Luke Pease

Luke Pease has been a responsible taxpayer his many years, but the new tax law may change all that.

Discount for cash? I asked as I purchased a pair of shoes. “We can let you off the tax,” she said.

Nice!

Discount for cash – my new mantra. Auto mechanics, shoe shops and restaurants I have found, are perfectly happy to waive the tax, and sometimes more, if you pay cash.

No-one likes paying tax, and I’m no exception, but as a responsible, functioning member of society, I’ve accepted that pain, along with the rationale that by acting together, and with each paying our fair share, we create a better world, a world where a modern infrastructure and a social safety net come standard. Turn on the faucet and clean, drinkable water appears! Flush the toilet and presto! – no longer my problem. What a wonderful world. That’s taxation.

But with the latest egregious tax bill having passed through congress, I’m out, I’m not paying any more. The documented lies of our President, and of those in Congress supporting this bill, have stripped the moral obligation to obey the legislation.

I have discovered in past years, that one can ‘create’ information on tax returns, but I have previously erred on the side of caution, giving the IRS the benefit of the doubt. Cost basis, I’d underestimate. Charitable donations I sometimes claimed, sometimes not. House burglarized? I’d resist the temptation to exaggerate the loss for tax purposes.

But not any more. Sure, try to find the missing transaction on that stock I bought thirteen years ago. Need another deduction – oh my car was broken into, damage incurred $5,000. You wanna say that didn’t happen – here’s the automated police report.

To maintain ethical integrity, I should donate these ill-gotten proceeds to the homeless, where it should have gone in the first place, but you know what, I think I’m gonna keep it.

After all, to paraphrase the New Yorker, the rich will get richer, but with the poor getting poorer it all averages out in the end.

With a Perspective, I’m Luke Pease.

Luke Pease lives in Oakland.

The first scream could have been playful, but the second was unmistakably that of a woman in distress in the street below my apartment. A few seconds of silence, and then another. Loud and long, piercing the night air and the calm of our building.

Alone in my apartment, instantly I recalled the legendary New York incident where dozens of apartment dwellers apparently ignored the screams of a woman being murdered.

In the silence that followed, trepidation and guilt battled within me. I could remain safely in my apartment pretending I hadn’t heard a thing, or investigate what could quite possibly be a nasty situation.

I may not be blessed with an excess of bravery, but a middle-class upbringing and a Quaker education have imbued within me a healthy dose of the oppressive western guilt complex.

Predictably guilt won. I put on my shoes and left the safety of my apartment. As I waited for the elevator the couple next door emerged. At least I wouldn’t have to face the situation alone, but I could tell his enthusiasm matched my own. By the time we reached the street another resident, armed with a baseball bat and the fearless attitude of a man who has won a few knife fights, had joined us.

We turned the corner to find a woman assaulting a bus – the bus empty, except for the driver sheltering inside, the entry door closed, a window smashed. As we approached she turned her verbal abuse towards us. Clearly, she was in distress, maybe she was off her meds, maybe she was high, who knows, but she was no real physical threat to anyone, and no one was any threat to her. Other neighbors arrived. No one was gonna get hurt in this part of Oakland tonight.

The New York legend it turns out, is just that, a legend. It didn’t happen that way. People did in fact attempt to aid the unfortunate Kitty Genovese, they just didn’t get there in time.

We acted the same way in Oakland, we were just luckier.

With a Perspective, I’m Luke Pease.

Luke Pease has lived peacefully in Oakland for many years.

Backpacker magazine rates the hike to Yosemite’s Half Dome as one of the most treacherous in the United States. Dangers along the trail include, apparently, fatigue, dehydration, scorpion stings, rattlesnake bites, mountain lions, bears, hanta virus, plunging to one’s death from a great height – be it over waterfall or cliff – forest fires, and believe it or not, the plague.

No locusts though.

As a man more accustomed to the excitement of reading a good history book in bed, I was surprised to find myself, an hour before sunrise, facing the infamous cables that enable the final assault to the Half Dome summit. For those of you yet to do Half Dome, after hiking most of the night, one is greeted by what appears to be an impossibly smooth, impossibly vertical, sheer face of granite scaled by a rickety ladder of cable and wood that promises a 2000-foot sled ride to death should one misstep just once on any of the wobbly rungs.

‘No way,’ I said. ‘Not a chance.’ Every nerve in my body told me to turn around and head back down the valley.

Unfortunately, I was with 10 of my closest friends.

‘It’s easy’ they said. ‘Four-year-olds do it’ they said. ’80-year-olds do it. Everyone does it.’

And so I climbed half-dome that morning, not because I faced-down the advertised biblical dangers, but because I was more scared of peer pressure, and what my friends would think.

We were nearly the first to summit – beaten by a couple who had camped the night on the peak. The sun rose above the mountains lighting up Yosemite Valley below, and pretty soon the four-year-olds, the 80-year-olds and the families-of-five started to join us.

Now that I’m home, far from that monstrous granite outcropping, I laugh in the face of Half Dome, supposedly the most dangerous hike in America. Hah!

Just don’t confront me with my deepest fear, the opprobrium of my peers.

With a Perspective, I’m Luke Pease.

Luke Pease is contemplating paragliding next weekend at Ed Levin Park in Milpitas.

Backpacker magazine rates the hike to Yosemite’s Half Dome as one of the most treacherous in the United States. Dangers along the trail include, apparently, fatigue, dehydration, scorpion stings, rattlesnake bites, mountain lions, bears, hanta virus, plunging to one’s death from a great height – be it over waterfall or cliff – forest fires, and believe it or not, the plague.

No locusts though.

As a man more accustomed to the excitement of reading a good history book in bed, I was surprised to find myself, an hour before sunrise, facing the infamous cables that enable the final assault to the Half Dome summit. For those of you yet to do Half Dome, after hiking most of the night, one is greeted by what appears to be an impossibly smooth, impossibly vertical, sheer face of granite scaled by a rickety ladder of cable and wood that promises a 2000-foot sled ride to death should one misstep just once on any of the wobbly rungs.

‘No way,’ I said. ‘Not a chance.’ Every nerve in my body told me to turn around and head back down the valley.

Unfortunately, I was with 10 of my closest friends.

‘It’s easy’ they said. ‘Four-year-olds do it’ they said. ’80-year-olds do it. Everyone does it.’

And so I climbed half-dome that morning, not because I faced-down the advertised biblical dangers, but because I was more scared of peer pressure, and what my friends would think.

We were nearly the first to summit – beaten by a couple who had camped the night on the peak. The sun rose above the mountains lighting up Yosemite Valley below, and pretty soon the four-year-olds, the 80-year-olds and the families-of-five started to join us.

Now that I’m home, far from that monstrous granite outcropping, I laugh in the face of Half Dome, supposedly the most dangerous hike in America. Hah!

Just don’t confront me with my deepest fear, the opprobrium of my peers.

With a Perspective, I’m Luke Pease.

Luke Pease is contemplating paragliding next weekend at Ed Levin Park in Milpitas.

That lemon-faced look of sympathy would flash across their face whenever I said it.

‘I live in Oakland.’

“Oh you poor thing, what have you done to deserve that?” I was once asked.

The artistic, economic and intellectual triumphs bestow San Francisco, Marin and Berkeley residents a reflected cache, whereas we Oaklanders are seemingly tainted by our city’s notorious crime statistics and Jean Quan’s 100 blocks of murdering mayhem.

When real British blueblood Jessica Mitford, progeny of the 2nd Baron Redesdale, rejected her noble origins, joined the communist party, entered self-imposed exile and became an unlikely Oakland resident alongside Huey Newton’s Black Panthers, her resolutely aristocratic sister Nancy Mitford, pleaded “At least you could live in Berkeley.”

The Late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia claimed that no man of means would ever live in Oakland – and indeed wealthy San Franciscans are reputed to negotiate the Bay only when their dead bodies make the trip to Oakland’s Mountain View cemetery.

We Oakland residents knew the truth though – the 17 miles of parkland running along the hills, the spectacular views, Lake Merritt, cheaper housing, the multicultural lifestyle and the glorious Mediterranean climate made Oakland more livable than, dare I say it, San Francisco.

Times change, of course. Jerry Brown’s stimulus rejuvenated downtown living. The restaurants and the night life followed and now you can’t open a newspaper without reading of Oakland’s desirability and the sky-high rent. The New York Times named Oakland a must-visit destination in 2016.

Jessica Mitford passed years ago, the memories of Huey Newton’s murder are fading, crime statistics are down and Oakland’s recent desirability, morphed through demographic change, became gentrification.

Exiting the hipster-friendly Adam’s Point Whole Foods recently, I passed a woman just as she said into her phone ‘you can’t buy a house here any more, the white folks bought them all.’

With a Perspective, I’m Luke Pease.

Luke Pease is a longtime resident of Oakland.

The modus operandi was obvious: force entry through the kitchen window, locate and ransack the master bedroom, give the rest of the house a once-over, load up the loot in our laundry baskets and depart. In and out in two minutes. Stealth not required.

Yes, we had become the latest Oakland Hills burglary statistic.

The police, citing a lack of resources and that no one was hurt, declined to investigate. "You can fill out a report online," they said.

Of course, homes in the Hills get robbed because, as famed bank robber Willie Sutton would have said, 'that's where the money is.'

In fact, it comes as no surprise to learn that burglary and wealth distribution are correlated. Increase economic inequality and burglaries go up, redistribute wealth more evenly and burglaries decline. With the tax breaks of recent history invariably favoring the rich, perhaps the corresponding increased burglary is merely taxation by other means. Certainly Oakland's underfunded schools, police and social services indicate insufficient tax returns, and a trip down San Pablo Avenue will attest to Oakland's economic inequality.

But it could have been much worse for us. Just weeks later, burglars shot an 81-year-old woman in her house at 10:30 in the morning. Police investigated that one, and four arrests have been made. There are no winners in that transaction.

So if you naughty criminals are listening to this, here's the deal: we'll mitigate the pain by insuring the valuables and backing-up the family photographs. You leave the guns at home, don't hurt anyone, the police won't investigate and you'll be ok.

The justice of this process is inconsistent, but then so are the economic rewards of the United States.

With a Perspective, I'm Luke Pease.

Luke Pease wages war on cancer from inside the South San Francisco biotech industry.

 

Luke Pease

Entering college in the years after punk eviscerated the remains of shaggy hippiedom — Berkeley excepted — my hair has always been short. Which may explain why, as my mid-life crisis curled its bony digits around my fragile psychology, and my corporate haircut stared back from the bathroom mirror, I decided to grow my hair.

“I'm going Fabio,” I announced to my wife. "Rocky is gonna have to get along without me," I said, referring to Oakland's most famous barber, who, he tells me, tended Al Davis’ unruly locks for 40 years. He seems proud of this.

With my hair testing the hitherto unexplored expanse of my ears, I passed Rocky enjoying a smoke at the door of his Montclair barbershop. He eyed me suspiciously. "I'm growing it," I pleaded, arms wide, open palms emphasizing fidelity.

But then a funny thing happened. People started treating me differently. "I can tell, you're an artist," a new acquaintance assured me at a cocktail party.

My reply that actually I was a mid-level engineer for a multinational pharmaceutical conglomerate disappointed her. It disappointed me as well. I imagined a different life in which my youth had been wasted swapping hits with Keith Richards in the back of blues bars.

I googled Fabio. Sadly for Fabio, time and gravity have scarred that iconic image. Sadly for me, my wiry coif recalled neither the younger nor the more mature Fabio, but fell midway between Richard Simmons and Donald Trump.

At work, a colleague suggested I was doing mid-life all wrong, and that a Porsche might be more appropriate.

Eventually, with my hair blowin' like a haystack in the wind, I went to a hairstylist, emerging once again within the bounds of corporate respectability.

People tell me I look younger, and that short hair suits me. Maybe, but when I look in the mirror, blandness stares back.

I’m growing my hair again.

With a perspective, I’m Luke Pease.

Luke Pease plans to up the excitement in his life next year.

"Why are you peeling it like that!?" said Christina, my colleague and recent Chinese immigrant, as I held my banana in my right hand, split the stalk with my left, and peeled back the skin from top to bottom in what I assumed to be the universally accepted tripartite manner.

"What?"

"You are opening the wrong end," she said.

Her explanation followed. Split the other end with a gentle squeeze just as if you are tweaking a baby’s nose, peel back the skin and there you have it. A banana. With two improvements.

Firstly, the top bit has not been mushed by the undue force used to split the stalk, and secondly, the stalk now provides a convenient handle with which to hold your newly peeled banana.

An impromptu survey revealed that everyone else in the vicinity peeled their bananas in the same manner as myself, though one first-generation Chinese-American confirmed her father peels in this "Chinese" manner. Christina assured us her one billion compatriots peel their bananas as described. Having presumed my peeling technique employed the most physically efficient method possible, it came as a surprise to learn that it was not scientific principle, but rather culture, that had formed my technique.

That repository of world culture the Internet, reveals a dozen banana peeling techniques, but crucially, informs me that monkeys favor the Chinese method.

Peeling my next banana — in the Chinese manner — revealed an easier peel, an unmushed tip, and the advertised handle, yet the different grip required, coupled with an unfamiliar weight distribution caused by the asymmetrical curve of the inverted banana, imparted an unbalanced feeling. My banana was out of control.

However, I acknowledged the superiority of Christina's technique, and now, as I become comfortable eating my banana in the Chinese manner, I wonder what other cultural treasures await as we enter what many predict will be China's second golden age.

With a Perspective, I'm Luke Pease.

Luke Pease lives in the East Bay.

“Why are you peeling it like that!?” said Christina, my colleague and recent Chinese immigrant, as I held my banana in my right hand, split the stalk with my left, and peeled back the skin from top to bottom in what I assumed to be the universally accepted tripartite manner.

“What?”

“You are opening the wrong end,” she said.

Her explanation followed. Split the other end (the end that hangs lowest when the banana is attached to the tree) with a gentle squeeze just as if you are tweaking a baby’s nose, peel back the skin and there you have it. A banana. With two improvements.

Firstly, the top bit has not been mushed by the undue force used to split the stalk, and secondly, the stalk now provides a convenient handle with which to hold your newly peeled banana.

An impromptu survey revealed that everyone else in the vicinity peeled their bananas in the same manner as myself, though one first-generation Chinese-American confirmed her father peels in this “Chinese” manner. Christina assured us her one billion compatriots peel their bananas as described. Having presumed my peeling technique employed the most physically efficient method possible, it came as a surprise to learn that it was not scientific principle, but rather culture, that had formed my technique.

That repository of world culture the Internet, reveals a dozen banana peeling techniques, but crucially, informs me that monkeys favor the Chinese method.

Peeling my next banana — in the Chinese manner — revealed an easier peel, an unmushed tip, and the advertised handle, yet the different grip required, coupled with an unfamiliar weight distribution caused by the asymmetrical curve of the inverted banana, imparted an unbalanced feeling. My banana was out of control.

However, I acknowledged the superiority of Christina’s technique, and now, as I become comfortable eating my banana in the Chinese manner, I wonder what other cultural treasures await as we enter what many predict will be China’s second golden age.

With a Perspective, I’m Luke Pease.

Luke Pease is looking for a publisher for his first novel.

The advance publicity is seductive. From the top of Mt. Diablo in San Francisco’s East Bay, one can see apparently more of the Earth’s surface than from any point on the planet with the exception of Japan’s Mt. Fuji. Out past Yosemite’s Half Dome to the snow-capped Sierras in the east, past the Farallon Islands in the Pacific to west, to the south the land falls away revealing the Santa Cruz Mountains and to the north, incredibly, one can see Mount Lassen in the Cascades. The 30,000 square mile panorama is more expansive than even that from Everest.

That’s the advance publicity.

In reality, if you stand atop Mt. Diablo you can see about 10 feet in each direction, the view being blocked by the walls of the gift shop and museum built right there on the summit.  The peak actually comes up through the gift shop floor, a rocky out-cropping breaching the polished concrete giving the absurd impression that the shop preceded the moment of creation, and only later did the mountain thrust upwards through the floor. Standing on the summit, one can admire not the advertised postcard view, but a view of the postcards — and novelty pens, key rings, snacks and brochures celebrating the great natural reserve that is Mount Diablo State Park.

Whoever thought the experience of a four-hour hike to the summit would be enhanced by the opportunity to buy a cheap t-shirt was mistaken.

To take in the real view, one must exit the gift shop and climb the stairs to the roof.  The view is spectacular, and as one is 10 feet above the summit, theoretically even better.  But you are standing on a gift shop roof.

At this point, it is tempting to formulate some deep philosophical objection to capitalism’s dastardly tentacles yet again destroying a more meaningful convocation with nature, but having journeyed to the summit in an air-conditioned Japanese automobile and purchased a refreshing orange soda in the gift shop, I’ll leave the indignation to someone else.

With a Perspective, I’m Luke Pease.

With the almost daily discovery of new exoplanets pushing the probability that extraterrestrial intelligence exists inexorably toward certainty, not only do we bleeding-heart liberal geeks with a scientific inclination have to worry about social injustice here on Earth, but we must now worry about injustice throughout a universe possibly teeming with life as well.  The thought that at this very moment, somewhere in the universe, nuclear war is destroying a civilization is difficult to shake.  Reconciling the Jews and Arabs here at home will be cake compared to ensuring peace and happiness reigns throughout the spacetime encompassing 100 billion galaxies and 14 billion years.

But will human-style compassion be extended to the extraterrestrial should contact be made?  Here on Earth the entire biological kingdom has been subjugated to human interests.  We’ve even tricked those big-brained dolphins into becoming bomb-toting torpedoes for God’s sake.  And despite the invention of ‘human rights,’ slavery, capitalism and communism have managed to subjugate most of mankind as well.  So what chance has the extra-terrestrial?

The Pope’s astronomer, possibly sensing another income stream, says he would indeed baptize an alien.  The only requirement for baptismal eligibility being the possession of a soul, which in turn is characterized by intelligence, free will, and the ability to love.  Presumably that bit about love extricates the church from many an inconvenient ecclesiastical jam.

The United Nations is openly discussing the dangers an alien encounter may bring.  Should we advertise our presence like a horny peacock on spring break and accept the dangers therein, or, like a diffident turtle, should we remain safely, but comfortably, out of sight?  

In reality, spacetime is so vast that even if alien civilizations do exist, the vanishing small chances of a meaningful encounter are so minute that we will remain forever alone, suspended on our pale blue dot, in a cold uncaring space, with only ourselves for company.

With a perspective, I’m Luke Pease.

Over the limit, by himself, and apparently without a care in the world, he sailed past me in the carpool lane. My boss. Alone.

Besides getting on the road behind me and arriving at work earlier, he’s younger, better paid and drives a more expensive car. Whether he’s more handsome and funnier is for others to judge of course.

From the radio, Cokie Roberts filled the gap of my unreliable carpool partner, whose absence had yet again condemned me to the gridlock. The cars around me fumed. So did I.

Factor in bridge tolls, extra gas and most importantly the complete waste of time sitting in traffic, and the carpool economics is clear. To maximize one’s marginal utility, the mythical rational economic agent must chance it, and take the carpool lane. If time is money, then wasting it sitting in the commute quickly outweighs the relatively minor setback of infrequent fines. Not only that, but longer commutes correlate with increased incidence of skin cancer. Something I’d like to avoid.

The urge to slide left, ease on the gas and eat up that pristine asphalt strip was almost irresistible. But carpool ethics are more murky. Is the occasional fine enough to restore grace? Should carbon offsets in other areas of life be redeemable for carpool privileges? And how about the socially conscious carpooler, condemned to another late arrival by his absent partner? Should he be allowed to sneak along the carpool lane?

Watching the ethical egoists speeding by on the left, committing their small but significant theft from each member of society, I reasoned that respecting the carpool constitutes a daily test of one’s ethical integrity. I stayed put.

Of course my reward would come on returning home each day, having maintained my ethical integrity, by which time presumably, my boss will have already arrived home, kissed the wife, played with the kids, enjoyed dinner and poured himself a second glass of Chardonnay.

With a Perspective, I’m Luke Pease.