The Way I See It – Midland isn’t boring

“Ugh, there’s nothing to do in this town! I’m so bored!”

I hear it at least once a day. People complaining that Midland is such a terrible place with nothing to offer but drinking and boredom.
I feel like the people who say it are either ignorant or they are brand new to the area.

I grew up here. More specifically, I grew up out in the country south of town in a trailer park. Back then, before there was such a thing as the internet, finding something to do that didn’t involve running around in a pasture was actually difficult to do. My idea of entertainment as a kid involved running around a field with my brother and cousins while playing Ninja Turtles with weapons cobbled together from whatever we could find, usually old oilfield tools and scrap metal. In retrospect, they were probably almost as dangerous as the weapons we were pretending them to be.

Things aren’t like that anymore. Nearly everyone has the internet, and therefore a complete guide to everything going on in the Permian Basin, literally at their fingertips. There are dozens of things to do on any day of the week in Midland or Odessa. All a person needs to do is look.
Before the internet and cell phones, you had to check the newspaper, or call the theater, or check the baseball schedule, or call a friend and hope they were actually at home if you wanted any sort of entertainment that involved going anywhere. The one thing my childhood had that is no longer available was Water Wonderland, or Hero’s Water World, as it was renamed before finally closing.

I can count on one hand the number of major concerts that came to the area during my childhood and teenage years. There was no such thing as Rock the Desert and this area was definitely not on the list of stops for most popular music acts.

It was a huge deal to me and my cousin when White Zombie came to town in the mid ‘90s. It was the first major rock concert in my lifetime to come to Midland. Keep in mind that I was born in 1982. It took nearly 15 years before I even had a chance to catch a show like that without going to Dallas or Lubbock.

Today, I hear about a major show every week if not every couple of days. Between Wagner Noel, Dos Amigos, the Horseshoe, the Ector County Coliseum, Graham’s Central Station and the Far West Event Center, concerts and other live acts are a constant feature somewhere in the Basin.
When I was a kid there was only one professional sports team in the area— the Midland Angels. There were no Rockhounds, Roughnecks, Jackalopes, Drillers, Sockers or Mad Dog Rugby Club.

Now, all these teams have hugely loyal fan bases and they play at different times throughout the year. Even better than that is that the teams are actually good.

The Rockhounds are the AA Affiliate of the Oakland A’s and anyone who follows baseball knows how good they’ve been the last several years. Midland is the starting point for that success. I hate to put it like this, but the Angels were pretty terrible and their games could get frustrating to watch pretty quickly. Now, our local sports teams are more than worth the money we spend on tickets these days.

You know what else exists— at least during the summer? Summer Mummers. If you live anywhere near Midland and you’ve never been to a Mummers show, you are doing yourself and the talent that puts on these shows a disservice.

The Permian Basin also is also home to various museums, parks, golf courses, paintball arenas, and a slew of other fun things to do. It’s changed a lot in the last 20 years.

There are also numerous organizations and clubs throughout the area that are always doing something. The West Texas Astronomers Club meets a couple of times a month. Midland College is teeming with various student clubs and organizations, as well as their own sports teams. Find a class to take over an interesting subject. There is a lot to do in this big, little town.

While Midland used to be boring, it’s ignorant to claim that this is still the case. All you have to do is go outside and look around. You’ll find something to do.

If you don’t, well, as the song says, “if you’re bored, then you’re boring.”

The Way I See It – distracted driving

The current oil boom has helped make Midland and Odessa the fastest growing cities in the entire country according to bussinessinsider.com. Along with the massive influx of people are all the vehicles that brought them here. While the boom has been great for our economy, it’s been terrible for our roads. With more people on the road, distractions are causing more accidents.

Several years ago, it was easy to get around town and not have to worry about whether some idiot was going to come out of nowhere and ruin your day. Today, not so much.

It’s become a hobby of mine to take a note of how many people I see driving while they’re using a cell phone, or doing their makeup, eating or any of the other various things that distract people from what should be the most important task of the moment.

To state it simply: there are too many people on the road who aren’t paying attention, and they’re going to seriously hurt someone.

This isn’t to claim that I am above it all. I’ve used my cell phone while driving, and I’ve been distracted by other things too. I’ve also paid for that mistake. I’ve been the jerk who ran into another vehicle because I wasn’t paying attention. I learned that expensive lesson the hard way.

We all feel like we’re the most important person in the world. But we all need to be aware that there are other people on the road. That phone call or text message isn’t so important that it can’t wait for you to respond safely.

There were 3,520 accidents on Midland’s roads alone in 2013. That number is actually down 3,723 from in 2012 but fatalities and injuries both increased, from 16 to 20 and from 1,110 to 1,120 respectively, despite the drop in accidents. These fatalities and injuries are only going to continue increasing as more people move into the area.

Many states have enacted “hands free” cell phone laws. Unsurprisingly, Texas, has not. Such bills have been shot down in the state legislature time and time again. After all, we like our freedoms down here.

But, with this freedom comes some responsibility. You cannot expect other drivers to look out for you. I’m sure I’m not the only person who has been told to treat other drivers like they have no idea what they’re doing behind the wheel.

Defensive driving is safe driving. Attentive driving is safe driving.

It’s simple really. Put down the phone; it will still be there at the end of the drive. Use the turn signals; they’re not there for decoration. Go with the flow of traffic.

Speeding can be dangerous, but going so slow that the flow of traffic is impeded can be just as dangerous. Nothing is more important than personal safety.

The Way I See It – Texas Independence

March 2 marked 178 years of Texas independence. 178 years of being the biggest and the best at everything we do. Texans have the mindset where we think we’re better than everyone around us, and in a lot of things, we are.

One area where we seem to be lagging behind the rest of the country and much of the world in is the way we treat our fellow Texans— no, not just Texans, but humans in general. We staged a revolution in the name of freedom.

What freedom exactly? Unfortunately, all those brave souls who lost their lives at the Alamo were fighting for their freedom to deny the freedom of other people. The Texas Revolution was fought because the Mexican Constitution of 1829 outlawed slavery and we didn’t like it one bit. After the capture of Santa Anna at San Jacinto, Texas went back to its pre-1829 ways with the help of the United States.

The men and women who gave their lives in the name of Texas independence are held up as the highest standard for what it means to be a Texan, and rightfully so. They faced an army of 1,800 soldiers with fewer than 200 of their own. They knew they were going to die. But they fought on and took around 600 of Santa Anna’s soldiers with them in 13 days of battle. That’s heroic. Aside from damaging Santa Anna’s ego, their sacrifice helped ensure that Texas would not go quietly and without a fight.

The freedom we celebrate every March is given to us by the men and women who saw Texas as something bigger than themselves. Even though they were fighting for something morally sickening, their battles have instilled a keen sense of pride in every native born Texan born since then.

With that little bit of history out of the way, let’s look at where we are as a state now. We still claim to be the biggest and best on the block, and we should. We’ve got Dell, NASA, Texas Instruments and a menagerie of other companies that have called Texas home. There is one place where we are failing, and it is reminiscent of the period of Segregation. It was a dark time for Texas just like the rest of the United States. Only now, instead of denying the rights of black Texans, we’re focused on denying the rights of gay Texans.

Last month, Judge Orlando Garcia struck down the state’s ban on gay marriage. I applaud him for his action. Equal rights means exactly that— equal rights. Your sexual orientation should matter as much as the color of your skin does. For those who need a bit of clarification, your skin color and sexual preference do not define who you are as a person.

Some people who share this great state of ours have called Judge Garcia a socialist or a communist, bent on legislating from the bench in the name of Comrade Obama. These same people claim that his striking down of the gay marriage ban is a step towards redefining traditional marriage, and that we are on our way to Hell because of it. I’m assuming these same people are also unaware of any history prior to the early 1900s.

“Traditional” marriage, if there ever was such a thing, has been redefined to suit the modern culture since the concept was first thought up. The fact that I have never offered livestock or a portion of a harvest to my girlfriend’s father means that “traditional” marriage has been redefined. The fact that I only have a single significant other instead of a harem means that “traditional” marriage has been redefined.

Wait, that’s not what they mean. Those people aren’t really backwards and bigoted morons. They just want protection for traditional “biblical” marriage. You know, the marriage laws that say a man must marry a woman if he has relations with her, consensual or not. Or maybe it’s the biblical marriage where divorce isn’t allowed. Or maybe they’re talking about the part of biblical marriage where a man’s brother must marry his widow if the man dies.

Yeah… traditional marriage indeed. What these people are actually arguing for is their right to impose religious morals onto people that don’t believe the same things that they do. These people who hold up a Bible and say that gay marriage is an affront to God are the same people who were arguing against interracial marriage 50 years ago. These same people also like to pick and choose which parts of the Bible they abide by. Gay marriage? That’s a sin. Eating pork or wearing blended fabrics? No, that’s fine. Jesus didn’t mean for us to keep that part of the agreement. These rules all came from the book of Leviticus and the only thing Jesus ever said about gay people is something he said about all people. Love thy neighbor.

That’s the part that so many people seem to have trouble following. So many people out there willfully pick and choose which sections of the Bible to follow and those people have it all wrong. If you follow one portion of God’s Law, you should follow all of it. Jesus didn’t make any special exemptions for being ok with hating gay people. He never said “love thy neighbor… except for that faggot over there.” He said to love they neighbor unconditionally and do not judge them. Judging them is God’s job.

Gay marriage does not undermine the principles of traditional marriage. Traditional marriage as we know it was undermined by the Protestant Reformation and Henry VIII over 500 years ago because ol’ Hank wanted a divorce. My message to these people hell-bent on forcing their “religious” morals on the rest of the population is: stop. We don’t need your twisted view of morality. We don’t need someone who willfully chooses which part of their supposedly sacred book to follow depending on the situation. We don’t need morally backwards and bigoted people stuck in the past running our state. We’ve made so much progress in the last 178 years that it would truly be a shame to willingly hand our beloved state to the modern equivalent of the Spanish Inquisition.

Gay people are part of our culture, our history and our future. No one is forcing couples to get married and no one is being forced to perform marriage ceremonies for gay couples.

I’m pretty sure that most gay couples don’t really care about the recognition from religious organizations for the most part.
The recognition they want is from the government.

While Thomas Jefferson and the rest of our Founding Fathers didn’t write anything about marriage in the Constitution, they did have a lot to say about the separation of church and state. If your only argument against gay marriage is a religious argument, you have no argument worth listening to. As much as some people like to think otherwise, this is not a Christian nation. No more than it is a Jewish, Muslim or Buddhist nation.

If you don’t believe me, google the Jefferson Bible or the Treaty of Tripoli. Our Founding Fathers were very careful to separate their religious beliefs from their political processes.

Somewhere, we forgot that separation was supposed to be there.

The Way I See It – the NFL and Michael Sam

Are we seriously still at a point where a player telling the world that he’s gay causes that player’s draft stock to nosedive?

There is nothing wrong with his ability to play the game at an elite level, there is nothing criminal in his past or present, there is nothing causing this drop outside of the fact that he likes guys.

Is anyone else reminded of being a little kid and thinking that boys or girls were gross because they had “cooties?” That’s what this sounds like to me. There are grown men and women in the world still who cannot act in a professional manner because someone is “icky.”

Not everyone feels this way about Michael Sam, the defensive end from Missouri. The vast majority of players say that as long as the kid can ball, they’ve got no issue with him.

Some 44 out of 51 players who were anonymously surveyed by ESPN have no issue with a player’s sexual orientation. It’s those other seven players who bug me.

Despite being paid millions of dollars a year to play a game, these grown men are afraid of having someone who likes guys in the locker room with them.

The claim is that Sam’s orientation could be a distraction. From my point of view, the only distraction would come from players who would be more focused on who Sam is dating than the game they’re being paid to play.

From a coach’s and owner’s standpoint, I would think that these players would be a much bigger detriment to the success of my team than the guy who decided to be truthful about whom he is.

I’m willing to bet there have been gay players in the NFL for a long time.

No one has ever come out before Michael Sam, and it’s pretty easy to see why.

Even though the vast majority of the organization doesn’t care what your sexual orientation is, a small minority of people who can’t get over themselves causes problems for everyone involved.

Gay players are forced to sacrifice telling the truth about who they are for avoiding bullying at the hands of bigoted teammates.

That’s really the heart of the argument for anyone who claims that gay players would be a distraction to a team.

They are effectively admitting that they are so wrapped up in disdain and hatred for a specific type of person that they cannot be professional around them, no matter how much they’re being paid.

Personally, I don’t think anyone’s sexual orientation should be a newsworthy thing unless we’re talking about the Pope or someone else whose sexual orientation is explicitly tied to their role.

Until we stop jumping all over these people for simply stating who they are, we’re going to have a problem.

These players and other professionals should not have to sacrifice doing a job they love and are good at just because they’re just a little bit different than what society has told us is normal.

The military rescinded its ban on gays in uniform last year and is stronger for it.

Our armed forces no longer have to hide who they are from anyone and are a more effective fighting force.

If the “distraction” of having openly gay men and women in our military hasn’t caused an epic meltdown, I’m sure that an openly gay player in the NFL won’t either.

It’s time for people to get over themselves.

The Way I See It – marijuana legalization

It’s high time (see what I did there) that we started having a real conversation about the benefits, dangers and misconceptions about marijuana use in the United States. What started as an underhanded and racist means to control the Hispanic and black populations and as one man’s successful attempt to control the paper industry quickly became, to many people, a war on personal freedom, as Bill Hicks put it.

That brings us to the biggest misconception about the plant. Marijuana, pot or ganja (whatever your preferred name) is not the same thing as industrial hemp. Though the plants are in the same family, they are not the same thing. Smoking industrial hemp won’t do much more than give you a headache and make it hard to breathe.

This misconception was started by William Randolph Hearst and his newspapers. His goal was to preserve his paper empire by making industrial hemp, which has a higher yield and less maturation time than a tree, illegal. The easiest way to do this was to associate the plant with the “demon weed” being used for recreational purposes by America’s minority populations. During the era of prohibition, this relation was all that was needed to prompt the knee-jerk reactionaries of the government and public to quickly ban the plant.

In the hundred years or so since the first laws banning marijuana, there has been a small but vocal group of people constantly asking why. The standard answer given every time the question is asked is because it is a drug and it’s already illegal. Obviously, the proponents of marijuana legalization have never bought the circular reasoning of that argument and are finally beginning to win the war against prohibition. Medical marijuana is legal in 21 states and is on the ballot in several others. Marijuana is completely legal for recreational purposes in two states.

The “evil menace of reefer” is becoming easier and easier to acquire as time passes and the prophecy of doom for the nation that was foretold in the last century is nowhere to be seen. Children aren’t being marketed to and adults aren’t experiencing addiction rates any higher than the rates of legal drugs. Actually, when compared to intoxicants like alcohol or tobacco, the addiction rates in marijuana users are much, much lower. Unfortunately, this argument has been in use for some time and has always fallen on deaf ears. In the late 1970s, President Jimmy Carter was close to pushing for marijuana decriminalization. Around the same time that Carter was making this consideration, one of his aides was arrested with cocaine in his possession. Not surprisingly, Carter immediately dropped his push for decriminalization, and the entire
idea was shelved for the next two decades.

Sometime in the last two decades the majority of people have begun rethinking how they feel about marijuana. Part of this is due to our parents growing up and realizing that the plant isn’t as dangerous as they were told by their parents. The supposed “reefer madness” that would overtake anyone who tried the plant wasn’t real. Our parents grew up and became successful despite being potheads in the 1960s and 1970s. These people who grew up and didn’t go crazy because they smoked a joint or two are now the people in charge.

With all of the medical studies done on the benefits of marijuana in the last two decades and the tax revenues of states like Colorado and Washington, the powers that be are finally sitting up and taking notice. Even in Texas, Governor Rick Perry has come out in favor of decriminalization. Ten years ago, this was a political death wish in the realm of Republican politics in Texas. As with all things, money speaks very loudly and the money to be made from marijuana, from its industrial uses to its medical uses and recreational uses, is now screaming at everyone who has a slight willingness to listen.

Another unexpected source of reason when it comes to marijuana use has been the NFL. Yes, even the National Football League is looking into marijuana therapy for use in concussion treatment. Several former players, including outspoken former kicker Chris Kluwe, have gone on record to say that marijuana use in the NFL is prevalent and there is a large percentage of players who would rather use pot than opiates for their aches and pains. Even more recently than Kluwe’s statements, members of Congress have introduced bills to reschedule marijuana.

This part of the push for legalization came about because of a White House petition that garnered enough signatures to require a response from the government. Marijuana legalization is eventually going to happen, and it’s been a long time coming. Previous generations bought into the idea that pot makes you crazy, and this notion became the status quo for nearly a century. As a result, our prisons are over-crowded, our police forces are over-worked, fighting an unwinnable war on a plant, and we flush billions of dollars down the drain every year in the name of keeping our streets and children safe. All of these factors have done nothing to curb the use of marijuana in the United States and have actually only furthered the abuse legal prescription drugs, many of which are medically more dangerous than marijuana use.

As a nation, we are finally starting to ask the right questions about marijuana prohibition. We are finally seeing that it is no more dangerous than alcohol, and according to most arguments and scientific studies, is actually safer. We are finally starting to realize that prohibition didn’t work for alcohol, and that we’re being childish to think that it is any more effective when applied to marijuana. Hopefully, this push continues.  After all, all we have at stake in this fight is our personal freedom to choose what goes into our bodies and millions of dollars in tax revenue.