared to gays, urged the district attorney’s office to seek enhanced penalties against Barton under the state’s hate crimes law.

“It was definitely a hate crime,” Zampella said. “Until people are prosecuted for these types of crimes, there isn’t going to be an automatic deterrent.”

Steve Casey, a district attorney’s spokesman, said that, if a hate crimes enhancement is sought, it will be attached to the battery charges. The enhancement cannot be applied to murder charges, Casey said.

Wear’s death sparked an outcry from gay and lesbian groups and others in the Hillcrest community against a series of 30 attacks, mostly along University Avenue, that began last July. After Wear died, hundreds of people turned out for a candlelight march and an angry meeting with police.

Police responded by appointing a task force to investigate the crimes and more officers to patrol the area’s streets.

In one of the first efforts of its kind, organized by City Councilman John Hartley, police worked with residents to form a citizens patrol whose volunteer members began driving Hillcrest’s streets, watching for suspicious activity.

Although the task force was disbanded in February, with officers shifted to other duties in the city, the Citizens Patrol has remained. Through the efforts of gay groups and community newspapers, the patrol’s membership has risen to more than 100, with about 50 members regularly participating in patrols, said Wendy Sue, a member of the patrol’s steering committee.

Two-citizen teams armed with a cellular telephone now regularly drive the streets, reporting suspected crimes to police. The result, both police and community leaders say, has been a noticeable decrease in violent street crimes and a cautious feeling that Hillcrest is safer.

“In all honesty, the typical thing like that starts off strong with a lot of community support, and then people lose interest,” said police Sgt. Dennis Love, who oversees patrols in the area. “This, on the other hand, has started out strong and kept going.

“You’ve got some really involved people there who are interested in making their community a better place to be.”

Love said police have been so impressed by the Citizens Patrol that it is being used as a model for other communities concerned with fighting crime.

With the support of Wear’s parents, the Lesbian and Gay Men’s Community Center created the John Wear Memorial Award to honor people who perform outstanding service in the fight against hate crimes. Two weeks ago, the center presented the award to Hartley and the Citizens Patrol.

I wanted to know more about Eddie Barton, so I continued searching. Although not about Eddie Barton, the following article from the July 2001 issue of San Diego Magazine contains additional information about this attack.

Taking Back Neighborhoods

BY THOMAS SHESS 

The Cauldron

Citizens Patrol, one of the best tools to fight crime at the neighborhood level, was forged 10 years ago in San Diego’s Mid-City area amid a firestorm of public fear, frustration and outrage. Between June and December of 1991, the uptown communities, including Hillcrest, were in the grips of a chilling reign of hate. The almost-daily reports of gay-bashings and strong-arm street robberies were paralyzing a pedestrian-oriented community already staggering from the AIDS epidemic.

By mid-’91, police and the San Diego City Council were keenly aware of the war zone atmosphere in and around Hillcrest. In the District 3 council office that represents Hillcrest, the ears of those answering calls were burning from citizen demands that police stop the violence. By Thanksgiving, police had recorded more than 50 incidents.

The Catalyst

Of all the neighborhoods in San Diego, Hillcrest/Uptown stays awake the latest. Hillcrest in the wee hours is pedestrian-friendly, like many areas in San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans, Manhattan. It’s not unusual for citizens here to be making the scene at midnight, café- and club-hopping. The heart of the gay and lesbian community, Hillcrest in 1991 was ripe for all manner of thugs prowling the neighborhood and targeting homosexuals.

December 13, 1991, was as good a night as any for two men in their mid-20s looking for such entertainment. It was Friday the 13th. Witnesses later reported the two had shaved heads and were wearing combat gear and military boots. One had s*k*i*n tattooed on the knuckles of a hand.

Also in Hillcrest that night was John Robert Wear, a 17-year-old high school senior from San Carlos. With buddies Bryan Baird and Jacob Isaacsen, Wear had parked in the 1000 block of Essex, a residential street south of busy University Avenue. They locked their car and proceeded on foot toward SoHo, a coffeehouse on University near Richmond, then popular with locals of every stripe. It was also a place for underage students to hang with an eclectic crowd.

The teens never made it to SoHo.

Witnesses later testified in court that the thugs, unprovoked, began taunting the boys and spewing anti-gay epithets. The name-calling turned ugly—and violent. Wear and Baird attempted to defend themselves as they were hammered by fists. Several kicks sent Wear to the sidewalk. Witnesses heard one of the assailants yell, “Stop whimpering, faggot.”

Assault turned to murder. One basher pulled a knife and stabbed Wear while he was down. Then he turned on Baird and struck a nonfatal blow to his head. Isaacsen ran for help.

Wear, who had hoped to join the Army the following [sic; missing text] was rushed to Mercy Hospital’s emergency unit, less than a mile away. Death was not immediate. Stab wounds take longer. Bleeding to death is a horrific death sentence, especially when compounded by a vicious beating. Wear’s father, John Sr., was at his son’s bedside when he died—in the same hospital where young John was born in 1976.

Baird survived his head wound. He and Isaacsen were key witnesses in two trials that saw the assailants convicted and sent to prison. Eddie Barton, the knifer—the one with s*k*i*n tattooed on his knuckles—is still serving a term of 20 years to life. He continues to deny he murdered anyone. Michael DiPaolo was convicted for his part in the crime. He served four years in prison before he was released.

Speaking at Barton’s trial, Wear’s father pointed at the convicted killer. “The stab wounds, the bruises, the boot marks from head to toe, overwhelmed me,” the father said, “This man’s an animal. The rest of his days should be spent in prison.”

I discovered that Eddie Barton was convicted of second degree murder, assault with a deadly weapon, and battery with serious injury, and is serving 20 years to life in prison. He is eligible for parole and has had several parole hearings. I found documentation from his 2008 Parole Board hearing where his parole was denied as the Board found him “unsuitable for release.” Most of the 10-page document from the United States District Court, Eastern District of California, is legal stuff relating to Eddie Barton’s Writ of Habeas Corpus. The Statement of Facts, however, is interesting, and I copy it in its entirety here:

The commitment offense occurred when Petitioner [Barton] and his coconspirators [sic] went to the Hillcrest area in San Diego, known to be frequented by homosexual, gay men. Petitioner and his friends were known as skinheads and set out to commit a hate crime, targeting gay males. On December 13, 1991, at approximately 11:15 p.m., the first victim, Keith Keziah, was walking toward the Hillcrest Coffee Shop when he was approached by Petitioner and his coconspirators [sic]. Petitioner asked him if he dated, and the victim ignored him and crossed the street to avoid a confrontation. Petitioner and his friends continued to harass Mr. Keziah, and they became angry. After not receiving a response, Petitioner grabbed Keziah by the shirt, swung him around, and punched him in the face, breaking his nose. Keziah ran away and sought assistance. Approximately 15 minutes later, Petitioner and his coconspirators [sic], approached victims, John Wear and Brian Baird who were walking to the same coffee shop. Mr. Baird greeted Petitioner and his friend and he was suddenly without provocation struck in the nose. Petitioner then began attacked Mr. Wear, and Baird saw Petitioner pull a knife from wear’s stomach. Petitioner then told Wear, “don’t cry, faggot” and started kicking him again. As Baird moved to help Wear, Petitioner turned and went towards him stating, “Do you want some? Do you want some?” Petitioner [sic; I think that should be Baird] then turned his back and crouched down stating, “No, I don’t want anything. I don’t even know you.” Petitioner then began hitting Baird in the head and kicking him in his back. Baird later discovered that Petitioner had cut his head, and Petitioner told him, “You better run.” John Wear died two days later as a result of the wounds to his abdomen. He also suffered wounds to the right thigh and a superficial wound to his left buttocks. Petitioner also suffered blunt force trauma, including bruises and abrasions to his right cheek, left ear, chest area, right forearm, and inside of both knees. Petitioner was arrested in part because he bragged that he had gotten into a fight with some homosexuals, and he stabbed one of them.

In memory of John Wear.

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

My wise old grandmother always said, “It’s good to be familiar with things.”

Did you know?

Many decades ago I was a champion typist in the State of Texas, on both manual and electric typewriters. I had taught myself to type using a Gregg Typing book that I checked out from the Kingsville Public Library….

Gregg Typing manual

….and an 1896 Underwood typewriter that my granddad brought home from the Missouri Pacific Railroad shops that were closing.

Underwood typewriter

By the end of May 1966, I was typing 70 words per minute (WPM) on that Underwood. My goal had been 60 WPM because my wise old grandmother told me that 60 was what the best business typists were able to do.

I enjoyed typing so much that my wise old grandmother helped me set up my very first business for the Summer 1966, a typing business catering to students at Texas A&I University (now Texas A&M University—Kingsville). While my friends were out in the hot South Texas sun washing cars, pulling weeds, and mowing lawns, I was inside typing papers and make a lot more money than they were.

My little typing business made so much money from 1966 to 1973 when I graduated high school that I started collecting music, starting with The Beatles and The Who. By the time I went off to college, I had over one hundred albums and a couple hundred 45’s (smile and nod your head if you know what a 45 is).

When I got to tenth grade—high school in Kingsville; ninth grade still was in junior high—I signed up immediately for typing class in summer school because it was a required course and I wanted to get it out of the way since I already knew how to type.

I got to class and was immediately taken aside by the teacher, Miss Short, because of my last name. Turns out that the reputation of my dad and his three brothers preceded me, and she warned me against following in my family’s footsteps in her class. She wasn’t going to put up with me.

Our class had 30 students and 30 manual typewriters. However, the school had just received a brand new IBM Selectric, and Miss Short warned us against even touching that typewriter. Typing class during the summer was 3 hours long on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with a 15-minute break halfway through. I sat there for the first 90 minutes bored as hell—

aaaa ssss dddd ffff
jjjj kkkk llll ;;;;

Bored, bored, bored.

During the break, I went over to the IBM Selectric, turned it on, put some paper in the roller, and started typing the lyrics to my favorite Beatles songs. Miss Short, who was out in the hall, heard the electric typewriter noise and thought that someone was simply holding down the keys and screwing with her priceless typewriter. When she saw what I had done, she admonished me and told me to stay after class. I figured I was getting kicked out of class.

Just the opposite. She admonished me again for touching the typewriter but then asked me if I wanted to do personal typing for her instead of sitting in typing class. Uh, okay….. Sure. Got an A+ in typing, my first A+ in high school.

For Christmas 1971, my wise old grandmother bought me a Smith Corona Coronet Electric typewriter.

Smith Corona Coronet electric typewriter

I was the happiest 17-year-old on Earth, or at least in Kingsville, Texas. I used that typewriter through Christmas 1974 but still had it and the Underwood through April 1993.

In 1976, on an IBM Selectric II, I typed 306 WPM over a 5-minute typing test with 6 errors. It was a very unofficial test, timed by a group of friends in the Student Programs Office of the Texas A&M Memorial Student Center. I never told anyone until now that I cheated; I had my own IBM Selectric II which I had bought myself for Christmas 1974, so I was extraordinarily familiar with it. My wise old grandmother always said, “It’s good to be familiar with things….”

I got my start in computers in June 1978 when I bought an Apple computer. I replaced the computer in May 1983, switching to IBM computers and keyboards. I have never looked back at my decision there, and I’m still an IBM/PC/Windows devotee.

For the longest time I had an IBM keyboard because of the tactile feel and audible click of the keys. It was the most comfortable keyboard to type on. Then mass-produced keyboards for home computers hit the mainstream and IBM eventually followed suit with the crappy computer keyboards. I eventually succumbed to carpal tunnel syndrome, now called repetitive stress injury. Pianists, organists, and fast typists particularly are subject to it.

In April 2003, I resorted to voice recognition using Dragon Naturally Speaking (DNS). Although I liked it, I enjoy listening to music when I work, and the music interfered with DNS. Thus, I went back to keyboard typing, but my typing speed continued to decrease and the number of errors increased. I was lost and depressed. Getting old sucks. JMHO.

Fast forward to May 2017. I had my business partner, one Joey Thaidigsman, a sophomore computer science major at the University of California at Berkeley (and with a 3.96 GPA!), build me a fine fine fine new super computer (named The Beast) to handle all my video and photo editing needs, leaving my old computer relegated to being 100% a music computer.

Once The Beast was up and running, I added a Sound Blaster X Katana sound bar to my music system and hooked it up to both computers so that I could also listen to music on The Beast. Once that was done, I decided I wanted a new keyboard. I was going to buy the best keyboard I could find.

That’s when I discovered gaming keyboards. IBM might have quit making their fine fine fine keyboards but that didn’t mean that the IBM feel and clickyness was gone forever. These gaming keyboards are also called mechanical keyboards because they have mechanical key switches rather than the rubber dome keys of mass-produced cheap keyboards.

I went to Fry’s Electronics and bought the most expensive mechanical keyboard they carried, a Razer Blackwidow Chroma. It didn’t work. After four hours with Razer tech support, it still didn’t work. They told me to return the keyboard as defective. However, they wanted me to return it directly to them and spent another 15 minutes getting me a Return Merchandise Authorization number. Unfortunately, the number woould be emailed to me within 24-48 hours. Huh? Email it to me NOW!

I disconnected, repacked the Razer, and took it back to Fry’s. Since Razer had lost me as a customer at that point, I chose the most expensive Corsair they carried. Took it home and couldn’t get the cool keyboard colors to work. Logged on to their web site, downloaded the most recent firmware, and the keyboard colors went crazy. It was like nothing I had ever experienced. After five minutes, I was dizzy and nauseated, and had accomplished absolutely nothing. I repacked the Corsair and took it back.

At this point I decided to look at non-gaming mechanical keyboards, of which the selection is about 10% of those available for gaming. I even got into trouble at Fry’s for opening every keyboard box in the mechanical non-gaming section and trying them out. After all my testing in the store, I came home with an Azio MK-Retro keyboard, a “typewriter inspired mechanical keyboard.” Looks just like that 1896 Underwood typewriter:

MK-Retro typewriter-inspired mechanical keyboard by Azio

The keys are not backlit like the gaming keyboards, and they are round, which might cause problems for people who grew up with the square-key computer keyboards. It has no extras, like macro programming, or gaming key programing, or USB ports, headphone jacks, etc. It’s just a quality mechanical keyboard.

The whole purpose of this typing dissertation, though, is to tell you something that has amazed me. My typing speed has increased and my typing errors are down. I think it has something to do with the tacticle feel and the audible clicks of the keys, letting you know exactly when you have pushed a key and created a corresponding graphic on the screen. It’s really cool.

So if you’re a touch typist, especially an elderly experienced touch typist like me, but you have noticed over the years that your speed has decreased and your errors have increased, I can highly recommend a mechanical keyboard. Especially if typing is a significant part of your livelihood as it is mine.

For price comparison, the cheap plastic/rubber keyboards were as low as $6.99 and as high as $39.99 at Fry’s. The non-gaming mechanical keyboards started at $49.99 and went as high as $129.99. The gaming mechanical keyboards started around $99.99 and went as high as $229.99.

Here’s my workplace now. Ignore the cat food. It’s not mine. Seriously, I don’t eat cat food….

Russel Ray's work place

The little queen, though…. well, my desk is her favorite place to eat, and if there’s no food when she jumps up on the desk, she’ll plop her butt in front of the computer monitor and sit there looking all abused and neglected, demanding to know why I don’t love her anymore….

Zoey the Cool Cat

My next purchase: A new desk. Jim and I just closed escrow on a new home, so we’ll be moving during the next 30 days, and this old desk will go straight to the trash with a new desk being delivered to the new digs.

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat