The place to come to wag more and bark less...


Monday, November 6, 2017

Trump may turn out to be the single best bipartisan effort. Ever.

Sorry, Obama. And sorry to you, too, Bushes and Clinton. Thought you were retired, did you? Maybe time to throw on the ol’ dungarees, plop that ol’ ten gallon gourd cover on overhead and get out the chainsaw in time to cut some Christmas firewood?

And you, Mr. Clinton? Thought you had time to kick back after last year’s campaign and relax with your new grandbaby? Madame Secretary, your work isn’t finished yet, either. It’s time for you both, in function at least, to become part of this current administration.

And you, Mr. Obama, the time for relaxing in the sun with your family on Mr. Branson‘s private island is over. Hope you’re ready – it’s back to work for everyone.

Michelle, your work was reprised by a fashion model with the imagination only to plagiarize your initial speech as First Lady.

She’s seen as arm-candy, not meant to be heard, a prized possession of a domineering husband with a penchant for “locker room talk.” She’s a woman afraid, too afraid to crack a smile next to her husband as they step off Air Force One, and too afraid not to.

You and Barack and Malia and Sasha are fit to set an American example, for yours is a family rooted solidly in wise principle and sound character. It’s a sight all Americans with short memories-like mine-can take heart in.

If America was smart enough to choose this for itself before, it can be smart enough to choose it again. But now we find ourselves in a collective state of fight or flight. And the time for flight is done.

Donald Trump has made it clear, through his incompetence and sheer personal awfulness that he is not fit to be president. Initially at least, it was a job he didn’t anticipate and even openly stated he did not want.

So what to do now?

Just as the state of California circumvents Trump’s mindless disregard for climate change by sticking to the protocols it has established for its own cities so, too, must former living presidents join hands and unite in once again governing America.

Forget about “pivots,“ “changes of heart,“ or anything else that restates the mistaken notion that Trump will change. It isn’t real, and it isn’t funny. Change he won’t, change he hasn’t, and change he simply cannot.

The lessons of past presidents, living and otherwise, as well as all American history, and cherished ideals such as those written in the US Constitution do not figure anywhere into Trump’s idea of a “deal.”

These are lost on him. And, as it’s said of those who fail to learn from history, “...they are condemned to repeat it.”

Trump’s ignorance matters little if it’s merely his own existence that’s involved. But it’s America’s future- and its steadfast international influence - that hangs in the balance.

If such a Trump deal were to be considered art, America would be better served by a three-year-old wielding his first crayon. For it’d be within such a developing young mind that we’d see a similar display of creativity and, of course, maturity. Or, perhaps, a septuagenarian with an unwell mind.

No one is surprised when a three-year-old spills his juice, throws his crayon in a fit of pique, or poops himself. But for Trump it’s a way of life. The primary difference being, of course, that three-year-olds don’t golf and they certainly don’t grope women.

Trump’s tireless name-calling, his confused reasoning and his alternative facts are best kept behind closed doors, preferably in the moist darkness of a cobwebbed cellar.

There, at the very least, the pathetic death throes of the administration whose most noteworthy accomplishment is that it can strangle itself will be muffled. No decent person cares to see your sneering facade in the plain light of day.*

So good luck, former presidents and also to the gutsy former cabinet members who follow their lead still. Though you served your past terms with gusto, each of you still has my vote. And that vote is bipartisan.

It’s a lesson in American civics that future grade school students - those who survive global warming and nuclear catastrophe -might one day be proud to learn.

For now, however, Americans-and the world-might best be served by paying careful attention to the 25th Amendment AND finding the fortitude, like our forefathers did, to find the figurative musket balls to ACT.
*Consider this recent Reuters piece: https://www.usnews.com/news/top-news/articles/2017-11-07/trump-not-invited-to-paris-december-climate-change-summit-for-now-says-france




Friday, November 3, 2017

Rage Against The Xin Ping

Stay tuned for this post-it’s gonna be an ass-kicker. Few things light my creative, Tiffany-Trump-twisted fire than the Dotard-In-Chief returning to his real homeland. Whether he’s flanked by B-1s cruising overhead or not, the ‘Tard is the one who’ll bomb.

REM Sleep, REM Sleep, Where The Focker You?

Ever since I can remember, I’ve lived a very different life. Not too off the wall, mind you, just different in a good way. You might even call it weird and why not? As a teenager, my father dubbed me “Captain Weird” and, of all people, I suppose my parents would know. As teenagers developing into young people, unwittingly shedding our childhood ways as we plunge headfirst into the abyss of individuality, I guess we’re all pretty weird.

Maybe it’s a bit late for me to be reflecting on my youth now but why not? It’s all part of being weird, I guess. I’m probably not the only one who’s ever done so. In fact, right this very minute, one of my weird old high school buddies might be thinking the same thing.

Why is this even important, though? Well, I guess it isn’t. I’m just killing some time while I work through a spell of insomnia. I tend to do some of my best weird thinking at such times, and it just occurred to me that I might put some of my thoughts down for posterity this time. Maybe next time I have insomnia I’ll want something to read and, bingo!, here this will be. And to think people have told me I haven’t much foresight

Which, of course, brings me to the subject of predictive text. A moment ago, in the final sentence of the previous paragraph, as I typed in the word “foresight” my smartphone, in a moment of inspired confusion I guess, offered up the word “foreskin” instead. Maybe it’s because I dropped my phone one too many times, I don’t know, but who ever uses that word in anything but a medical report?

Uncircumcised (that word came up as intended and I’ve probably never used it before) men who don’t have a cell phone with a built-in camera so, in lieu of an actual “dick pic” they’re reduced to writing about their genitalia, maybe? No, seriously, I’m asking you.

That’s definitely weird, and something only my local Republican state representative who probably votes against sensitive issues like family planning and abortion (but is really a closet Democrat) could contrive. If that’s the case, that’s fine by me, provided I’m not required to read it. Hell, as a Democratic voter, I might consider voting for the guy in the next erection, er, election. Damn predictive text again. No, it really wasn’t-just me making a bad joke, though my predictive voice text might’ve come up with that gem.

But, not to be too repetitive, I’m probably as likely to talk about foreskin (this time that word didn’t come up as “predictive” at all) as I am my local congressperson.

How Jewish might I have to be for that to happen, you might (but probably aren’t) thinking? Well, I can think of at least one time that the subject of a newborn Jewish boy came up in a movie that led me to laugh a little too loud. In fact, it roused Sophie from a deep sleep and earned me the stinkeye for a good five minutes. Then, of course, she fell back asleep and forgot all about it:

The movie I’m speaking of is about the trials of a young man faces in introducing his future wife’s family to his own. Though I frequently borrow lines from this movie because I’m too lazy or too tired ( probably after having insomnia the night before) to think of something clever on my own, I cannot remember one from another.

I believe the movie to which I’m referring is called Meet The Fockers. As it happens, Focker is the young man’s surname. And, besides being a name my predictive voice therapy has a field day with, he happens to be, yes, Jewish. In the movie his father, (Dustin Hoffman) is incredibly proud of his family name which, of course, is something the son is somewhat ambivalent about. Maybe frightened is a better word, though.

It’s actually not his name that embarrasses the son so much as the fact his mother (Barbara Streisand, of course) tends to speak of her son as if he’s still a grade school kid. Only it’s worse, given the awkwardness of meeting one’s future in-laws in the first place.

One scene, which involves all of them looking over the young man’s past accomplishments and photos is worthy of particular mention. A few moments after the girl’s stoically protective yet hilariously funny father (Robert DeNiro) looks at an award and observes “I didn’t know they made sixth place ribbons, Greg” the next shot is of all of them.

They’re crowded next to each other, looking over the women as they flip through a photo album. The fiancé then turns a page, and a little something falls (Blip!) onto the table. The girl reaches down and picks it up and, of course, Mrs. Focker proudly proclaims “...and that’s our little darling baby Greg’s foreskin.”

At which time the daughter flips it back into the air where it plops into the guacamole or some such side dish. I could be wrong but I think the next scene is of them eating Chinese food instead.

So, there you go, that’s it. I’ve never used the word foreskin in my writing before and now I’ve gone and done so four times now. It’s proven to be enough for the predictive text to bring up the word now, so that next time I intend to type “foresight” I’ll be reminded of this one, weird, insomnia-driven blurb.

Pretty clever, eh? Clever enough to finally leave me tired enough to go back to sleep. Zzzzz…..


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Campground Life 101: Unique, Yet Strangely The Same

Campground Life 101: It can get pretty lonely here.

Though there’s no shortage of people here - someone is always around to talk to if you need it - it doesn’t mean it’s a person with whom I’d care to speak.

There is a painfully evident cultural gap between people here no matter the reason they are here, and not all of us are residents.

Many, like Sophie and I, live full-time in an RV. Others come and go in the manner that seasonal summer campers and transient laborers/skilled workers who live in campers do as their economic obligations require.

While these people live in their campers full time, the place they truly call home, “where the heart is,” is someplace else.

Their outlook on the place I and the other full-timers here call home naturally differs, and the reason is simple. Sophie and I are as transient to them as, well, they are to us.

And the fact remains that, among “us,” vast disparities exist. However, this doesn’t imply anything negative by any means.

Granted, some of these cultural differences go beyond traditional social or (fairly) superficial differences, such as liking country music more than rock music.

Or perhaps some might have humorous tendencies that lean more toward Larry the Cable Guy than they do any of the polished,  male-dominated, shirt-and-tie late night network hosts. You get the idea.

For my part, I grew up listening to rock music. However, I can appreciate country music and all music, really, on its merits based on musicians’ technical skill, live performance quality and, yes, song lyrics and relevance to my life.

I also get Larry the Cable Guy’s humor, and humor from all over the spectrum, really, though I really do prefer slightly more sophisticated comics. After George Carlin died, any enjoyment of another comic’s vulgar observations went with him.

But I indulge myself with the above examples in other, probably very different ways than my neighbors.

For example, I prefer listening to jazz music at any time of the day, whether I’m waking up and making coffee or slip-sliding away to La-La Land at one a.m., after writing online content like this.

I also prefer watching video documentaries and, well, writing. I enjoy focusing on my blog and writing elsewhere about subjects of relevance to me.

But that doesn’t mean I haven’t had my share of crazy nights at basement parties where beer comes in kegs, and not cans or bottles.

And where “smoke ‘em if you got ‘em” was a silly phrase we’d shout out about (nicotine-I grew up in Pennsylvania!) cigarettes or, on special nights, cigars.

We played music at ear-splitting levels that, even back then, concerned me that I’d develop long-term hearing damage. I probably did.

The difference is that I got all of that out of my system as a teenager and, (possibly another difference) while as an undergrad.

Those days and nights are filed away in my mind as a fun time, to be occasionally revisited on warm, moonlight nights or when being surprised by an old song that triggers a fond memory.

But just as I knew then that the music was too loud and the cigarettes potentially (okay, probably) harmful to my body, I also knew it served a very important purpose.

“Blowing off steam” is the cutesie term we give it, but you know what I mean. Those parties back then, like the triathlons and the road bike riding and racing I did as an adult served the same purpose, decades later.

But here’s why I don’t find fault in my neighbors who, as parents of grade school kids, still smoke and drink, sometimes a bit too much:

With the exception of things once almost coming to blows here during one late Friday night piss-up, I grew up in a family where cigarettes and beer and sometimes other booze on occasion was not uncommon.

I’m not talking so much about bourbon, whiskey or even rum, but In fact, it was quite accepted, and I believe my parents, who are very simple people saw mixed drinks as a sort of sophisticated idea. “It’s what people who have money do,” they thought, though if the subject arose they’d be quick to state “I can’t stand those rich snobs,” and often worse.

When I was an impressionable kid I saw all of that, and when I was eighteen I even experimented with other, equally curious kids doing the same thing. It was a positive social experience. And, like the partygoer who’s had one too many and barfs on their shoes, or who’s endured their first hangover, we learned what can happen if we push our limits too far.

But I’m not judging anyone on the merits of pushing their limits too far. After all, I nearly died on a busy street one Friday night in my mid-40’s after having been so high and moving so fast I didn’t realize a car pulled out in front of me.

I didn’t have time to stop, and I slammed right into the car. In this case, however, I was enjoying an endorphin high; I was on a road bike training ride following a long day at the end of a long first week at a new job. To be sure, it’s not my lack of judgment that nearly got me killed but that of the motor vehicle driver.

*Note:
It’s not a crime to ride a bicycle or drive a car, for that matter, while under the “influence” of endorphins any more than it would be to drive under the influence of a funny comic’s jokes or a sad audiobook played on the car stereo. Safety is what’s paramount in any case, for everyone out there on the streets.

I was 110% involved in road bicycle racing then and at my mental and physical peak. Never was I stronger or sharper and, on that evening, I’d done some hill climbing intervals I never could believe I was strong enough to perform.

It was a fabulous endorphin high, unlike any before or since. And, given cycling’s innately positive fitness benefits, I’d no reason to believe I was in any danger. After all, I’d done it a million times before, so what could go wrong?

Talk about learning lessons about limits and what can happen if/when we push them too far! No matter what I learned about myself as an impetuous kid, nothing would have prepared me for the decision I had to make out on the road that evening.

In that accident, I lost my arm and nearly my life. Since then, because of my limited ability to train at such a high level I usually just walk in the hills with Sophie for exercise now.

Sometimes I get an abbreviated mountain bike ride in, much to the amazement of some of my neighbors. “I can’t believe you can do that,” they tell me.

But my cycling skills are tenuous at best, for my memory is very state-dependent. Once I throw a leg over the saddle again, I’m transported to that wonderful space my mind and body once occupied there, just before my accident.

Off the bike, I can come across as matter-of-fact about the loss of endurance cycling as the one activity that defined me above all others.

But I believe this nonchalance is a survival mechanism that keeps me from being swept away by the grief that can only come from the loss of this magnitude of importance.

Less cardio training, for me anyways, has led to a dramatic drop in my (epilepsy) seizure threshold and an increase in ccside effects from my medication.

While I have long adapted to my new life-the accident was only five years ago-I’ll always miss the “old me.” How could I not?

But I’m learning that my real challenge is, just as with my teenage party years, to also put all of those marvelous blowing-off-steam moments of my adulthood into a safe space of their own.

Moving forward, I’ve found heroes befitting of my new physical status. As an able-bodied cyclist, I was merely one of a zillion guys my age in peak physical condition, even with all the strength I had then.

The man I am on a bicycle today, even with only half the strength I had back then, will give me more power than I would ever have imagined.

People have approached me simply to tell me how amazing they think it is that I can still ride, and I agree. Disabled athletes in general inspire me, and they always have.

I’m sure that I had my moments as an able-bodied cyclist when I’d see a disabled cyclist (differently-abled, thank you very much) and think “I don’t think I could ever…”

Having been back in the saddle again, despite the emotional and physical confusion that accompanies the sheer joy I can still while riding, I’ve changed my thinking.

When I consider differently-abled cyclists like myself I now think “I know I can…”

Today, I still may shed a tear or two when I see other men out riding; they can remind me of the strong man I once was as an able-bodied rider. Even so, I’m confident in the knowledge that I can feel that again, anytime.
The only thing I have to embrace about it-which has proven to be the most difficult of all-is that, this time, IT’S DIFFERENT.

Given all I’ve shared in this post I think you can understand why I sometimes feel a little lonely here. Not many others can share similar experiences involving endurance sports, or understand the joy it once brought and the grief I can still feel.

Many folks here are retired, and most others are hard-working, salt-of-the-earth types. Almost all of them would help me out with any thing, any time, for they are good people that way. I’d like to think I could do the same for them. It is, in itself, a good feeling I’d never have foreseen ten years ago.

Still, some time, some how, I wish I could have a moment or two over with old friends. To savor the moment of just being on the bike, on a training ride in the middle of nowhere or a race course in downtown Longmont or Louisville or Boulder, etc.

Selfish thinking, to be sure, even more so when I consider how I wish I could discuss these things with my neighbors here. But man, are they good at what they do know and, being largely good people, I’ll always be grateful for their neighborly friendship.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Sometimes Something Just Needs To Be Said.

 Sometimes Something Just Needs To Be Said.

I'm lending my voice to a divisive and destructive situation that involves all of us, Americans and World Citizens alike.

My comments here have been said before by many pundits and writers, in their own style and likely for larger audiences. But I believe in the power of numbers, so I’m saying it again, and my words are no less important.

Firsthand experience has taught me a particularly cruel lesson of the crushing vulnerability and disparaging futility implicit in facing alone self-serving powers greater than myself.

I know that my voice counts, and may even hopefully inspire others. At best, they might find a cathartic comfort in speaking on behalf of what they also believe is just.

At the least, they may grant me the good grace to validate their unspoken feelings and the comfort that accompanies the knowledge they will never be alone in their thoughts.

The door will always be open to them, and the proverbial welcome mat will remain out for those wishing to make their voices heard at some future time.
And so it is.

My thoughts today were inspired by a congressman who expressed his plans to draft the articles of impeachment against the President.

I was struck by his clarity and his candor, and of how much I missed the sound of a well-worded and downright intelligent voice speaking on behalf of my country.

His rationale was sound and one of a handful of similar impeachment plans being pursued by House members. I share their desire for a change, and appreciate their efforts on behalf of all Americans.

As part of the disabled community everywhere, I’m expressing my rationale here. Perhaps it’ll be one voice heard among many that will be a part of the necessary agent for change in the White House.

What kind of country has the US become, I wonder, when the articles of impeachment put forth by Congressional members are far more articulate and detailed than any legislative proposals, spoken or written from the president himself?

Save for misogyny, blatant class and racial biases, attacks on the free press and other negative distractions meant to divert public attention away from tax returns and questionable Russian influence, presidential utterances carry little substance at all.

But his ever-present divisive agenda, sometimes brash and other times lurking at the gates of our subconscious, describes his real objectives and his true nature.

Grand campaign promises that have yet to be kept, not realistic legislative goals have always been what’s fueled his success. But reality has asserted itself on our president, and it’s had a decidedly peculiar way of thwarting his plans. “Someone,” he thinks, “must pay.”

He bullies anyone and anything he sees as “against him” vis a vis childish name-calling and intentional and irresponsible flip-flopping on others’ decisions. In his world, there must always be someone with whom he’s in conflict.

Subject matter counts little to him. It’s the act of saving face, his term for “being a winner” that trumps everything, even common sense.

He is a master at cloaking hateful rhetoric in the American flag and marketing it to certain receptive audiences.

He’s publicly stated “I love uneducated people” and indeed, he does. It’s how he expresses his personal philosophy that “there’s one born every minute.” He’s all-powerful and all-knowing, even in the face of all evidence to the contrary.

In the House and Senate, Trump has proven himself a liability to any agenda, a blustering embarrassment to the country, and to the Free World as a whole.

It's no longer "too bad" that he's incapable of engendering unity at home or exemplifying diplomacy abroad. With Trump, racial and class division has risen to new levels, as it must for him.

For only in a culture of mutual distrust and common fear can an unscrupulous figure like Trump successfully ply his hateful and divisive rhetoric. This applies to everyone, everywhere, not just the US.

Funny thing is, those other world leaders, to whom he regularly condescends, have typically come by their elected office through legitimate means. And they are most certainly “educated people” in their own right.

But Trump’s pointed remarks toward them, which one US senator characterized as befitting “junior high,” is but another attempt to deflect attention away from the questionable origins of his own position.

But, alas, like so much else that emanates from this administration, it is but one in an endless procession of untruths. Falsehoods. Lies.

Please understand that these words aren't borne of spite or vindictiveness. Rather, they are deeply rooted in the knowledge that a demeanor befitting the office of American president carries with it greater grace and influence than the current president will ever know or be capable of displaying.

A man in a suit, accompanied by a woman in heels, en route to the safe periphery of an area that’s been devastated by a hurricane is merely a photo op, not a decisive action. It makes no sense. But, by now, anything that doesn’t defy common sense is questionable, not vice-versa.

So how is this possible? How have things come to this? What Happened?

My conclusion is that we’re witnessing, in Trump, the result of a combined spoiled childhood in which the word “No” was never enforced, if ever used.

It’s also a world out of which he never grew. He remains stuck, in his words and his actions, anywhere between his terrible twos and his defiant adolescence.

His exact temperament cannot be predicted any better than any child’s might be, for no moral compass appears there to guide him. Thus, childish verbal expressions of his child-like worldview dominate his speech.

On Puerto Rico, for example, he slowly described it, albeit correctly, as “an island, surrounded by big water, ocean water,” etc.

Statements like these I’ll never grow used to hearing and, as I said earlier, I miss the sound of articulate and intelligent speech emanating from the White House.

But this may be by design, for the president is clearly not some thoughtful political outsider looking to impress his groundbreaking ideas on the tired Washington establishment.

Rather, it’s the opposite and there’s no delicate way to put it: He cannot dazzle us with brilliance, he’s just baffling us with bullshit.

Since I’m not writing for publication elsewhere, I reserve the right to put it this way, though I do apologize if I’ve offended anyone’s sensibilities.

But it’s true, and I also believe it’s criminal for a grown man to lie as consistently as he does, and for his sophomoric responses when confronted with the truth that belies his claims.

He’s put a lifetime of effort into polishing his “victim” role and, in his seventies has turned it into an art form. “Believe me,” says the consummate liar and, somehow, some do.

Reality hasn’t yet asserted itself on them, and it may never. But the facts remain, as the special prosecutor will eventually point out.

Which brings to mind a popular mantra which Trump can still incite his dwindling base to chant. My version, however, is slightly modified but succinct enough to send his He-can-dish-it-out-but-he-can’t-take-it meter off the charts:
Lock Him Up! Lock Him Up!
Lock Him Up!

But even this is unlikely to deter his childlike worldview. Like the snotty little boy who realizes he’s lost a game of checkers, before the winner can claim their rightful victory, Trump upends the game board, scattering the pieces all over before stomping off in a pique of angry self-pity.

Except that he's a grown man, with access to the nuclear codes. “The most powerful toddler in the world,” late night tv host Steven Colbert recently dubbed him.

But what if the child-Trump perceives himself as slighted by, let’s say, another childlike leader with nuclear codes? Will the world end up as the game board that gets kicked over in a giant mushroom cloud?

Is it possible that Trump can be trusted to not find solace in eating another piece of "the most beautiful chocolate cake" while sending nukes off to North Korea as he did with Tomahawk missiles to Syria?

Let's make this nightmare end, instead of standing by as Mutually Assured Destruction Again becomes the shadow under which we must all exist. How? By finding our voices and making ourselves heard.

So we know who we’re dealing with now in our president, and it almost goes without saying that every bureaucratic culture, like the self-serving culture Trump promotes, flows from the top down.

Even in the best of circumstances we will meet roadblocks to overcome, challenges to circumvent, and crises to resolve.

But these are strengthening experiences, tests of our resolve that will prove us to be stronger with every successful endeavor we undertake.

The reason I discussed Trump in such detail was not just because it needed to be said. Rather, it’s because it already had been said.
Sometimes, some things simply need to be said.

And regarding the efforts of the disabled community, I believe there remains much to be said.

When I can, and where I can, I intend to make my voice heard in the most constructive way in helping make good things happen.

Informed, no nonsense statements, expressed with good judgment, kindness and peace will be my guide.

These qualities do not imply any weakness or vulnerability. They simply provide a solid grounding upon which I can stand in diligently supporting that which I believe without fear of retribution: My rights as a disabled person, and the rights of my disabled community.

Beyond the nuts-and-bolts of advocacy certification, finding my voice and tone in accomplishing a desired objective is one of my goals in participating in this program.

Thanks for the opportunity to learn how to make a positive difference in our lives.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Lessons Learned From The Onion Field

Last February, I began an evening walk with Sophie, my nine year old service dog near Havasu, Arizona. I carried a water bottle, T-shirt, and Sophie’s ID card. It was too warm for much else. The deserted campground a BLM parcel called Craggy Wash. As the sun was setting, Sophie and I were on our way up to a rocky, ridge top trail and anticipating a fine view of the town of Havasu below. Just prior to reaching the trailhead, we saw four people ahead. Two of them were the campground hosts we’d met the night before, and the other two were unknown to us. The first was a nicely dressed 20-something young lady who looked a bit out of place in a primitive desert campground. With her was a uniformed BLM agent of similar age. They all stood, talking, about ten yards away from a rugged, late model SUV marked with the BLM insignia. Before we approached the group, I had Sophie sit next to me at attention, visually demonstrating while also wordlessly introducing her as a trained service animal. Once I knew we’d been seen by the group, I approached, and verbally presented Sophie as my service dog. Unexpectedly, the young officer confronted me with the harsh demand that Sophie be on a leash. It contradicted almost everything I experienced as Sophie’s handler. Virtually all uniformed officers in every discipline, officers from local, county and state police departments, park rangers in similarly diverse jurisdictions have welcomed Sophie and I as a team. Yes, Sophie is lovable, but she is a working dog. Law enforcement officers recognize and have always respected this about us. Countless many of them have expressed as much to me, in what often amounted to them as a few minutes spent in the company of a wonderful dog. And why not? She is the spitting image of the ultra intelligent police dog Rin Tin Tin. None of that was evident in this officer. His sudden demand took me by surprise. Knowing that we were on federal public land, all I could think to say was that the Americans with Disabilities Act makes an allowance to not require amputees, like me, to leash a voice-controlled service dog. Sophie clearly is one such dog. Regardless of his motivations, the officer did not accept my explanation as a sufficient answer to his request. He turned to the campground host and said “Wait here while I take this man to his camper to write him a summons.” I replied that federal law did not allow for such action on his part, either. Essentially, he intended to cite me for what amounted to nothing more then being disabled. I couldn’t understand why a federal law enforcement officer was going to punish me and, presumably, fine me for it. My situation turned desperate when the officer suddenly lost his temper toward me. He didn’t like that I questioned his demand and his behavior escalated into violent threats and wanton physical aggression toward me. It ended violently for me and for Sophie. The young officer knocked me down and dragged me to his vehicle. Sophie, who is trained to stand by me in the event of a seizure, came to take her place beside me. As she tried to do so, the officer pepper sprayed her in both eyes. We live in a world where the reality is, right or wrong, that any law enforcement officer can defend their poor judgment, reckless decisions, or even criminal behavior with impunity. All that is required of them is to claim that their safety was somehow endangered. This Sophie and I were experiencing firsthand. I sat in the sand, my only arm handcuffed to his truck bumper, listening to the young officer’s celebratory remarks about his brave apprehension of me to deputies who later arrived. Over the next two hours, the young officer directed many disparaging, often profane remarks toward me, mocking my relationship with Sophie and questioning her role as my service dog. This officer, clearly reveling in his conquest, was also well aware of his ability to subjectively define and enforce the law. He clearly knew that, if need be, he could also evade it. In my case, and this is important, no impartial witnesses were present. The campground hosts’ safety in the isolated desert depended upon this officer’s protection. And the young girl who was dressed for a night on the town was only acknowledged to be a “federal employee” whose presence was never mentioned again. If the young girl was, indeed a love interest, I can’t help but wonder what she thought of sharing an evening with a person capable of the atrocious behavior he showed toward an innocent disabled man and his beautiful service dog. Falsified witness reports were filed by the officer, who had confiscated Sophie’s ID badge. Another similarly uniformed officer arrived and identified himself as the young officer’s supervisor. The end result was that I spent a week in a Flagstaff jail, four hours away, across the state. I had no idea of Sophie’s whereabouts or her condition. Was she still alive? I didn’t know. But for the first time in over eight years, I was separated from Sophie, and in an emotional state of shock from the rapid progression of events. As it turned out, Sophie was being housed in an animal control shelter where, I was told, she’d be euthanized if I didn’t plead guilty so I could be released and go get her. Even on-scene, it became clear to the federal officers that the young officer had, in fact, assaulted a disabled man and his service animal. There was no doubt that I wasn’t a danger to anyone: I owned no weapons, possessed no illegal drugs or any other questionable objects. License plates, car registration, driving record, etc., all perfectly clean as a whistle. Despite having been bloodied after being dragged through the sand, then tasered as I lay face down, defenseless next to the truck, I was charged with assault. Apparently, the young officer and his supervisor saw fit to cover their actions by casting doubt on my mental well-being. Their falsified reports supported this, with claims that I was “nuts,” and the like. Obviously, I didn’t just encounter a trigger happy officer, but a law enforcement culture that supported, even encouraged violence. Later, while handcuffed and in the BLM vehicle, the officer whispered as much through gritted teeth into my ear. But I’m no criminal, hell-bent on creating chaos and terrorizing people with a violent canine sidekick. Rather, I’m simply a tourist in the American southwest, returning to my home state of Colorado with only my dog for a company. After driving 25,000 miles over the course of the past year, seeing anything and everything we could along the West Coast, we were merely a pair of weary travelers looking forward to being home again. No matter our state of mind, however, there is a lesson to be learned here. Over the past seven months, I’ve had the chance to work with therapists to put the trauma of this ordeal into perspective. Today, I can write about it in terms that are conducive to resolution, and not just catharsis. Also helpful have been the number of strangers, the parade of which have continued throughout my life with Sophie, who comment on how beautiful and well-behaved she is. Most notably among them are the many law enforcement officers we’ve met in passing since then. They often smile at us as we pass, with no apparent fear of either of us and, most likely, and appreciation if not outright respect for us as a team. One of them happens to work firsthand with the county K9 unit, and is well aware of the discipline, loyalty, and positive temperament of Sophie’s breed. They are wonderfully loving dogs when off duty but can immediately snap into work mode when commanded to do so. As my seizure dog, Sophie has been trained to be calm and to sit patiently at all times except when I seize. The moment I fall and hit the ground is Sophie’s cue to come and stand by me until I regain my wits and can think for myself once more. Such times are where Sophie becomes more than just a pretty face. Her ability to attract attention draws people who only intend to help, if needed. She is enough of a visual deterrent, however, to deter any bad guys from approaching while I’m down. The agent who assaulted us interfered with Sophie’s ability to do the job for which she has been trained. That’s an egregious act for anyone to perpetrate, let alone a law-enforcement officer who was in no danger at all, save for his reputation in front of a pretty girl. While part of my disability involves multiple head traumas that impair my ability to react quickly and with the smooth social adeptness I once had, my inability to realize I was in a potentially dangerous situation is typical for me. Sophie’s presence usually means these situations almost never materialize. Until now. Traveling alone, with only Sophie for company, I was able to work through many of my PTSD symptoms. But even 25,000 miles of introspection behind the wheel, from a route incorporating my favorite states, Colorado, Oregon, Utah, Washington state and on down to Mexico. Finally, en route home to Colorado, I felt it all was only a good start to my healing. The rest would require a therapist, which I had already arranged to meet in northern Colorado before Sophie and I were waylaid. To the extent that our violent experience in Arizona might help you, I can only recommend that you have a Plan B ready at all times. No matter where you go, no matter your disability or what you think it looks like or even feels like to others, preparation is key, And knowing your fallback contingency by rote is a must. For example, had I carried some simple, small leash with me or simply been willing to turn back and include the return hike to my camper as part of the evening’s journey, I would have saved Sophie and I a great deal of pain and anguish. Please understand that I do not advocate any sort of concession to our rights as disabled individuals. Rather, just the opposite. We are disabled, and that in itself makes us special and, by necessity, exceptionally strong. And it’s a power we must both recognize and employ responsibly. In keeping with the spirit of “better late than never,” I have only recently realized that I do have the strength to turn around and retreat in the face of anger and outright belligerence and comply with what I am told. Convincing a bully of your rights is traditionally a losing proposition. However, I realize that the responsible aspect of employing my power lies in having the wisdom to pursue the absence of truth and fairness ex post facto. Only afterwards, and with a clear mind can I identify, then pursue my options. For my money, the first and best thing I’ve learned to do is enlist help. There truly is power in numbers. Anyone who violates your basic rights by acting with poor judgment and without witnesses will likely find defending himself alone his biggest fear. And so it goes for the cowardly few who look upon a disabled individual with disdain. “After all,” they reason, “there are more able-bodied people than disabled ones, more of me than them.” This is where our power must be employed responsibly. In the painful example above, waiting to state my case later, optimally with witnesses present, would have been the best option. In the confusion of the incident, I was unable to see this right away as any reasonable person might be. That’s why having a workable Plan B is so important. I say workable because the plan must be flexible enough to handle any conceivable situation that arises. I have cards, for example, that have the words “I am a Service Animal” boldly printed on the front, with “Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990” printed on back. Handy, perhaps, but I’ve long stopped carrying these cards for lack of use. I’ve often felt that presenting such a card would, for me, be condescending. Worse, reaching into a pocket to withdraw such a card could even be construed by a trigger happy cop as reaching for a weapon. In other words, your idea of resolution could be misinterpreted as an affront. It happens frequently in our country, and many unarmed and innocent people are shot and killed due to such claims. Though in my experience most disabled people are aware, it’s worth reinforcing to people that not all service animals walk in lockstep and hug the leg of their handler. Sophie, for example, walks to my right side and about half a pace behind. While my waking seizures are infrequent, I’ve had balance troubles as an amputee. Sophie is there for me to lean on and has helped break many otherwise imminent falls. So, while service animals can be trained for a diversity of goals, every handler and dog team enjoys the same rights. Working unhindered and safely is a top priority among them. Sadly, this is news to some but, happily, the onus falls on us to educate them, and who better than us, the end user who benefits most, to do it? For example, I and my disability advocates could help see to it that the young officer I encountered could learn and otherwise expand his knowledge of the law he enforces. Continually moving up the chain of command might be necessary in order accomplish the desired goal. Since cultural influences within organizations may exist that limit acknowledgement of disability rights, waking up those who don’t (or won’t) know the law is a great place to employ some of our power. Today, after months of reflection, I’ve concluded that diplomacy is the best problem resolution strategy. Had my mind been ready to respond with this in mind, that young officer in the desert would never have been drawn to cite me, or worse. Here in my state, I found wonderful advocates at the Colorado Cross Disability Coalition, (CCDC), as well as the Disability Resource Services (DRS). Many others have helped and continue to do so, nearly all of them due to my legwork. If you’re somehow unable or unready to try reaching out to potential advocates or advocacy groups, I recommend reaching out to someone who might help you do so. While it seems as if it takes an advocate to make an advocate, favorable progress will likely make you want to join in and keep the effort going in your direction. Here are some that helped me here in Colorado. Your state will have them, too. Perhaps the single best resource I’ve found to date for finding disability advocates here in Colorado is: http://www.indivisible-co.org/aboutus/listofadvocatesadvocacyorganizations.html Outside of Colorado, you can begin your search for your state’s advocacy groups with a basic Google search. Key words such as “disability advocacy organizations” and “disability resource organizations” followed by your state, county, city, etc, will likely turn up many results, and you can then expand it from there. Social media is yet another great place to connect with the disability advocacy community. One excellent site I’ve found on Facebook is: https://m.facebook.com/pg/NationalAdapt/photos/?mt_nav=1 Yet another advocacy group that’s national in scope is the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, http://www.dredf.org There are many more waiting to be discovered and some will undoubtedly suit your interests well enough to become favorites. By visiting a few sites and reading the “About Us” page on them you’ll get the gist of each group becomes apparent. It has taken me years to realize a Plan B is sometimes needed to defend my rights as a disabled person. It will likely remain a work in progress. This in mind, a big part of what drives me is not just learning from my own experiences, but sharing them with others who may also learn from them. Hopefully, some of the ideas I’ve presented here will help you create or further reinforce your Plan B in the event of a sudden conflict over your rights as a disabled person. It may be the one thing I spend lots of time on that I hope to never use! Still, please always keep this in mind: Having even a basic working knowledge of the advocacy organizations in your area means you’ll always have others to stand with you if and when you must find truth and fairness for yourself. After all, much of what we see in the world is, by design, too big for only one person.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Witnesses Matter, Always.

As the following news story illustrates, having witnesses on-scene during an incident of police misconduct is crucial.

It can make all the difference between a rightful response from law enforcement, e.g. an officer's paid leave, or a wrongful criminal charge against an innocent person, e.g. an assault charge.

That said, imagine the nurse in this news story alone, trying to tend to this unfortunate patient. And then, just as in this story, imagine a trigger happy cop showing up, demanding something in the belief he's going to crack the Next Big Case.

The nurse, of course, would still refuse the cop and stand up for her right to treat her patient first. But would she get beat up and pepper sprayed as Sophie and I did when I stood up for my legal right to not have my trained service dog on a leash? Based on what's apparent in the video clip, the unfortunate answer is Maybe.

There's an obvious need to be certain of what happens in every interaction between law enforcement and the public, and it's a prime reason for having police body-cams.

Police accounts are often biased toward the officer and, as so many of us know firsthand, cops are just people who can make a mistake then try to cover it up by blaming whoever is most convenient.

Consider what this officer did, in a hospital no less, with many witnesses present. Other officers were present who, interestingly, didn't lift a finger to de-escalate the situation, perhaps for fear of being unwilling to back up one of their "brothers."

Now imagine the cop charging her with assaulting him. It's exactly what happened to Sophie and I when we were assaulted by a BLM officer in the Arizona desert last February.

The nurse in this story was understandably reluctant to leave her patient. Still, like me, she did not fight back against the cop. He simply grabbed her and dragged her by force away from the scene.

It's exactly what happened to me as well, though we were alone in the jagged and rocky desert sand. Unlike the nurse in this story, I'm at a disadvantage in terms of health and age. She's a young, able-bodied, former Olympic athlete. I'm a one-armed, fifty-something amputee who's decidedly out of shape.

If a city cop, like this one, is belligerent and unreasonable, he is no longer just a law enforcement officer; he becomes a thug with a badge. Only such a person could perpetrate this act upon a nurse in broad daylight and in a public place.

With all the ample evidence to support my position plainly visible here, there's no question that another, similarly motivated thug with a badge would be both cruel and criminal enough to attack my service dog Sophie and I.

He could even then have the audacity to take it a step further by incarcerating me and impounding Sophie. Then, as his piéce de resistance, he could justify charging me with misdemeanor assault, using the premise that he "believed he was in danger" from Sophie and I.

All the police reports, his personal testimony and all other paperwork he could fill out would falsely reflect my culpability. The entire coverup, I think, gave him a thrill. It put a little sophomoric excitement into an otherwise mundane occupation; "Will I get caught or won't I?"

Just as in the story below, other cops were present. These arrived after I was handcuffed to the brush guard of a truck where I was made to sit for about two hours. They only had a big laugh at my expense. One of them even tormented me with disparaging remarks about Sophie's "real" qualifications as a service dog, and even threats of bodily harm-while I was chained to a truck, no less.

It was an obvious effort to provoke me, as they all needed something from me they'd never get. That is, an emotional response, an outburst from me to justify the wrongdoing they were all guilty of committing.

What was infinitely worse was that Sophie had been pepper sprayed in both eyes as she approached me when I was down on the ground. She's trained to do that and also to stay, but now was nowhere to be seen.

Not only was I unsure of her health-was she alive or dead?- but, until then, we hadn't been separated for years.

A week later, when all this was over and we were joyously reunited again, we also found ourselves constantly in doubt of our surroundings, particularly when law enforcement officers are present. We still do.

An assault like Sophie and I endured last February is like a sick and twisted gift that keeps on giving. Reading news stories like this one brings back all the terrifying events of our experience as if it all happened moments ago. It's called PTSD, and I'm very grateful to have a good therapist to help me through its insidious influences.

Until I can read stories like this one, or see a face who suddenly reminds me of one of the officers present at the scene, or someone else in the jail or in the courtroom, or any one of a zillion things that bring back my and my Sophie's assault, like any reasonable person would, I'll continue to relive that experience.

I'm a good and a kind and loving person. I share my life with a loyal best friend who's been trained by me to reflect the kindness, love and deference to others within me.

People consistently approach me when we're out just to tell me how beautiful and well trained she is. When I leave her in our modest 30 foot RV/home to grab some milk and eggs, disappointed store employees who've met her before will tell me they missed seeing her and ask me to rub her ears for them.

This kind of natural beauty my Sophie carries is not a result of any bias I have for my dog, but a genuine reflection of the kind and beautifully attractive spirit within her that makes her so universally loved, even among strangers.

And that's why, on the evening of February 12, 2017, Sophie and I were so suddenly shocked and violently torn apart by someone solely bent on hurting someone else. We just had the misfortune of being in that person's way.

It's nothing I take personally, for the person who hurt us has no idea of how wonderful we are. Still, Sophie and I both remain hurt by our experience, and our faith in others has been sorely tested. We will always carry scars from it, for such things are never "simply forgotten."

What follows is the news story to which I made reference above. So many aspects of this story share commonalities with our experience last February that I cannot count them all. We may still carry strong associations from our hellish experience together, but I'm hoping that, with time, those wounds will heal.

NBC News, September 2, 2017:

Two Salt Lake City police officers have been placed on paid administrative leave after shocking video of a nurse's arrest sparked nationwide outrage. 
The Salt Lake City police department announced Friday that it had put Detective Jeff Payne, the officer who arrested Alex Wubbels, plus a second employee, on leave "pending the results of an investigation." The second employee was not identified, but police spokeswoman Christina Judd confirmed to NBC News on Saturday that he was also a police officer. 
The incident happened on July 26 after an unconscious patient was brought into the University of Utah Hospital following a road accident that left him badly burned. Payne wanted blood drawn from the patient.

In 19 minutes of police bodycam footage that was made public, Payne insists Wubbels, who works in the burn unit, draw blood. When Wubbels refuses, citing hospital protocol, Payne becomes increasingly agitated.


 Bodycam Shows Arrest of Salt Lake City Nurse for Refusing Blood Sample 1:05
But Wubbels doesn't back down in the videos, which may have been edited.
"No, we're done," Payne says abruptly. "You're under arrest, we're going!" 
He is then seen forcing her wrists into handcuffs before dragging her to the back of the patrol car. She was later released and was not charged. 
The patient was a truck driver who was hurt when his vehicle collided with that of another driver who was fleeing police, according to NBC affiliate KSL-TV. The Associated Press, citing police sources, said he is a reserve police officer in Rigby, Idaho. 
In a written report obtained by the Salt Lake City Tribune, Payne said he needed the blood sample to determine whether the patient had illicit substances in his system at the time of the crash. The patient's name has not been released. 
The dramatic video prompted widespread condemnation for the officer's actions and apologies from the Salt Lake City police chief and mayor. 
National Nurses United, the country's largest nursing union, called the encounter "outrageous." 
Wubbels told NBC News on Friday that the worst part wasn't that she was manhandled by a detective — it was that none of the other officers who were watching intervened. 
"I was being bullied and nobody was willing to speak up for me," she said.
The video was released through Wubbels' attorneys. Prosecutors have called for a criminal investigation into it. 
NBC News has reached out to Payne for comment. 
Wubbels, 41, is a former Olympic athlete who competed as an Alpine skier in 1998 and 2002. She has worked at the hospital since 2009. 
The inquiry into her case will be run by Salt Lake County's Unified Police, Judd, the Salt Lake City police spokeswoman, said. The district attorney's office will review the findings and determine whether they merit criminal charges. 
The Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that a blood sample cannot be taken without patient consent or a warrant. Judd said Salt Lake City police updated their blood-draw policy "right away" to match the hospital's, and has already re-trained all remaining officers on the updated policy. 



Police also met with hospital officials within 24 hours of the incident to figure out "what we needed to change to make sure it didn’t happen again," Judd said. 
"We have a really strong tie to the nurses that we work with. The police interact with nurses multiple times a day sometimes, and we never want to fracture that relationship," she said. 
"We took the incident very seriously from the moment we found out about it and have been working really diligently with Wubbels' attorney and ... herself, and trying to make sure that no one in the medical profession ever needs to fear a police officer here," she added. "It’s so sad that we’ve had this rift in our relationship with the medical community and we’re working hard to fix that."