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Making a Difference

Fun fact: I’m partially the reason you have to pay for plastic bags. Back in college, I was a part of CALPIRG (California Public Interest Research Group) — non-profit organizations that employ grassroots organizing and direct advocacy with the goal of effecting liberal political change. Most students call them the annoying people with the clipboards around The Arbor pestering you to fill out a petition, but there’s more to it than that. My time there was spent going around asking for petitions to lower the student debt, make events to showcase the use of solar power, and also talk to representatives at the state capitol to have them vote for legislation we support. As busy as I was my junior year at UCSB, after hearing one speech from the campus chapter leader, I was hooked. I had to join.

I have the fondest memories from everyone I met in CALPIRG. It was amazing to be surrounded by a large group of people who all seemingly had the same interests as you and was out to try to make a difference. One of the first challenges we tackled was banning the use of plastic bags in Santa Barbara County. My duties involved going around town to collect as many signatures as possible and some small office duties such as scheduling. Much to our surprise, what we thought would be a law local to SB was passed as legislation for all of California. Even though it wasn’t a total ban on single use plastic bags, you as a consumer would be charged five cents a bag. It was a step in the right direction nonetheless. If this change annoys you, feel free to blame me and everyone in UCSB’s CALPIRG during that year. We fucking did it.

My love for the environment and nature stems solely from my hippy 4th grade teacher Mr. Wright who sang John Lennon and Beatles songs. He was cool as fuck. He never shaved — he didn’t believe in it. He didn’t have a TV and most unusual, he drove a Suzuki. He always had his guitar with him and would play a tune towards the end of the day and we’d sing along. My favorite to this day will always be Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land”. I was always a science nerd as a kid, but learning about the environment and the level of destruction humans have done really opened up my eyes to the world and the importance of nature.

One event I helped out with involved collecting donations for the homeless, not so much cash donations, but toiletries. We setup outside the Albertsons a few miles by campus, which thinking back was not totally legal, but we didn’t care. Everyone who walked by, we’d kindly ask if they could donate something to help the homeless. Surprisingly, a large number of the strangers did come back out with something for us. Whether it was tissue paper, toothbrushes, or bars of soap, every little thing we got handed, we were immensely thankful for.

Another event I played a part in was a demonstration on the use of solar power as a natural renewable resource. We hauled these large solar panels and hooked it up to a blender of all things and made free smoothies for any students who wanted one. It was fun, like really fucking fun. It was amazing to see people’s reactions to seeing a working blender being powered by sunlight. We checked the weekly forecast everyday leading up to the event making sure it was bright and sunny. I helped a bit to answer student’s questions and hand out any fliers. It was hot, I was sweaty, but I found it quite fun and rewarding.

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Me: top right in the vest

We also got to drive up together as group to go to the state capitol and pester actual congressmen and the snobby political elite. I met people who worked for Leland Yee before he was arrested a year later for racketeering charges, money laundering, public corruption and bribery. Pretty fucking wild to think about. We got to meet all the other UC CALPIRG chapters as part of PIRG day and spent a few days discussing future collective efforts and what to go after next. I was in awe at this point. There was people all around me who were just as passionate and shared a deep rooted desire to enact change. It’s still one of the best memories I have about my time in UCSB that didn’t involve the usual partying or nights to the club.

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Me: third from the right

We didn’t get paid a cent to do any of this and volunteered all our free time in the hopes someone high up would hear us out and agree. It was altruism at its finest with the end goal something favorable for the good of the people. Some of my friends from CALPIRG went on to work for public policy and as social workers. I’m jealous and couldn’t be more happy they got their start here. If I could revisit any time from college, this is one is high up there on my list and my god I miss it and everyone I met.

Later world.

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The Weekend Crew: Tanaya and Tiffany

I can count the number of male friends I have with one hand. My really skinny hands at that.

I naturally seem to get along better with females. There was a certain point passed my sexist misogynistic bro-phase of early adolescence where it occurred to me that much of what guys talk about doesn’t really sit too well with me. That’s not to say there isn’t the usual guy talk at the office, but if anyone mentions to me about video games, guns, and whatever new extreme action packed thing there is right now, frankly, I don’t care. That ceased to amuse me years ago.

I usually meet up with 2 friends (both female, no less), who I affectionately call “the weekend crew.” Over simplifying the complex nature of personalities of people, you can consider them, Tanaya — the tall black girl who has a thing for Asian guys (emphasis), and Tiffany — a short Asian girl with a small voice and usual weekend DD. Fun fact: Tiff is my neighbor around the corner. Small world, right?

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How did we meet? Tanaya crashed my end of the year party for my friend Jack in 2015 at UCSB. Note that she was not invited and proceeded to side-step me as I was out greeting guests at the door. First impressions: Who the f-ck is she? And she seems rude. The rudeness hasn’t changed much. Tanaya and Tiff were neighbors living in Santa Ynez. Naturally, Santa Barbara would unite us together even after we all have graduated.

The Weekend Itinerary

  • go downtown or somewhere in Alhambra or Pasadena
  • visit a bar
  • drink at said bar (emphasis on alcohol)
  • repeat at another bar
  • Tanaya keels over
  • Tiff is the DD
  • repeat next week

Believe me. It’s actually pretty fun.

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Stories from UCSB: A Girl Named Grace

Sometimes you always run into that one girl over and over again for 2 years. But she’s secretly a weirdo.

Isla Vista is a fairly small college town about 2 miles across. If you had a consistent schedule, you may be lucky enough to bump into a friend every week. It was my first year, I was living in Santa Ynez, there was always one quiet and shy girl I saw practically everyday in multiple random classes. Long black hair, glasses, Asian, and slightly above average in height is how’d I best describe her. At first we would exchange awkward glances, which unfortunately morphed into a “what the fuck, you again?” head turn.

You’d think after happening for so long, someone (meaning me) would introduce themselves. But nope. The furthest I spoke to her was one afternoon once my 3rd psychology class for the day was over. I almost made back to my apartment when I turned the corner and BAM. There she was again. Truthfully, this time, I was somewhat startled. I quickly thought to myself and said, “fuck it.”

“Hey, aren’t you in the class I just had? Wasn’t that midterm totally unfair?” I get I have a deep voice, but I completely caught her off guard and practically made her stumble trying to stop. She murmured a response confirming my suspicions and we both quickly evaded.

Fast forward to my last year at UCSB and I’m in Davidson library frantically cramming for a midterm. I get a notification,”You matched on Tinder!” I check to see who and its the same fucking girl. Think of this moment as the ocean tide, the common cold, or those battered spouses in relationships. They always come back.

At this point, I thought this was ridiculous so I did what any guy with a Tinder match would do, but to very suavely chat her up. If you’re think we hit it off got along great, and found a lot in common, you’re way off. She was a totally freakin’ weirdo. She threw a bunch of off comedy one liners and divulged her amazing ability to recite lines from King of the Hill. If there was ever another reason I look the other way when it comes to Asian women, here’s another penny in the jar.

Sometimes chance encounters are just that — chances. Random at that.