David Esrati, the most dangerous man in Dayton

Ideas are currency.

And in Dayton Ohio, we used up our quota sometime before 1950, because, frankly, up until then we were on a roll. Inventions poured out of this little city. The cash register, the airplane, the step-ladder, the electric starter and even ice-cube trays. We had a few hits after 1950 like the pop-top and the search engine, but, generally, we ran out of gas.

We did stupid things like slice through downtown with a big elevated highway, and we allowed sprawl like no-ones business (actually- it was great business for a few people in power who profited greatly from insider knowledge), and we let our racism tear this city apart.

That all happened before I got to town and pissed off the powers that be by putting up the wrong kind of garage doors on a garage that came with a $14,500 house. Yes, a house that cost less than a parking spot in NYC for a year. That was the beginning of the attempt to tame this wild new thinker in Dayton.

I’ve been called names, I’ve been assaulted by a Mayor, arrested by another Mayor, I’ve been called a pedophile by a Union Chief- who also picked a fight- and then as I got out of my car- slammed the door on my leg. I’ve had my house shot, my office windows broken 2 nights in a row, I’ve been threatened with bodily harm, and had microphones shut off as I spoke at public meetings. I’ve been thrown out of libraries, locked out of public meetings and written up for peeling paint. I think I’ve even been falsely accused of double dipping my chips.

However, the internet has given me a chance to speak and be heard. I’ve broken stories of illegal campaign donations, payola to our congressman’s wife, torture and deaths in the jail and international men of mystery pulling a fast one on the hapless school board and then the Republican party.

But, when it comes to being recognized as a legitimate voice in the community the door has been slammed shut. For the first three years I applied to be a speaker at TEDx- and rejected.

thumbnail of daytonaaf-letter

Thrown out of Ad Club

And yesterday, I got told that my slides were too political, and we can’t have you speak at Pecha Kucha this Thursday night. Yep, talking about hanging basketball nets instead of putting out political yard signs is too risque for PK. Then the mail had an unsigned letter from AAF Dayton, formerly known as the Dayton Ad Club. My membership dues were being returned and I wasn’t welcome as a member. I’d been a member of the club for at least 25 years, but chose to join Cincinnati last year after they gave the Silver Medal to a guy who just showed up in town about 7 years ago. Hell, he barely made it to the meetings. So much for years of volunteer work, community contributions, and actually hiring people and giving them their first jobs in the business.

Good thing is, Cincinnati still welcomes me.

Now a few friends have said things like, you know, if people keep telling you that you have a tail, at some point you might want to look back and do something about it.

To them, I say, sure thing. I’m sure that people told Rosa Parks, “Lady, look, just go on to the back of the bus and don’t make no stink, Whitey is awful nice to even let us ride on their buses with them”

And, others told Martin Luther King, to just stick to the bible and preaching, all this marching and rabble rousing will just get you thrown in jail or worse.

How do I know that? Here’s the opening of his letter, from the Birmingham jail- I’d highly recommend reading the whole thing.

16 April 1963

My Dear Fellow Clergymen:

While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work.

Source: Letter from a Birmingham Jail [King, Jr.]

So, since I won’t be able to take the stage on Thursday to talk about “The Long Game of Basketball Net Propaganda” at PK- here’s the banned presentation- please share it with everyone.

Banned in Dayton:

And if you’re wondering about my other 2 PK presentations

And when we stop sharing ideas. We’re broke.

My lemonade stand

Muhammad Ali died last week. The entire world grieved. But, there are some who still call him a “draft dodger” and the “Louisville Lipp” and even worse, Cassius Clay.

It’s the last one that shows an utter lack of respect.

Ali was a polarizing person, and for some, he never won anyone over.

I am not comparing myself with Ali in any way, but in many ways, of any public person, I can relate. You can struggle with public perception, or ignore it at great risk. Most people wouldn’t do some of the things I’ve done- choose to run for political office, not just once, but many times, even after repeatedly losing, being rejected. Wear a mask in a city commission meeting to protest a planned blackout of the media when the public came to speak, yell “fuck you” at a pompous minister holding a political rally in a church when he shuts your microphone off, go back to the next political rally and get herded off the property by three police officers (yet to be written about- it happened Monday).

And few people would step into a boxing ring, and onto a global stage, to be recognized for pummeling your opponent within inches of their life. With what we now know about CTE- Chronic traumatic encephalopathy we should all wonder why boxing is still a “sport.”

Ali reached beyond boxing. He made people think. He was unique, one of a kind, and charismatic.

We like our heroes that way. But, there is a limit on how many heroes there can be. And even our imaginary “super heroes” have struggles. It’s what makes them interesting. Peter Parker and his personal struggle to fit in, Superman attempting to be Clark Kent, Batman with his secrets. Ali had his flaws, took “wrong positions” on occasion, but still, by all measure, it will be a long time before the world forgets him.

There are those of you who read this blog religiously, a few, that comment a lot, some that hate it, hate me, and would have no problem hanging me like I hang basketball nets, to shut me up. There are few people in this community who can walk up to a microphone and be hissed at, booed, or chided before they even open their mouths. For the most part, we will allow fools to be elected who do insanely stupid things- and still give them respect. For me, maybe instead of Ali, many of you think I model Rodney Dangerfield – of “I can’t get no respect” fame. Last night at the orchestrated three ring circus for public display of Dayton Public Schools superintendents (post and video to follow) I was heckled for asking an DPS administrator who has been with the district for a year, to name all 28 principals and their schools for the audience and to acknowledge their presence. Later, someone told me they disagreed with me, thinking it was an unfair “test.” I wonder how someone can be paid close to six figures, sit on the administrative cabinet in an organization that he thinks he’s fit to lead from the brink of destruction back to glory, to show that he’s made the effort to learn and know the people that he’s leading now. Others thought the question was right on the mark- but as always, only say it quietly in passing, not with a public declaration- like applause for asking the tough questions.

It’s easy to be a quiet cheerleader. It’s hard to be the only one who is willing to point out that the guy has the least experience in the field by far, and that there are internal candidates who not only have a four times more experience, but could name all of the people, and who would be the best person to promote in each building if all 28 left tomorrow.

But I’m the bad guy. Going up to ask the last candidate a question, the rabble roused and it almost wasn’t worth asking the question that I believed those very same people needed to hear- to evaluate the third candidate, Mr. Lilly White cheerleader- “We’ve had problems with violence and fights at athletic events, our community has argued about police presence at these events, what alternatives, or out of the box thinking are you going to bring to this district?” His answers were almost tone deaf, a too drunk girl with an Oakwood swimmer deaf to use a horrible timely analogy, “more or different police.” The same people who were heckling, now knew that this candidate was probably not the one they wanted, but, lord, they wouldn’t have asked that question- only I would have, for them. But I still suck.

Sucking is what life hands you. There is the old expression, when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. Right now, for those of you who are friends on Facebook, you know I’ve been dealt a truckload of lemons. I’m an only child. My parents were old when they had me. Dad is 89, mom 88. Since January, my mother has been slipping into dementia. My father, from who this acorn hasn’t fallen far from the tree, has more medical conditions than Dayton has vacant houses. If you ever wonder why I’m so adamantly against smoking– it’s because I watched my father kill himself with Player’s unfiltered cigs,  three packs a day up until his first heart attack at 47- where he was given 5 years to live. He’s outlived the doctor who told him that by at least 30 years, despite him being a younger, healthy doc. And the “Carlton low tar” smokes that he switched to for the next 10 years before he finally quit. That we used to rate a cigarette as “best” for you back in the day, shows how stupid the masses can be- that we still sell them, despite being proven to have monumental health costs that are spread among all of us- is inconceivable to me, or anyone rational.

If there is one thing I’ve learned, we live in an irrational world.

I’m sure someone else famous has said that, but I’m not going to look it up. If I am to be remembered, that might be one of the statements I’d like to own.

Dad's recipe for lemonade, bad foods for a diabetic with COPDThat was a sidetrack, back to my parents. Mom has almost always managed dad’s food well, to deal with his diabetes, his COPD, and other ailments, carefully avoiding too much sodium, and managing sugar and carbs. However, with her diminished mental acuity, she started slipping- instead of sugar free chocolate pudding- Hershy’s full sugar pudding slipped onto the shelf of her pantry, instead of her low sodium stew- Dinty Moore, with half the daily sodium count was being served. His legs from the knees down became ulcerated, he started retaining water, returning the hydrocele from hell that we had “cured” last year with the potentially life ending risky hernia repair. A trip to the VA to stabilize came first- 5 days. On his return, Mom, although she’d been out to visit him daily in the hospital, and talking to him frequently on the phone, stood there and said “where have you been” as he got out of the borrowed car that I picked him up in.

Lemons hitting me like the firebombs of Dresden.

He was home for less than a week. Sunday night, she called while I was struggling with my weed wacker that was misbehaving, asking me to take him back to the hospital. I cleaned up and went across the street (knowing these days would come, long ago, I made sure my home, office and their future home were all on the same block).

He didn’t want to go to the hospital, even though he thinks the Dayton VA is better than the Cleveland Clinic. Instead, he was off to bed.

Hillary Clinton once had an ad about that call at 3am. It came at 4 am Monday, Dad had fallen, Mom called, and I rushed over. They both have the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” buttons, thanks to the Area Agency on Aging, but it’s been a struggle to get Mom to wear it- and even then, I’m not sure she’d know what it does- other than it’s a watch, that doesn’t tell time.

He was on his side, not moving, she was getting wet paper towels to put on his head, which was bleeding from what I determined was a very superficial cut. The walker was near him, this time. He’d fallen 3 times already this week, and once, the walker was at the other end of the house.

I thought about calling 911. The paramedics, the flashing lights and assessed both patients in this case. I still have vivid memories of myself at 9 years old, watching the gurney go down the stairs with my mother strapped in, unconscious from a sleeping pill overdose. She doesn’t remember if it was intentional, but, generally, when you take the whole bottle, conclusions are drawn. I didn’t want my mothers final memory of my once proud strong father being of him carried out on a stretcher. Pop got up, and slowly walkered out to the new to me car, a minivan, for the trip to the VA ER.

I never in the world thought I’d drive a minivan, but they are the ultimate old people movers.

At the VA, a nurse came out and chastised me for bringing a “trauma patient” to their ER, right in front of the said patient. He was seen immediately, CT within 20 minutes. He was their only patient that night. I later, upon returning from picking up his hearing aids (and forgetting his teeth- because, for me, those things aren’t something you think of – ears and teeth still come as part of your original equipment) I pulled her aside and asked if she’d been in nursing long? And then telling her that despite her 25+ years experience, she seems to have forgotten to not run up to a patient and say, “holy shit, your arms blown off” which was lesson one in my limited military medical training.

Dad will be in the hospital, or assisted living for at least a month, while he learns how to walk again on legs that don’t give him very good feedback on his body position. But, he too, is slipping into dementia, calling me on my cell to “come over to help him to the bathroom” or talking about watching Jeopardy, on the TiVo that’s in his imagination in the hospital hallway.

More lemons.

My parents have left the building. They are shells of their selves, one dimensional paintings of what used to be vibrant, engaging and bright souls. Much like Ali as he struggled with Parkinsons.

On top of this, I’m still managing the life of a 44 year old veteran, trying to align his care and his life into something manageable. There’s a story, with a video, about my visit to the Montgomery County Veterans Service Commission waiting to be written, but on the back burner, because of my lemonade business. I haven’t hung a basketball net in 2 weeks either, which makes me sad.

This post, weighing in at 1831 words so far, is too long, and too much. “I would have written something shorter, but I didn’t have time” comes to mind.

If you read this far, thank you, would you like to buy some of my lemonade?

It’s all I seem to have right now. Thank you for your patience and support.


Why does Dayton reward mediocrity?

Someone questions something in Dayton- shoot the messenger.

Yesterday, the Dayton Daily news posted an obituary on Edyth Lewis. In it, they spelled our former mayor’s name “McClin”- for pointing out the typo- I get called names, and one person suggests that if I’d die right now, it might increase my chances of winning some precincts. For those of you who don’t know, the name is McLin. We’ve got highways named after her father, a gym at WSU etc. There is no excuse other than lack of any kind of editing and proofreading talent at the paper.

Also yesterday, someone tried to claim that my recent posts about two former candidates’ death notices- not getting obits was a form of trolling for reads to this blog- and they did it on the article that was there to prove that obits were being missed.

Today, it’s front page news that Miller Valentine has a “plan” for redeveloping the “Fairgrounds like the Greene.” The paper supplies a pretty site plan picture- only, there is no indication that Miller Valentine is doing anything like the Greene. The main differences? The Greene always has had parking garages, and the development has zero exclusive residential – all of the buildings are mixed use. The Miller Valentine plan is decidedly missing both garages and has separate residential. And while they show a 35,000 square foot grocery store, the question is which company is going to use that size space? That’s approximately the size of the Wayne Avenue Kroger store which was deemed in need of replacement- which sucked over $4 million of the taxpayers’ money to create nothing.

Now, Miller Valentine has its hands out for public funds? Who is going to fill these spaces, or are we, the taxpayers, just supposed to finance their pipedream without signed leases and some sort of performance contracts in place?

Anyone can draw a pretty picture and sell an idea, but execution of it is another matter. One only has to look at Miller Valentine’s project “University Place” at the corner of Brown and Stewart to see its total failure to address parking properly- and that there are still multiple vacancies 5 years later should make it clear, this isn’t Steiner at work (developer of the Greene and Easton in Columbus).

photo by David Esrati of backboard at Princeton Recreation center in Dayton

Rotting wood, bent rim. This is at one of our few staffed recreation centers

While I was at Princeton Recreation Center (also known as Northwest or Dabny) hanging nets on Sunday- it was clear the city’s main effort at fixing up the basketball courts has been in the removal of my stickers from the poles – which give the number to call for net replacement. The kids asked me why I hadn’t fixed the crap rim and backboard- next to the rock. It’s not good enough that I hung three top of the line rims there- and keep the nets up. When I suggested they call Commissioner Williams, one of the kids- a girl who was riding around on a bike, dismissed me “we’re just trying to play basketball here.”

Mediocrity reins supreme in Dayton OH.

Disrespectful, stupid (and my mother dresses me funny)

I never made it through “How to win friends and influence people”- I found the writing style plodding. But according to one woman at Wayman AME on Hoover Ave, she hopes I never come back to Wayman, and I’m not very intelligent (which I clarified by asking her if she was calling me stupid? With which she said yes). I’m disrespectful, for coming into “her house” and “disrespecting her brother” (I take that to mean Joey Williams, who is a member of Wayman). All this was an interjection as I was getting schooled in marketing, for not spending enough time telling the congregation (whom I’ve addressed every time I’ve run for the last 20 years) what I was for, vs. what I saw as problems.

Damn, I’m confused. I always thought that if you lied in church you’d be struck by lightning.

This was the first place I was told that I couldn’t videotape the activities. John Lawson of the Linden Center was in charge of video and promised me he’d share. I almost had him let me tape when I told him my camera was bigger than his (I bring a pro rig out, he had a pocket camera). Had he let me record, the card wouldn’t have filled up and stopped half way through question and answer, but, that’s another story. I can’t show you my “disrespect” for you to judge, but hopefully he’ll put the video up soon.

So, what did I ask? I asked the people to believe me now, 20 years after I started, to trust me when I tell them that I’m not naive anymore, and I understand how things are done in Dayton. That if this city ran fair elections, William Pace would be up here too, and that the decisions of who gets to run isn’t up to the people, but a party that I belong to, but can’t agree with their methodology- one of patronage and favoritism.

I also said that no matter what anyone tells them, it takes three votes to make a change. That Nan Whaley and Joey Williams have had 2 other votes their entire time in office, and if they couldn’t do it then, what can they do now? That Gary Leitzell has been working as a team of 1 against a gang of 4. It takes three votes for a change.

I made the analogy of Dayton as a restaurant. Either your food and service are great, or people stop coming. Instead, Dayton tries to be Wal-Mart, that has a food stand- but also sells everything else. We need to stick to delivery of fundamental services and do it well. We need to offer things that no one else does, or no one will come and fix up the houses that are decaying faster than Nan can hand out demolition permits to her donors (I actually didn’t point the finger at Nan- or enunciate this as clearly).

Yes, I know, talking about how where you grew up, or where your kids went to school has served Jeff Mims well. He’s been elected over and over. But one woman, from Jefferson Township did ask if he wins a seat on the commission, will he still serve on the State School Board and he told her that he’d have to resign that seat to be on the commission. Finally- someone realized that Jeff isn’t living up to his last campaign promises, and yet he’s up here making new ones.

I did see some heads nodding along, some people get it when I say we have gang problems because we don’t have nets on rims on basketball courts, or neighborhoods that are connected by a common school. But, to answer these questions in a minute is like trying to summarize the Bible- in a hundred words or less. These candidates’ forums aren’t really forums at all- they are more like speed dating, where the fact that you are an axe murderer isn’t as important as that you smell good and smile a lot.

The woman who dressed me down, wouldn’t back down, and neither would I. She took it as a point of pride that she could tell me off and call me stupid, while not wearing a name tag or putting her name on the ballot. It’s easy to be a bystander, it’s easy to boo, it’s easy to stand on the sidelines.

The hardest thing to do in this town is to tell the truth.

It’s not the kids, it’s the parents.

Well, now I know. It’s 11pm that the kids are supposed to be inside by.

At 10:15 or so- there was a racket outside of my office. I walked out and there were 20 kids milling around the corner. I advised them in my best command voice to find their way home and their parents. They dispersed, although there seemed to be some confusion on the ownership of a bike that seemed more expensive than what these kids could afford. It was left in the street- so I moved it onto the sidewalk- before a small girl came back to claim it.

A nice couple on a motorcycle asked what was going on, and I told them that these kids seemed to be out past their bedtime.

Here is the curfew law- from the City site:

2.5 Curfew (Hours: 11:00 pm to 5:00 am)

No minor under 18 years of age shall be on a street, highway, park, alley or other public place between the hours specified unless:

(a) The minor is accompanied by a parent, guardian or other person 21 years of age or over and authorized by the parent or by law to have custody of the minor; or

(b) The minor is traveling to or from a place of employment, or is responding to an emergency, or is acting under direction of a parent or guardian; or

(c) The minor is emancipated under ORS 109.550 to 109.565.

2.5.2 Curfew Hours. The hours between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. are the hours of juvenile curfew.

2.5.3 Police Custody. Peace officers are authorized to take minors violating curfew into custody as provided by ORS 419.569.

2.5.4 Penalty for Violation. A violation of any provision of section 2.5 of the Dayton Municipal Code is a Class B violation and is subject to a $250.00 fine per each violation.

via City of Dayton — Curfew.

Leaving the office at 11:40 or so- I still heard kids making noise from midway down the next block. I went home, dropped off my gear and went back out with a flashlight to find out why kids are in the street this close to midnight.

As I get down around 31 Bonner where there are literally kids spilling off the porch, the same couple pulls back up on the bike. This time, they aren’t so nice in asking me what I’m doing.

I explain that kids should be in bed by this hour. To which I’m told to mind my own business and who the duck do I think I am. The kids are running their mouths too- in between smoking. I point out to one that he’s not old enough to smoke- and he says “I’m seventeen.” BINGO.

The guy on the bike wants to pick a fight, the wife wants to call the cops on me- and supposedly does. I tell them I’ll wait till the cops show up. This isn’t good enough for “Dad” who wants to throw down in the worst way to show off his manhood to the “children.” This is how we teach our children in the summertime- when school isn’t in session- “and they can be up till 4:30 in the morning if they want Mother Trucker” as “mom” pipes in.

The pressure becomes too much for “Dad”- and he decides he has to protect his brood. Off comes the sweatshirt to reveal the blue “wife beater t”- and then he’s an inch in front of me. I continue to say, I’m just waiting for the police. In the meantime, “mom” is telling me about how her kids were “molested by Mexican’s just last week” and that I must be a molester too. She screams for her man to hit me- but, he can’t quite bring himself too- although I’m supposed to be shaking in my shoes. He grabs my shirt, and starts twisting me around to push me to my knees- the shirt rips, my glasses start to come off- and he starts to reach for my flashlight- as if he want’s to pull it up and choke me- then thinks better of it when he sees I’m not going to get into it with him.

I stand back up, dust off- and call 911. “I’ve been assaulted, please send an officer to 37 Bonner.” The “wife” yells- “Tell them 31, since I’ve already called them”- “OK 31” I say- the dispatcher asks me who assaulted me, to which I reply I don’t know his name- and he proudly says “Dan Bowen Jr.”

Dispatch advises me to walk home, lock the doors and wait. The “posse” behind me hears me say 113 Bonner as my address and start repeating it as if they’d been given the combination to Ft. Knox.

The crews show up a little slow- it’s shift change in the Second District- and they were coming from the First. The officer says he was amazed to find it- of course, no GPS in the cruiser.

I give my side of it, another cruiser appears- and he tells him to head down to the lynch mob down the street.

We exchange some shared confusion about the state of East Dayton parenting, and he heads down the street.

I sit down and write. I’m still feel the adrenalin that comes with the fight or flee reflex that I seem to have learned to ignore to my own detriment. I wonder how confrontations affected Gandhi and King when they preached non-violence and held their ground and their principles.

More than anything, this convinces me that for all the “progress” we’ve made in South Park among the “neighborly”- we’ve failed to engage and provide for all the kids in the neighborhood. Had we had programs for the kids to play baseball, soccer, or basketball- had we had scout troops, and after school activities, maybe these kids would not only know me, but know better.

As the years have gone by, I’ve become less connected to the kids that walk the streets down here. I used to know many more of them, when I was working on the houses and the office.

I think it bothers me even more that Dan who lives down the street, and I, hadn’t met at a block party, or in a neighborhood meeting. He saw me as the enemy in this, when in fact, I was concerned about my neighbors.

We both live in Dayton, on the same street, yet in different worlds.

How do we fix this? I know that fighting isn’t the answer. Hopefully, he’ll learn too. I’m tempted to send some of Pizza Bill’s pizza tomorrow- because with pizza, all things are possible.

[Update 5:30 am] the left hip hurts like hell, bad day to have to go to the doctor too from a work standpoint.