Sunday, March 11, 2018

Harold's Eulogy

Today at 8:00am EST, Harold The Fish passed away. Harold was my fish and he lived in his bowl. He actually had several bowls and frequently redecorated. He was very long lived for a Betta fish, at the ripe old age of four. I got Harold from a locally owned pet shop in Pittsburgh. He lived with me for my senior year of college, and while I lived at home post-Australia. He was taken care of by my sister and father while I was in Oz and Cali.

Harold is known by most for his eponymous song “Harold’s Song”. I wrote Harold’s song in like 20 minutes as filler for my album, but it turned out to be the most popular song. Harold is a stand-in for myself, grappling with issues such as sustainable food (I have since become vegetarian), economic systems (I don’t know), and which Tom Waits song is the best (I even more don’t know).

I’m not sure if that metaphor is immediately obvious by the lyrics alone. But I was once interviewed by a ten year old in the Daily Dirt, the newspaper for the camp I worked at where Harold’s Song gained prominence. When the kid learned about the meaning behind the fish, his eyes grew wide and his eyebrows popped from his chubby cheeks. I think it’s like when you finally start to get stuff they teach you in English class about the green light not really being just a green light, or Frankenstein’s monster not really being the actual monster. And then you start to see art representing other things in all kinds of media. But I never finished either book so who knows.

Harold passed away the same day I received confirmation that Burtle (Baby (sea) turtle), was successfully sponsored. Burtle was named by my sister and is starting their journey to eat for 30 years (what a life!) and then hopefully return to Pulau Mabul to have eggs of their own. I know its coincidence, but I find comfort in a seeming Circle of Life.

I thank Harold for giving me confidence in my song writing and performance. I thank him for being a constant, even as a living thing, while change is always there. And I thank him for being a connection to my family, as I’m often not with them. Harold is now free to go, and he no longer needs a bowl.

Though the introduction is no longer true, I’d like to share an acoustic recording made at camp, previously only released on CD, reflecting Harold’s initial rise to fame.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Mabul and Sipadan Islands

I’m staying on an island hostel as part of a scuba diving package, living on the island of Mabul, which is off the coast of a town called Semporna. The hostel is called something super generic like Mabul Backpacker Resort, and calling it a resort is a bit of a stretch, I woke up to a dog sleeping beside me (that’s a plus in my book, but maybe not in the health code book) but it’s much nicer a regular hostel. I think that’s a result of needing to run a dive shop as well. Diving is a pretty strict affair.

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It’s also is the only sports activity that requires journaling. At the end of every dive you’re supposed to write down your location, dive time, depth, things you saw etc etc. And your dive buddy signs off on it. Usually, you get a log book when you complete your PADI course, but I never did, because I Hermoine Granger’d the course and left the last class too early. My loss, but it seems to be a real faux pas to not have one. But then, here’s the thing, diving usually involves water, and paper doesn’t really like water all that much. I bought a dive log here to avoid the awkwardness, but its day two and what do ya know, my book is disintegrating. Weird standards. Maybe I’m doing something wrong, like not having a waterproof pack.

I wish I could properly describe what diving is like, but I can’t.

I also wish I could show you what it’s like. But I feel like any picture I take won’t stand up to the real thing, or pictures others have taken. I feel like while on land, a picture might represent one’s own experience, even if it’s something that everyone else has done, like the Grand Canyon, meaning can still be derived from the context. Espesh if it’s a selfie. But underwater photography seems more technical, more expensive, and more a set of skills I don’t have yet. Go watch Blue Planet.

One dive site was the island of Sipadan, and I sort of planned my whole trip around it. Only 120 people are allowed to dive each day, getting a permit requires some planning. Sipadan is a protected island, monitored by the Malaysia military. Part of their job is to protect the wildlife from regular folk, and part of it is to protect regular folk from terrorists. There was a hostage situation in 2000, where some pirates took hostages when a resort was on the island. After that, the government was just like “eh, no more people allowed here, save the fishes, annoy the terrorists, it’s a win win”.

I talked to a military guy on the island (Dunno if the branch would be the marines like in the US). They have bunkers with machine guns, carry assault rifles, and have a couple of black speed boats with things that look like rocket launchers on them. He said they’re stationed here three months at a time, and he trained the US marines a few weeks ago in survivalist skills. He admired the dedication of the marines. He seemed about my age.

Although I’m staying at the most budget housing on the island, the local people that live on the island live a lot more budget. They look a little bit slummy, as much as I would hesitate to use that word. How would you feel if someone called your house a slum?

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Still it seems odd that I have so much, and they have so little. On the other hand, I have to leave, and they get to stay. I suppose my presence is also providing income, as many locals work for the hospitality system. And the company I’m with has a very extensive conservationist’s attitude. They pay locals a ton if they find turtle eggs so they can be protected. They have 2 full time conversationalists, doing education on things like shark finning, which is popular cuz we’re in Asia. It just seems strange that so much effort would be placed on protecting the animals but not helping the people.

But what am I gonna do? Am I gonna help these people? Do they even need help? Maybe I’m just spoiled because it seems inconvenient to live on stilts.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

I Mosque Ask You a Question. Can I Go in There?

Today I took my very second selfie. It was especially exciting because I got to dress up as well.

My new hostel friend and I spent the whole day walking around the city of Kota Kinabalu. We went to the market, ate strange fruit (Great prog rock song title, someone go write that song), and stumbled through conversations in Malay with the excessive use of hand gestures.

We went to the fruit and Sunday markets. Street markets always feel the same to me, in the US and every other country I’ve been. And usually I’d write a whole blog post about something airy and profound sounding like “Capitalism influences people to create goods that no one really needs, such as trinkets, fried foods, and animals kept in poor conditions, avoiding more critical issues that could improve the human condition”, but I’m tired, and you get it.

After the market we trekked to the City Mosque. The sun was hot, as it always is, around 5,778 Kelvin, but today, in this location it caused the air around us to be 32 Celsius and very humid. The backs of my calves got burned because I forgot about them. I am now constantly reminded that they exist as they rub and chafe around the back of my knee. But I enjoyed the weather.

The City Mosque was a tourist destination, and I figured that it was just because it was pretty building. A large angularly patterned dome, adorned four spires cracking the azure sky against a sea of asparagus vines. It’s pretty.

I had expectations about what you could and couldn’t do in and around the mosque. In general, in Holy places I tend to be on my best behavior. Except in my own church of course, cuz its mine and I feel comfortable there, so why would I put on airs?I thought I had read somewhere in my Borneo book that non-Muslims were not allowed to enter the mosque. At first I was like, that’s odd, wouldn’t you want to welcome as many people to your religion as possible? And then I was like, oh well I get it, you wouldn’t want literal busloads of Chinese, Korean, and Australian people poking their nosy noses in your place of worship.

But this wasn’t the case at all. We peeked into the entrance, which didn’t really require peeking, as it was just a massive archway, and saw many people who didn’t look especially Muslim inside. I’m quite shy about asking for/about things, but my companion was much more comfortable inquiring. She approached a man who was welcoming people inside and he basically said “Sure you can come in, but you have to cover your forbidden parts”, which meant my rapidly reddening knees and her hair. He directed us back to the entrance to the mosque grounds where we could rent clothing to enter the mosque. Great!

A small lady quickly shuffled towards us and dressed us in Islamic garb. I was too tall for my first… um dress? Not sure of the proper terms here, my apologies. She laughed, because I was already practically kneeling to have her throw another layer of fabric on me. She also gave me a nice topi (Malay for hat… again, not sure of the terms). My friend and I were spun back onto the grounds like in that scene in Aladdin where he gets dressed up as a lady. You know the one? But it all happened so fast and we looked so different and we were laughing at ourselves and what our families would think. A very sunny day.

We went inside and took off our shoes and it was indeed a Holy place. It just felt good ya know?

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Part 3: Sniffles and Monkeys

Yesterday I went on a monkey cruise.  Except I forgot that I kind of don’t like monkeys. They’re too smart, and small, and strong and once one stole a camera from a girl and she tried to take it back and it screamed and it was horrifying. Not a fan. But I traveled with a couple strangers in a van out of town to Klias River to see some monkeys on the river, and then some fireflies.

Ok so in the van, the driver had the sniffles. You know where you sniff up the snot or boogers or whatever back into your nostrils? I tend to think that when your body tries to push something out of it, it should stay out. But whatever snifflers, do what you have to. Except he was doing that every 2-10 seconds. Like VERY frequently.

And I’m a nose blower, I get it. I blow my nose a ton and I’m very self-conscious about it, especially around new people cuz you don’t know how people are going to react. Once I was loudly scolded in an African American church and I was very embarrassed because, here I was, a guest in a holy place, and I disgusted this person so much that she felt it was more appropriate to let me and everyone else know how gross I was than to let it slide.

So I can understand how confrontation about someone’s bodily habits may make that person feel even more uncomfortable. But here’s the thing, as I’m on Team Nose Blower, I don’t know how you could possibly be OK with sniffing for 2 hours straight. I frankly, find it disgusting, but I’m also always packing (tissues). So now I have a dilemma, should I offer this man Kleenex relief at the risk of embarrassing the two of us? Or have us both suffer for the next two hours?

I debated this for like twenty minutes before I decided to offer him a tissue. I figured the worst that could happen is that he would be confused. He probably wouldn’t yell at me. I made sure to offer with my right hand as the left hand is considered dirty. But when I presented it to him he politely declined! I didn’t even prepare for that response, a jolly respectful refusal. What kind of person would want to live like this???? Baffled, he sniffled for four hours round trip.

Klias River
Klias River
The nose of the Probiscus monkey is also very loud, in the attention grabbing way. I didn’t get any good pictures because they were too far away and I only have my phone for a camera, but they were there. And I don’t want to brag, but I’m really good at spotting animals in the wild. I pointed out the langur and macaque monkeys, literally double the monkeys the professional guide did. Granted I didn’t know what they were, But I think I contributed greatly to the trip. I’d like to be an animal spotting tour guide someday.

I ate dinner and met a group of Hong Kong Uni exchange students. They were out for the weekend. Good weekend adventure.

Then we were back on the boat for the fireflies. I guess I’ve seen enough fireflies in my life to have not been looking forward to this part. But there’s over 2000 species of firefly in the world! And one of the species we saw lights up in sync with the others in the group! Do you know how difficult it is to get multiple people to talk or sing in unison? That’s incredible. And they do it all night!

I went to the aquarium today. I know, I know. Classic Taylor. It was a small aquarium, but it was really cool because it was on the University of Malaysia Sabah’s campus (By the way, I just remembered I seriously considered applying there, I wish I had), so it was like a research aquarium where all the exhibits also had abstracts of the research. So cool! I really liked it, but it’s probably not for everyone.

I also discovered “100 Plus”. It’s like Gatorade but it takes good and is fizzy. Its very salty and keeps in the water so I don’t sweat as much. I instantly felt better when I drank it and was like “does this have caffeine?” and it doesn’t. Pretty sure. I don’t know the word for caffeine in Malay.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Kota Kinabalu and Manukan Island

I arrived at my Kota Kinabalu hostel at 7pm after paying too much for a taxi. Nobody from the hostel was around for a while but being quickly recognized as a traveler I was let in immediately. Which brings me to one of the big worries people have when travelling alone (besides safety), isn’t it lonely? How are you gonna make friends?

Literally within an hour I was playing Settlers of Catan and had made new friends. People travelling are all in the same boat. They wanna hang out, they want to swap stories, they want to meet new people. Hostel people are generally pretty friendly. That doesn’t mean that you’ll be bffs, but as soon as I arrived I felt like I had a group to hang with. I’ve also been invited to play in an ultimate Frisbee tournament where you dress as Harry Potter characters. It was unclear if this was some sort of international championship and they were down a player and I just looked like I could handle a Frisbee. Like some kind of underdog sports movie that I haven’t seen. Or if this was just your regular pickup game of dress-as-a-harry-potter-character-ultimate-Frisbee game.

The hostel was never advertised as a Christian hostel, but not so subtle clues like the room names all being apostles and the wifi password being john316 (a little obvious, could’ve gone for a deeper cut frankly), tipped me off pretty quick.

Religion is expected in Malaysia, it doesn’t matter which one, but having a religion seems to be important. I was hanging out in some water off of Manukan Island, and a Chinese man was talking to my new hostel friend. Malaysia has a large Chinese population, so he may have been from here or from China, maybe not the best sample, but! He asked her about her religion, (which is also less taboo than it is in the US), assuming she was Christian (because she’s white) and when she answered that she didn’t really have one, he was shocked and suggested that maybe she could get a religion and that would help her “be a better person”. This was way less rude than it sounds, we were all smiling the whole time.

And dang it Malaysians are friendly. A mixture of curious and friendly at least. Walking down the street, my friend and I got dozens of Hellos from strangers, and stares from almost everyone. Literally interrupting a conversation to say hello to us. At first I thought that maybe it was because one of us was a woman (no hints as to which one of us that was) and that she was wearing shorts in a predominately Islam country. And I’m sure that’s still part of it, but she explained that a lot of it has to do with being white and tall. Like I don’t think I can buy clothes here, cuz I’d be a XXXL. So yea, I can see being fascinated by strangely colored giants walking through your town.

I was asking two women where to buy sunblock, and I was half speaking Malay and half English (which all the locals seem to do too) and they were loooosing it. Giggling and blushing and laughing as we tried to communicate. It was great. Another time I was paying for my dinner and the man at the counter asked where I was from. And when I said the US he literally gasped and said “Wow”. I felt like a Beatle.

And not one of the species of beetle that inhabit the islands of Manukan and Sapi (Great transition Taylor).

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My new hostel friend and I took a ferry to Manukan and Sapi Islands which are just off of KK (Kota Kinabalu, KK is a totally normal abbrev for the city, and not one I just made up). When I say ferry, I mean I had to wear a life jacket. Which does make it safer, but also implies that you might need a life jacket. It was more of a speed boat than a ferry.

I love island and I love jungles, so when we arrived at Manukan I was very happy. We were greeted by a large monitor lizard, about 3 foot. Which I always thought were pretty dangerous, but this one seemed chill. A quick wiki check revealed that nobody is certain if they’re venomous. Get on it science! Regardless, a bite seems bad due to the bacteria in their mouths. I did not pet.

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We saw about five more as we jungle trekked through the ridge of the island. We misinterpreted a sign, so what was supposed to be a 1.5 km walk, turning into a several km hike. Which was fine, since I would’ve preferred the jungle trek to the jolly saunter on a brick path.

When I was in Ecuador studying abroad in the Amazon, we were told to always wear long pants, long sleeves and socks, despite the intense heat and humidity. This was to prevent the small, barely visible biting bugs from chewing up our skin. Apparently one guy, even with the extra clothing, was covered in bug bites and was crying ever night because of the pain. Brutal. So that’s what I remembered when I took off my shirt to hike the island. It was just too hot and humid.

And I used to think that that was an “exotic” thing. The locals in Ecuador could run around in shorts and no shirt and never have a problem. Most people from the US would get plenty of ankle bites. Apparently the local people either “got used to the bites” because they had lived there their whole lives and the bites wouldn’t cause a reaction in their body. Or because the bugs “didn’t like the taste” of them, because they had lived there their whole lives.

I call this “Grandma Science” because it sounds like something my grandma would say and seems generally right. This however, was told to me by an ASU professor; so roughly, one grandma is equal to one ASU professor.

But this biting phenomenon is not exotic. In PA there’s dozens of insects that bite, but I still lay down in the grass, and I never seem to have a problem. There’s mosquitos, spiders, flies, fire ants, ticks, the common name of immature mites of the Trombiculidae family which sounds waaaaaaay too close to a racial slur for me to type. And I wonder if you took people from far away and plopped them in PA, would they have equally bad reactions to bites? Or maybe the density of insects is also higher just because the tropics tend to support a larger ecosystem?

Anyway, I did not get bitten.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Changi Airport: Anthropomorphization and Sex Changing

Hi I’m in Singapore. In the Changi airport that they also call a mall. But since Singapore is next to like five economic superpowers I’m not sure what currency to use and I don’t want to exchange USD for SingaporeD for just like 24 hours. But this is a great airport, it’s got all your basics, your state sponsored tour of the city that you don’t have to go through immigration for, your two koi ponds, your classic butterfly garden, your charging station powered by bicycle, free foot massagers, a pool. You get it.

On the plane I thought I’d do more writing, but I didn’t really. I thought I was going to play Mother 3, a never-released-outside-of-japan cult classic that Nintendo produced in 2006, that’s supposed to be the bee’s knees. Fan translations are supposed to be top knotch and I wanted to compare the experiences of travelling to consuming culturally specific media. But after spinning up a little flashcard game to help me learn Malay, I realized I’m ginormous and can’t comfortably use my computer and be inside of an airplane at the same time.

Instead, I watched the Great British Bake Off, and well done Britain! Great show, very British. It’s only now that I realize I could’ve just used that show as my exemplar platform to talk about regional media. Oh well, maybe later.

I have a 24 hour layover here. I rented a small nap room for 6 hours. I slept some more on a bench. When everything opened back up, I went to Starbucks. I know that’s not cool cuz you’re supposed to try new things or whatever when you’re traveling, but they had a scrambled egg bread bowl. So get over it, lumpsucker (casual friendly insults are being replaced with lesser known marine animals for the duration of this piece).

I’m going to Malaysia where my main activity will be diving of the SCUBA variety, not the wobbly sandpaper board type. I think I’m afraid of those.

I’m stoked to hang out with the fishes in their natural habitat. I love fish. Hence being an educator at an aquarium. However, there was a conundrum that came up frequently at the aqua.

There’s this thing called anthropomorphizing, where you associate human attributes to animals. For example, a fish looking "happy" or "sad". This happens with all animals, but I’m going to stay aquatic with my examples as it’s my DOE (Domain of Expertise).

Anthropomorphizing is considered bad because fishes aren’t people, they’re very different. They live underwater and have entirely different physical structures to accommodate this. Even among the “Things That Live Underwater” category, you have this huge genre of animals adapting to their environment. Crabs don’t look like Gobies, Eels don’t look like Sharks, and Coral don’t look like Whales. AT ALL. You’d have to be a complete blobfish to mix those up.

So when you have all these different forms meeting all these different functions, it’s really hard to say what the experience of the animal is. Because you don’t have those forms, you don’t have fins, or scales, or gills, and you only have a regular bladder.


Fish have swim bladders (I usually don’t put my jokes on easy mode, but I realized many people probably wouldn’t know that).

But here’s the thing, my whole job was to interpret the behavior of fishes. Millions of people’s passions and careers and research have been based on this stuff. So when people look at a fish and go “Oh it looks happy! It’s smiling”, you kind of have to tone down that read. You have to offer a more nuanced perspective of the situation.

The Kissing Gourami gets its name from its behavior when two individuals press their lips together, looking as though they’re kissing. So people will look at that and go “Oh cute fish!” and it will be a very successful fish to keep in aquaria. But those fish aren't displaying any kind of affection, they’re actually fighting. It’s probably two dude bros fighting over territory.

Kissing Gouramis doing their thing
But whamo-blamo, there’s the problem. In my effort to better explain the behavior, I’m anthropomorphizing again. While technically more accurate, as males do fight for territory, I’m using language like “dude bros”, but even language like “fighting” and “territory” get complicated, because like… Do fish own property? They have a concept of “mine” and settle disputes with physical contact? Do they remember the current "owner"? I think that even when trying to better clarify the situation, we still end up anthropomorphizing.

And I no longer think that anthropomorphization is inherently a bad thing. I actually think that it’s the only way we can understand and document animal behavior. We still have a responsibility to be accurate, resistant to applying cultural norms, and willing to change when presented with new information. But fundamentally, I think the only way we can interpret animal behavior is through a human lens. We can't examine the behavior of Gourami as Gourami because we're not Gourami.

Let’s do another one. Many species of Goby, Clownfish and the California Sheephead will change their gender under certain conditions. All Sheephead are born female, and the largest and most territorial of the females will change into a male. The subtext here, and occasionally entire marketing campaigns, is that it’s ok to change gender. And it is.

But there’s so much wrong with validating the experience of someone who feels they are another gender, by comparing them to a fish. I understand that we’re trying to combat the notion that “it’s not natural”, because obviously it is. But that comes with a boatload of other problems. Like we praise the Sheephead for changing genders, but then we have to quickly turn around and say that transgenderism is normal in humans but then aggressive behavior in males is normal for Sheephead but not humans. Also, as far as I can tell, Sheephead only go from female to male (monandric -

A male Cali Sheephead
So we’re selectively picking the parts of animal behavior that best support our own ideologies, and that’s wrong. We need to be more critical. We can’t say what behavior is “normal” across species. Maybe just respiration.

That being said, it is dope that Sheephead change genders. Like that is so so cool. And we should absolutely bring it up as a highlight of the species. And you can also identify with the Sheephead’s transgenderism, and it can be your mascot or “spirit animal” or whatever. Creating a better understanding of the world and yourself through animals is great!

Perhaps it’s harder because when you’re working at an aquarium with the general public. It’s really difficult to communicate all this information to some purple gudgeon off the street.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Going to Malaysia

I didn't realize so much of my adult life would be keenly balancing different numbers. How much caffeine have I had? How many miles have I run? How much alcohol? How much food? How much money do I have? How much time left before the next meeting?

All this management puts me in an isometric view of myself. I’m not so much experiencing the things I do, as much as I’m solving some equation for x, and watching myself fulfill the equalization from afar. I need to run at least 6 miles tomorrow, drink 2 or less cups of tea, have no alcohol, eat a salad for lunch (some of these are less quantifiable than others), do a chapter of my Malay language book, and complete my Unity (a game engine I’m taking a class in) homework. I need to do this after finding and performing 8 hours of billable work for my “real” job.

I’m often less being Taylor and more being Taylor’s manager.

This system requires repetition. It’s pretty easy to fall off the balance beam, dropping all but the essential “real” work (the one that pays money). And failing in one department often means failing in another. Drinking too much, or running too much or working too much will require me to sleep more or drink more caffeine, AND IF YOU GIVE A MOUSE A COOKIE….

So while I know that stable repetition is the best way to accomplish long term goals, (pay off loans, lose weight, learn things, record music), it can get so boring, that the reward neurons for accomplishing parts of those goals don’t really fire as much.

So to re-up on those pleasure center dispensaries, I have to throw out the routine. In college this was harder to do. I’d do stand up comedy as the definitive method of “making myself uncomfortable for the sake of mental health”. Stand up is hard, and even 5 minutes can be enough to be able to appreciate the time that you’re not on stage, responsible for making others laugh. The prep time of writing and practicing jokes, though I don’t think I was ever good, was enough to shake up the School -> Run -> Homework -> Drink cycle, that’s was too dominating in my higher ed lifestyle.

Here's the only joke I've ever written that I'm proud of. Performed at an open mic in Brisbane.

I just remembered all the pimples that used to pop up in the pit of my elbow during high school and college. Glad that doesn’t happen anymore.

Post college I have fewer pimples and more freedom. I’m lucky enough to be able to do whatever I want. This may not always be the case, so I think it’s important to take advantage of that while I can.

One great guarantee for “making myself uncomfortable for the sake of mental health” is to visit a place with which I have very little understanding. I don’t know the language, the land, or the culture, and that facilitates a feeling of nervousness and excitement. And an appreciation for the things I have become desensitized to when I return. I feel like I’ve written this before...

It’s also just fun to see the political/racial/socioeconomic status of a country and not really have any context or input. It’s like living in a fictional place. I know that sounds solipsistic, but hang with me. I’m gonna tell a story. I’m going to include the races of the people, as this story is about power dynamics/ mental health/ class in America and, c’mon, race is a pretty fundamental part of that.

Last night I was taking the BART (the subway) home around 9pm. I was super tired so I wasn’t even reading a book, or playing 3DS, or looking at my phone. I was just hanging on the subway handles, eyes half open, listening to Iron Maiden. There was a black lady, presumably homeless, yelling stuff, but I couldn’t really hear, because Bruce Dickinson’s voice is like a cannon. So at first I didn’t really notice, but then an older black woman stood up, visibly upset, and left for another car. The homeless woman then stood up as she was leaving, barking racial slurs at her and threatened to cut her. I moved into Bruce Dickinson’s earlier work with Samson, so I could half pay attention in case there was actual danger. (Sorry for the musical details, just trying to keep some levity).

For context:

Now that the homeless woman was mobile, she approached a younger white woman with a hat. A string of obscenities still spewing from the woman’s mouth, she was trying to determine if the hatted person was Swedish or Amish? Or potentially both. Either way, the hatted lady left the car upset as well.

Now the woman started to pick a fight with a white South African man, talking about how he should end slavery in South Africa, but then also making fun of him for being Australian and antagonizing him with a bad English accent? Obviously the woman was either on drugs or having mental issues.

The next stop the South African guy got off and the BART police got on. At this point I removed Dickinson my ears, because prior to this, guns were not involved. The officers were white and asked if there was a disturbance on the car. Nobody said anything and then the sergeant approached me and asked what was happening in the train. I motioned to the woman in the back and briefly explained the story as I had observed it.

The officers approached the woman and asked for a BART ticket, while a younger asian woman got in the car, filming the interaction with her phone. The homeless person refused to show a BART ticket, and while not babbling completely incoherently, her jumps in logic and context were wild.

She was truly controlling the conversion, deflecting any of the officer’s questions and I believe at one point asking the question, “How is it, in 80 years you haven’t found a body on a train?” I do not know the answer. Somehow, she completely ignored the lower ranking officer but observed the stripes on the other and said “well now I respect you because I can tell you’re in charge”. She would talk about how police officers had been killing black folks, and referenced recent murders that I wasn’t familiar with. She asked why they hadn’t found bodies of missing folks. I’m not sure if these were BART police or national police incidents.

But the most disturbing part of the whole incident was the woman who was filming. At first I was relieved someone was filming because, better to have a clear record in case anything happens. But she was like, cheering on the homeless woman berating the cops. I can understand being concerned about cops getting involved with a distressed person of color. But, the cops were calm and reasonable, and the filmer was adding pressure to the situation.

I can understand wanting answers for police killings, but that’s not the topic, and also probably not related to the people standing in front of you. This woman verbally abused other riders and they felt threatened, so the cops were called. How could you side with her? Just because she wasn’t the cops?

Eventually, the police asked if anyone would like to file a complaint against this woman. Which, uhh, dumb way to get any honest feelings from anyone. No one’s going to raise their hand right there in front of her. When no one said anything, the cops left the car.

And then the filming woman did a fist pump in the air! Like something good had just happened!!

Look, I don’t think that giving a destitute person a fine or having her face legal action would have been the right thing to do. She absolutely had enough problems. But, she also received no help, and she was still on the train to potentially harass more people. I got off at the next stop.

I was pretty stressed out about the whole thing. I don’t know if there was a right thing to do in that situation. One hispanic man (what a colorful melting pot we had on the train), told her to sit down while she was irritating the Amish Swede. I don’t know if I should have spoken more with the cops, or spoken even with her. But l am highly conflict averse (AKA a coward). Even if I did know of a place where she could get help, like, a white man telling a woman of color what to do, call a Lyft for Problematic Promenade cuz that's where we are.

I'd love to chalk up my stress and emotions over the incident to toxic masculinity. As some sort of need to control and resolve the situation. Replaying it over in my head is not fun. Writing helps. Also, I get it. Boohoo, you had to be uncomfortable for a half an hour, it's nothing compared to what she’s going through.

NOW! If that all happened in a Malaysian subway A) I probably wouldn't understand any of the words so I wouldn't be as upset. And B) I would just be able to go "huh, Malaysia's crazy right?" And I wouldn’t feel any need to “fix” the situation.

I probably SHOULDN’T participate in Malaysian decision making or intervene in Sabahan qualms. I have no responsibility in local politics but get to witness their impacts first hand. And how many other times is the right thing to do, to do nothing and just observe? What a luxury.