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Panama – May 17 2014

Panama Flying High

One thing I’ve repeatedly said about traveling is “it’s never the place, it’s the people you have to enjoy it with.” After a full day in Panama the country seems like the perfect exception that proves the rule.

I was expecting a lot of anti-Americanism for many reasons, like the 1989 U.S.A invasion, and reading the State Departments Travel and Safety risk assessment had strongly reinforced this. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Keep in mind though, our trip involves Panama City and some surrounding areas so your mileage will vary.

Saturday was the only day Mike and I didn’t have anything planned. Somehow I ended up hijacking it. Mike had gathered information from our tour guide and hotel staff with an idea of what we should do but as we started walking I couldn’t help but just keep walking.

Crossing the highway to the coast

Crossing the highway to the coast

There’s something about walking a busy city that gets me pumped. I could feel myself get more and more energetic with every step; curious about what we’d find around every corner. Eventually we found our way to the coast line and couldn’t believe how beautifully developed the city was. Along the coast was a public trail for biking and every block seemed to have activities and parks.

WP_20140517_007

Exercise Equipment?

Exercise Equipment?

Mike had to stop and do a double take as we walked past outdoor exercise equipment! I was more interested in how tactical the police officers were dressed.WP_20140517_010 They all wore bullet proof vests and military style uniforms. Some road bikes, others walked, but there wasn’t a question they where there patrolling the areas to keep the peace. Normal people apparently don’t ask people dressed for confrontation about taking their photo… I couldn’t help myself. The officers didn’t even hesitate, they just struck a pose and continued on with their duties.

WP_20140517_009 WP_20140517_011 WP_20140517_012A few minutes later we ran across our first street vendor. Real Shaved ice topped with sweetened fruit juice and what I believe is a coconut milk syrup. Across the street was a statue of the conquistador Balboa.WP_20140517_014

Not long after that we ran into a bunch of historic fire fighting vehicles. The man setting up the display was kind enough to let me get a video of him turning the siren.

That five year old inside was jumping up and down. Life sized hot-wheels that make cool sounds? Awesome!WP_20140517_017 WP_20140517_018 WP_20140517_019 WP_20140517_020 WP_20140517_021 WP_20140517_022

Less than an hour into the day and we couldn’t stop finding little things to halt us in our tracks. Even manged to get Mike to let me photograph him climbing on a jungle gym.WP_20140517_023 After each playground all I could think was “another one?” It was kid heaven. Adult sized me was struggling with play-time. While we could climb on some of the structures my knees became a constant reminder of how this equipment wasn’t meant for adults. *SigH*

Walking along the path was a fantastic way to get to know Panama City. WP_20140517_024Eventually we stumbled upon the fish market. Later finding out that it was the same Fish Market Anthony Bourdain recommended and could have kicked myself for not saving it for lunch. Over a beer Mike and I compared notes, almost more to confirm we both we’re shaking off the same preconceived notions then to share our excitement about trolling the city.

Still not convinced we were seeing the real Panama, I took us in a direction toward the inner city. Mike wisely questioned this, but, well… anyway… only a few blocks in we came across a man sleeping on cardboard in the street and our first of many garbage land marks.WP_20140517_027 This was a locals only area and we definitely where out of place; digging further in, kind of Willie Nilly until finding the entrance for china town.WP_20140517_028

I really wanted to go inside the homes. WP_20140517_029They looked like slums but it was hard to imagine people living inside. That was until we passed a furniture shop. Hand made by local carpenters that looked ridiculously high quality. I couldn’t stop myself from walking inside. I asked if I could take a few pictures, two of the three men used sign language in agreement. Turning my phone toward the third man working his craft he stopped and angrily started speaking!

Angry Spanish definitely isn’t as sexy coming from a man who could kick my ass.

“Crap! What did I get myself into!” was all I could think as I instantly held my phone to my chest, leaving both hands in plan site and apologize in English to a man who only spoke Spanish. The jist of what I got in return was an apology back along with a joke about “You want my picture you pay, $20″ holding his hand out rubbing fingers together in a universal sign for money.

As the once angry man broke a smile we all started to laugh. I pointed to their work and asked again, in English, if this was okay to photo.WP_20140517_033 In unison they all waved their hands as if to say go ahead and just went back to work before I could finish saying Gracious. emerging outside Mike gave me the “you’re an idiot look,” which, ya know, I never said I wasn’t?WP_20140517_032

Creeping further and further into what looked like the most crowded part of the worst section in town was cause to put my cell phone away and keep up full situational awareness. The armed police officer with an assault rifle did nothing to set my mind at ease. Still, we pressed on. Streets where full of vendors selling everything from magazines and knives to fresh fruit and live chickens. It was surprising how popular soup was as a street food… like their version of a hot dog stand. The restaurants had all types of amazing looking food displayed in the windows. We stopped into a bakery and bought some snacks before starting the journey back into un-graffitied and more sanitary looking territory.

I wish my mind would have let me enjoy walking among the people more. On the plus side Mike started getting into the experience and talked to a few locals about gathering his own photos. Not sure what to call that feeling when a clear dividing line was found between what looked to be completely refurbished area and slums but it was a relief.

That same block had an old church with its doors wide open as a congregation celebrated mass.WP_20140517_034 The catholic in me did a B-line for the Church and institutionally I knelt in the back row, did the sign of the cross, and stood to take in what looked to be a very old structure. Mike wasn’t sure what to make of what he’d just saw and was incredibly respectful of the ordeal.

Only a few doors down from the church appeared a “high-class” coffee shop which we gladly used as a resting place.WP_20140517_035 WP_20140517_038 WP_20140517_039 WP_20140517_042 WP_20140517_040

the rest of the day was filled with even more gorgeous views and cool little sites. We walked miles of city, took a Taxi to a few spots in the distance to walk some more, and then kept going until it was time to return to the hotel.

Back at the hotel Mike took the opportunity to take a nap while I quietly reflected on the day. What’s in these writing isn’t even a quarter of the exploring we did; and it’d been less than twenty-four hours since touching ground.

If traveling is all about the people, then Panama seems to have a culture built around having fantastic people to visit. I already have a wish to come back, even if it’s alone. Everyone we’ve met in Panama has been so warm and friendly it’s completely disorienting regardless of how unbelievably refreshing. Proof that people don’t have to be assholes all the time.

Why is that such a foreign concept in #Merica?
David J.

Tattoo Removal Photo Journal Update

For those interested I’ve updated the photo journal documenting the real world results of my tattoo removal. View the photo journal here:

Tattoo Removal Photo Journal

 

If your interested in reviewing the experience click on the links below:

Tattoo Removal Introduction

Tattoo Removal – Phase I 

 

Phase II is still on permanent hold.

Phase I was intended to focus on me and my journey; place the reader in my shoes and let them understand from my point of view. Phase II was intended to take myself out of the picture and focus squarely on the reader. Sadly I failed to consider Phase II from every angle. The original plan required extensive participation from  third parties. I learned a few things but there wasn’t any part of Phase II worth proceeding with after it started unraveling. Over reaching on others good will caused its collapse. Being over zealous destroyed it.

Phase III is independent of Phase I and II but very time-consuming and research intensive. The general idea is to focus on “everything else” and come full circle back to Phase I and my decision to get tattooed.

Without Phase II Phase III could be a bit lost however all three Phases should stand independent of each other while simultaneously adding value. Doing them out-of-order is not world ending.

If what’s been done so far has been helpful or created some curiosity let me know what questions/comments you have and I’ll do my best answering them.

David J.

Burial At Sea Episode 2

BioShock is one of the best video games ever… Period.

As an older gamer, with a back log of unopened games, the time available for gaming shrinks daily. Real life continually destroys free time once designated for interactive storytelling entertainment. It was months after BioShock: Infinite’s release before I’d play it; and after being extremely disappointed with BioShock 2, it was quickly put at the bottom of the pile.

Game reviewers don’t write for people like me, who don’t have patience for JUST tolerable story lines covered with pretty graphics. Who will STOP playing if it takes to long learning controls, a games repetitive, or is glitchy. To this day, after HATING the original Assassins Creed, I’ve refused to play another; there are to many other options yet played. 

The original BioShock was a game played through multiple times and ranks easily in my all-time top ten. Up there with Mega Man 2; a game that years from now I’ll pick up and replay just because. BioShock: Infinite wasn’t the game I wanted but it didn’t suck. The DLC was okay, but refused to give that “BioShock” feeling. Admittedly it was nice seeing Rapture before hell broke loose but half the fun of the original was imagining it.

Months of trying to finish BioShock 2 and Infinite left a lot of disappointment until finding out Burial at Sea – Episode two was scheduled for release a few days after finishing. A little hope built up enthusiasm only out of respect for what was. March 25th 2014 it became available to download. “Trying it out,” before bed, was a terrible decision. It was impossible to stop playing, to sleep, unless I knew how the story ended. BioShock: Infinite felt created just so Burial At Sea Episode 2 could exist.

I’m here on March 26th, 2014 to tell my fellow gamers that if you enjoyed the original BioShock, if it’s on your top ten, and you want to go back to what it felt like playing BioShock that first time, “suffer through” everything in between and enjoy Burial at Sea. That’s it. If you want to know details a link will be posted to the WiKi. I will not be the one who ruins a single second of your “digitally interactive storytelling experience.”

If I’d known how good Burial at Sea was going to be I would have waited until march 25th and taken a “Playcation;” doing an old school, hardcore, strait play through of BioShock, BioShock 2, and Infinite with all DLC in tact. It’s the only thinkable way that could have made this masterfully creative series ending any better. 

This is how I want it to end. If 2K knew gamers like me, they’d move on; let the franchise linger in the gaming hall of fame. But they won’t. Numerous online sources say Rapture will return with out Irrational Games, just like BioShock 2. The math works out on sequel profitability, regardless of the ridiculous bar set for the next developer.

Maybe 2K will change their minds, Ryan understands why they won’t.

David J.

http://bioshock.wikia.com/wiki/Burial_at_Sea_-_Episode_2

New Amazon Store Added

You will find a section on The Cage called “ENTERTAIN ME!” that’s a link to an Amazon store. If you’re an Amazon Prime member some of the content is free. Products relevant to, or referenced by, The Cage are found here. Content reviews will be added to this section in the future.

There are many changes being evaluated to make CagedSparrow.com a better place to visit. Ideas welcome!

The Wrong Side of the Fence

A more productive piece was planned, and may still come, but I’m just not in the mood. You see, I’m finding myself in the Right but on the wrong side of the fence on many issues.

And seeing as this is Martin Luther King Jr. Day I thought I’d stop to write about what’s really on my mind.

So bear with me as I start with the word “Nigger.”

In case you didn’t click the link, I want you all to read what the dictionary website has to say about the word:

The term nigger is now probably the most offensive word in English. Its degree of offensiveness has increased markedly in recent years, although it has been used in a derogatory manner since at least the Revolutionary War. The senses labeled Extremely Disparaging and Offensive represent meanings that are deeply insulting and are used when the speaker deliberately wishes to cause great offense. It is so profoundly offensive that a euphemism has developed for those occasions when the word itself must be discussed, as in court or in a newspaper editorial: “the n-word.”
Despite this, the sense referring to a “black person” is sometimes used among African Americans in a neutral or familiar way. The sense referring to other victims of prejudice, especially when used descriptively, as to denounce that prejudice, is not normally considered disparaging—as in “The Irish are the niggers of Europe” from Roddy Doyle’s The Commitments —but the other uses are considered contemptuous and hostile.

Really, the most offensive word in English? What I take offence to, is that it’s called the most offensive word in English. I’ve been called a lot of things, but I’ve never used a word that could be considered the most offensive as a way to identify myself with my peers.

Well, that’s not fair. Apparently there is a new word, Nigga, which has a completely different meaning even though it sounds the same. I, being a Caucasian, just haven’t “earned the right” to say it.

Talking to my 14 year old cousin, who is a true American Mutt, the conversation of race was brought up by a news article siting Native Americans angry with the Redskins. She is part Native American and enjoys rooting for the Redskins! While talking, forgive me if I fast forward to the relevant part, she speaks up “you mean like when black people call each other Nigger?” It was completely innocent and relevant to the conversation, but her mother Gasped! How dare that word come out of her daughters mouth in any context! My immediate reaction was “Exactly!”

I then went on to tell her that the culture has made a completely different form of discrimination, a word that is racist upon which race is using it refer to another. But words aren’t racist or hurtful, people are. Just like guns don’t kill people, they are just the tools people use to do so. The word Nigger is a perfect example of how those who claim to see racism everywhere are usually the most racist.

When you can use a word, but I can’t… I believe that’s called discrimination.

Which is exactly what legislators tried to do when they tried to pass voter ID laws. Under the disguise of “protecting the sanctity of voting” Pennsylvania passed a voter ID law. Steven Colbert probably has the best coverage on the subject if you’d like a little education and entertainment. The United States has no national or mandatory ID laws and elections have always been handled on the local level, so it’s left to the States to decided what they are willing to accept as proper ID. Some may require Government issue only.

Doesn’t matter how these up-scaled gerrymandering laws passed, now the Genie is out of the bottle and the United States has had a history of voter fraud in its past. (I’m to lazy to find a situation; It’s a blog, either take my word for it or go study US history)

We need all kinds of IDs to take part in society on the International, National, State, and Local level. What kind depends on what activity, or right, a person is participating in. When we register to vote we get Voter Registration cards. There is precedent in regard to every other aspect of our lives, I’m curious why extending this to a voting both is an “undue burden” where it’s not in other avenues of our lives.

Most of us would assume you don’t need an ID to ride a bike, but did you know that in some states you HAVE to produce an ID if riding on a public road when asked by an officer or you could be arrested? Here’s looking at you California. So if showing proof of who I am, when participating in a government activity, is now an “undue burden,” then I have to wonder what the long-term consequences of striking down these “discriminatory practices” are. What other things are “undue burdens” to the american public? People seem to forget that putting the Genie BACK in the bottle has just as many long-term unforeseen consequences, and we as a society require identification to do almost everything in this country except the most important and taken for granted thing. So what else will get rolled back, derailed, or stopped because of this?

Legal discrimination is nothing new. The Government is the only entity that can actually legally discriminate at will and does so all the time. Recently I considered buying a HUD home. That was until HUD refused to sell under any conditions because my father works with another HUD broker. Since he works for a HUD broker I cannot buy any HUD home no matter who has them listed. None of his immediate family can.

Once the Government properly IDs me and it’s disclosed who’s in my bloodline, all bets are off. However, if he was just “some guy who raised me” there wouldn’t be any conflict. So yes, I absolutely know what discrimination is like, it’s impossible to know the same way you do.

Maybe that’s kinda the point of a “White man Holiday” like MLK day. So we can reflect on how far we’ve come and where we are going. Discrimination is everywhere and it’s easy to get side tract with all the negativity; it’s easier to do nothing about it when it doesn’t affect you.

“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

I’d like to focus on moments of promise like the one with my cousin, where in her world Nigger was just a word. No different then saying “scruffy looking Nerf herder.”

David J.

Moving On?

Do we ever really move on? It’s a question plaguing me since… since when isn’t important. But it’s as if Mercutio had uttered the curse.

 

As a new arbitrary line gets crossed I have to wonder how this one will be different. New Years Eve is a meaningless moment many place extreme emphasis over however what if it really did hold meaning? I can say with certainty that it does to me… or should I say that it did? I’m not sure.

 

It’s impossible to change history and if events of the past will forever be apart of who you are and guide you on the path of who you’ll become then does that mean it’s impossible to move on? Or does that mean as we achieve a deeper understanding of ourselves and our past, that by continuing forward we can hold those memories and parts of our-self close and still meet the “moving on” criteria.

 

By forgetting, ignoring, or avoiding history we are doomed to repeat it. By embracing it we are forced to hold on and acknowledge it. So what happens when a person just takes a moment to reflect on what once was and where they are now? To miss those moments or be thankful they’re over. Is that moving on or stumbling?

 

Nothing can replace those shared moments but no matter how much time goes on, how numb the feelings get, there are those times where it seems everything is the way it should be, except its not. Like a puzzle missing it’s pieces, nothing can fill the jagged holes cut from the picture.

 

Maybe acknowledging those moments and embracing the time we have now is what moving on really is.

David J.

The Power of Words

“Why did you even write the site then?”

To make myself feel better. I didn’t really know what I was doing when I did it. Didn’t know why. Didn’t know for who. It was easy to write it because no one was going to read it.

That was, until they did. Until they started to. It was the best and worst thing that could have happened…

“I didn’t know you could write?”

“Your a good writer!”

“Have you thought about writing full time?”

“Why don’t you write more?”

“You trying to get enough for a book?”

All of those statements say I’ve read your work. Something that I’ve never dealt with. So it got really, really hard to keep writing. Now there is an audience.

Well, maybe not anymore, but there was an audience. That’s the thing about the internet, there is so much content that if a person doesn’t keep theirs up to date it’s “out of sight out of mind.” So the traffic has bottomed.

There’s a lot of unpublished, unfinished, and deleted work, which means there is a lot of potential being stolen from the cage. While I’m sure they didn’t mean to, a few women have been very… oh what’s the word… convince seems good enough… a few woman have been very convincing, in different ways, that this has been positive for them and would be a mistake not to continue on.

Even though I’m sure one of them would disagree with that being her intention, that’s how I’m taking it.

So, maybe 2014 will see more writing from David J. but that’s been said. I still hate my writing, but understand that others don’t. That if this is a way ideas can get across then so be it.

The “Blog” is all me all the time, unedited. The pages are edited and polished. As Manda said, “Oh god yes (you need an editor), but you need one that speaks you (David J.). Most people wouldn’t understand what the hell you just said! At least those that know you get the jokes.”

Or something like that :/ IDK, the site has been left idle for almost six months with only one piece written. With everything that could be done that’s horrible, there’s no excuse.

David J.

Not So Shabby Very Chic

adventures in treasure hunting and shabbychic-ing

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