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

Friday, August 18, 2017

One Arm is Better Than Three

Two Prehensile Thumbs are Ideal – Three Would Be Overkill

As a one armed man living in a largely two-armed world, I find I regularly receive certain kinds of aid and comfort from strangers.

If those strangers who went out of their way to help me say, run ahead and hold a door open, or reach out to help me pick up something or hold it securely while I still had two arms, I might think I was being assaulted.

If I were to respond in kind to such a person, who was really only trying to help, a fistfight might ensue. While I’m not a violent person, I might naturally feel the need to defend myself from a physical attack.

It’s been five years to the day since I lost the use of my left arm. Often, people have asked me if I miss having both arms and my usual response is “If it came back tomorrow, it’d just be in the way. I’ve already adapted to life without it.”

So profound. But it’s true. And, most of the time it’s quite a point of humor. For example, when anyone asks “How are you?” if I’m feeling clever that day, I might reply “I’m all right, thanks.” Most of the time, people never get the joke.      

Still, I pondered this notion of my apparent need for extra help “extra help” for the sole reason I possess one arm. Then, for some reason, I wondered if strangers might also feel the same need to assist me if I had an extra arm or leg or digit or whatever.

My conclusion is that all of their same questions and statements would likely apply:
“Don’t you sometimes miss having both arms, or legs, etc.?” And “It’d be awful tough for me to do that. I don’t know if I could.”

Of course it’s tough to do but, as anyone who has lost a body part can attest, our minds are as adaptable as our bodies and, if we wish, re-defining our concept of “normal” is only, well, normal.

As an amputee for only four years, I spent a year with a dead arm in the hope that my severed nerve would regenerate into a healthy one again. This put me in the unique position of having plenty of time to contemplate life forever with just one arm. Provided, of course, that I don’t lose the other one, or an arm or leg or whatever later on.

Without knowing any statistics about this but having heard lots of anecdotal evidence, my understanding is that most people who lose a limb do so in some violent and/or traumatic fashion. As such, the limb loss is immediate and final.

Very few people experience their injury the way I have, I believe. And, despite the violent trauma associated with my own limb loss, I never believed I could get my arm back anyway.

It due to wasn’t futility, frustration, or do to some weird twist of fate, just my intuition. I might as well say that “a little birdie told me.”

Nonetheless, I saw my limb loss as immediate as any, though it’s presence as a remaining part of my body made it seem less final.

My conclusion then is that anyone who wonders how those of us with limb loss manages, it would be just as constructive to respond by saying “Imagine if you had an extra arm or leg or whatever. You’d probably find it’d only be in the way, right? Well, that’s how I’d feel if I had my arm/and or leg back again.”

One of my heroes, a world-class athlete named Hector Picard, survives and thrives quite well despite his quadruple limb loss, thank you very much.

He’s rightly an inspiration to all of us. However, I think he wholeheartedly exemplifies the physical power we all have to thrive in this world as he does.

The only remaining question is if we have the mind power to do so. Do I think I could? I don’t know, but I might be inclined to ask him, but only after asking him how long it first took him to change a tire tube on his road bike.

As a fellow amputee, I think I might have more reason to do so, if only out of a sense of common experience.

How about you? Would you have the mind power to do it? Think about it. I bet you’d be surprised at the honest answer.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Power of Introversion

Power of Introversion
I am an introvert, and that’s OK.

It’s a statement that’s powerful, at least powerful for me. It’s one that I’ve had trouble saying, I think because of all the trouble they believed that it’s caused me.

But it’s not been a trouble at all, it’s just been miss identified and, on the harshest terms, held against me as long as I can recall.

Among the first examples of this, of course, involve my family. Being raised by parents I now understand that as being extroverts, are extroverts, My introversion was both unfortunate and unappreciated. This sad fact is something I am braced, for I looked up to my parents and seeing their sense of failure in me, I saw failure in me, too.

On in on this went, with my introversion always winning out because it’s my true nature. As A first and only child for seven  years, I was celebrated as my parents hope for the future of their legacy. I received more than my share of adulation and attention as the keeper of the DNA, The young man who would grow up and out of his humble beginning’s to become the next NFL quarterback, Rhodes scholar, or American President.

This, quite frankly, put a hell of a lot of stress on me as I believe it would for any child. But not all children are the same four, unlike me, they are born extroverts. They both aspire and, later, hunger to attain such lofty goals.

When born to parents of extroverts, these traits are so desirable that anything less is unwelcome. This is understandableparticularly in my childhood family.

My parents undoubtedly wondered if I weren’t “touched,” I E “slow, retarded, or artistic.”

Raised by parents with elementary education teaching degrees, they often thought on a similarly elementary level.

Ironically, my introversion let me to a much greater world inside, for being (Miss) taken as “slow,” somehow. Was it the inherent notion that my thinking was dangerous, that it caused trouble.

I looked less upon myself as an introvert and more as a heretic, a pariah. Further confounding my developing self perception was my way above average vocabulary and aptitude for English skills.

This led to my development of a rich in her life, One that went far beyond that which most of my peers my parents and family, let alone my peers would ever have. Unfortunately, it also underscored my developing self understanding that my thoughts were dangerous.

How long can someone ask questions of his or her parents that The first don’t understand, and then are unable to answer? How long until parents are first confused at the child’s questions, then aggravated and openly hostile toward them, culminating into A deep-routed suspicion?

Having at least one introspective parent would go a long way toward understanding a child like me, and two introspective parents would likely assure it.

However, the shy nature many introspective kids adopt and then carry into adulthood virtually assure that such two such people would be unlikely to “make the first move” toward another person. Though I’ve never been attracted to another introvert as far as I know, I imagine that if I did recognize such a person I’d feel far less inhibited to do so.

Perhaps this is because I’ve also learned along the way that people who don’t understand me – extroverts – our people to be wary of. Unfortunately, I’m certain I’m not alone in being what author Susan Cain referred to in her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking as a “pseudo-extrovert.” That is, an introvert who has learned to function in society that favors extroversion above all.

Being a “good team player” is both admired and encouraged, and the inability to do so leads to ostracism, poor academic and athletic tendencies in group situations, and out right shaming in the most severe cases.

Unfortunately, as the celebrated first child who went through those stages of first stymieing my parents with “unusual” questions, then inspiring there aggravation, anger and suspicion, I developed a pseudo-extroverted family identity as a sheer survival mechanism.

In fact, I adopted a pseudo-extroverted personality to survive the entirety of my world. Until reading Susan’s book, I could not articulate myself as being out of place. Rather, I simply thought of myself as a “social chameleon.”

Though this definition is accurate, it does little to help me understand my place in the world. But I know realize that putting a name to my greatest trait has empowered me in previously unimaginable ways.

Hence my proud declaration at the beginning of this article: “I am an introvert and that’s OK.”

Susan Cain illustrates this through many examples in Quiet, from Theodore Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, to Vincent Van Gogh.

Such a revelation empowers any introvert to rise above a lifetime of being and feeling misunderstood to first find, then follow the path they were meant to take all along. This is the only way they’ll achieve more than ever thought possible.

Though I could go on at length about this subject, what I’ve written here is plenty. It is a revelation that carries with it implications I’ll now need to process in order to gradually incorporate into my life.

Only then will I be able to capably and unabashedly apply them to my world.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Upcoming Book-Perils of Traveling Solo and Disabled

In Fall, 2017 I will release my new book and my travels as a disabled man, traveling with only my service dog, Sophie. There are many pitfalls and drawbacks to solo travel for anyone, but those faced by a disabled person may carry more unique complications, not to mention outright physical and financial dangers. Despite the situations I've faced, however, I emphasize that this book is not meant to dissuade you, the would-be traveler, but to enlighten you.

Having been brutalized in the desert by a federal officer who disregarded my disability and injured both my service dog and I, I have firsthand knowledge of this.

He separated us by arresting me and impounding my service dog then, to top it off, charged me with the crime he committed.

Upon being jailed, I was notified my service dog was to be put to sleep if I didn’t plead guilty so I could get out and save her life.

The nightmare is not over yet. Having plead guilty to something I didn’t do, a federal probation officer has become part of my life.

The police reports were faked to reflect the officer’s claim I assaulted him, as were many other facts about the case. I was made to look like the bad guy to the extent that the probation officer acts afraid of both my dog and of me.

She is indifferent at best, with a questionably nice but suspect personality that'd mak her equally complicit in her fellow officer’s crime if she's not, in fact, acting genuinely. And I hope not, for she'd become, to me, a smiling face on her otherwise reprehensible and cowardly colleague one state away.

As an obviously and visibly disabled man in my 50s, I am an easy mark for any opportunistic person intent on causing trouble.

Though I wouldn’t have expected this trouble to arrive in the form of a trigger-happy young law enforcement officer, I’m sure I’m not the first to encounter this sort of brutality.

The niche I am choosing here is directed to disabled travelers going it alone, of course. But it will also be written for concerned loved ones who stay behind and are unable or unwilling to join the solo traveler.

This content will provide them a level of comfort in knowing that their loved one is informed of the dangers and has options in the event of emergency.

Accepting the notion that just because you are disabled in some way does not preclude you from being a target of unscrupulous people is wise.

This does not imply you must travel with a sense of distrust of those around you. Often, just using your best judgment is sufficient in sizing up any situation.

In my case, with the violent federal agent, I did not have a Plan B. The crisis that suddenly arose in my life took me by surprise, and a criminal with a badge perpetrated his act on me and my innocent service dog with impunity.

I used my best judgment at the time and did not wish to have my unfortunate situation occur. However, I did not anticipate such a situation, either. If I had, chances are I would have been able to right this wrong, or at least minimize its physically damaging outcome.

The unfortunate irony is that a person who assaulted my dog and I walks free today while the two of us are confined to one area referred to as a “judicial district” for the balance of a year’s “supervised release.” It’s the legal term for the sentence I was given for a crime I did not commit.

Others might be able to avoid this wrongdoing, and my research of case studies and related statistics, like accidents, crime statistics and hospital/ER experiences will allow me to present reasons why.

My upcoming narrative will describe ways to avoid such situations, and how to handle them if they do. My hope is that, in seeing it once before, in print, you are less likely to be ambushed as we were.

I believe sharing my experience is not only cathartic, but a responsibility as well. I look forward to offering this to you.

August 14, 2017

  • Richard Moreno and Sophie 🐾, the most loving teammate and travel companion through life I could ever hope to have.


Friday, August 11, 2017

Sophie, my Beautiful Gibraltar

Many times I have said that I could go on and on about what Sophie means to me. Tonight, following a particularly stressful day after an intrusively probing interview yesterday with a probation officer from Denver, I will do just that.

First, to specify, the only reason I am meeting a probation officer is due to a violent crime committed against Sophie and I in the Arizona desert six months ago.

A trigger-happy federal officer, a young psychopath armed to the teeth and clearly suffering from a mental deficiency attacked Sophie and I under the premise that I did not have her on a leash.

As an amputee carrying a water bottle and T-shirt with my only hand, insisting I hold a leash was not only dangerous given the rocky, sandy trail we were on, but unreasonable, too.

After Sophie cued me that I was in danger, something she is trained to do, I turned and began running away, desperately searching for safety.

The officer chased me through the deserted campground, tackled me and, while kneeling on my back as I lay on the rocks, he pepper sprayed my Sophie. Sophie is my seizure dog and, seeing that I was down on the ground, she was approaching me to stand by me and make sure I was OK and safe. It’s what she’s specifically trained to do.

I was dragged by this young man across the sand, my legs cut and bleeding from sharp, half-buried rocks. Laying face-down in the sand, the officer stood above me and deployed to his Taser in the middle of my back.

It was the last time I saw Sophie for a week while I was incarcerated in Flagstaff jail, charged with assaulting this officer who had beat up Sophie and I as well.

The last I knew of Sophie she was confused about what was happening and in agony with the chemicals burning her eyes.

While in the jail, I was presented the ultimatum of deciding between pleading not guilty for a crime I did not commit or face Sophie being euthanized at the animal control shelter.

The cops involved were all complicit in covering up an assault on a disabled man and his service dog. They had no conscience, and rightly banked on me pleading guilty so I’d be released to save Sophie.

It was a reprehensible act, supported by the court system which always sides with the cop’s version of events. And all any cop has to say is “I was in fear for my safety,” and they gain automatic immunity for their crimes.

Cops are well aware of this and, as in our case, an unscrupulous cop will seek protection from their actions by uttering this one, simple phrase.

Naturally, I didn’t think twice about saying whatever I needed to say to be released so Sophie and I would be reunited again. I plead guilty.

Horrible stories about my conduct were concocted by this officer and his cronies at the sheriffs department. These were widely circulated, from the magistrate to the probation lady and everyone in between.

This cowardly officer, of course, also claimed to be in fear for his safety because of my physical threats and actions and that he was attacked by Sophie as well.

The young federal officer even went so far as to intimidate the only two witnesses there who possibly could see what happened. Though they were at least 100 yards away, the report from one of them said I was “a nut case for sure.”

This, despite having had a pleasant conversation with them the previous evening.

This couple, probably in their mid-to late 60s, were “campground hosts,” people commonly found on public land campgrounds whose job consisted of monitoring campers.

Their safety was, in large part, in the hands of the federal officer. If they didn’t play ball and cooperate with whatever he told them to do, he could look the other way or fail to show up if ever they found themselves in danger.

Given some of the sketchy-looking people at that campground, I would imagine that they’d need some sense of protection from such people.

The officer who assaulted Sophie and I provided that protection – and also had the power to deny it. The older campground hosts had little choice but to comply with his fictional statement in their police report.

For all I know, those fictional police reports weren’t even written in the presence of that older couple, but concocted in the squad car or station house long after the fact.

Just like the violent assault the officer committed on Sophie and I, there would be no witnesses to prove his behavior otherwise. Hell, I might as well have been charged with murder or arson or who-knows-what-else he could think of.

Given the awful and reprehensible and outright intimidating things this officer said to me during his attack, it’s obvious that bullying people is his MO.

Plus, anything the older couple saw him do to Sophie and I is something they realize he could do to them as well and never be punished. In this manner, the officer bullied them, too.

The officer is not that bright – how bright must you be to assault a disabled man and his gentle service dog? – and any transparency he may have thought he had was a mistake.

This man’s assault on us, which he then turned around on me, led to the court’s determination that I needed followup mental therapy by probation authorities, therapy I’d scheduled long before this awful attack happened.

On paper, it was put forth that I was a lunatic and the magistrate bought every word of it. So did the probation officer in Denver. These federal people stick up for each other, and anything less is tantamount to a betrayal of one to another.

Ever since that time, the Denver probation officer also buys into this fictional story about me being a crazy person, a nut job, and has had her nose up in my business about it ever since.

The indignity of this violent crime Sophie and I endured continues still. Each interaction with this federal probation officer triggers the violent experiencing of this crime anew.      

Seems like a lengthy precursor to the story about Sophie and how wonderful she is and how much she means to me, doesn’t it? But that’s the short version.

This evening, I was in a state of bliss. Following a particularly bombastic, day-long display by the elements, which included hail, heavy rain, and lightning, early evening brought a quiet stillness to our neighborhood.

After a quick walk through the cool evening air in search of bunny rabbits, Sophie and I had a perfect time to unwind together.

Given Sophie’s afternoon trauma of dealing with lightning, one of the rare things that frightens her, she was ready to relax by my side.

She accepted my invitation to climb up and lay down next to me on the fold-out bed where I was about to begin writing. My writing is something that calms me, particularly when I am upset about our interactions with people like the probation lady.

However, given the warm feel of my soft and furry best friend in the dark, I postponed my plans indefinitely.

There she sat, first licking my hand and arm, meticulously grooming me as if I were her puppy. I do believe Sophie would have made a great mom dog and though she might be stern at times, her puppies could only benefit from her guidance.

Anybody that had any interaction at all with any of Sophie’s puppies would be a lucky person, indeed. And anyway, the world could always use more great mom dogs, if you know what I mean.

When she was done grooming me, she lay down next to me, her head in the crook of my arm. Because of my years of adapting to using one hand for everything, my wrist and fingers have an unusual ability to flex more than most people’s do.

With her head on my arm, I could rub her ears, which she loves. I could also reach over and massage her paw or rub her nose, both of which she also loves.

It was a special moment, one we rarely share because of her natural inclination to always be on guard. But this evening she made an exception, as if to reward me for calming her for a change, as I did during the lightning storm.

During such storms she trembles, but afterward she always shows me her gratitude. It almost makes me wish we had more lightning storms so that we could share more of these moments.

There we lay on the bed, as she adjusted her head occasionally to find a softer spot to put it. Lately, soft spots aren’t hard to find on me.

All I remember then was how wonderful I felt, and I told her so. I told her how much I love her, how much she means to me, how grateful I am that she chooses to be my friend, how lucky everyone else she comes into contact with is, how beautiful she is and so much more.

I tell her most of these things every single day, but I rarely get the chance to do so while she’s laying here next to me. This evening, I followed up each of my statements with specific examples from today.

Afterward, I spent some time marveling at all of the things we’ve done and gone through together. The violent assault I described above and one other night of violence at another Arizona campground were thankfully unique and isolated examples of mental and physically painful experiences.

Regarding these times, I take responsibility for putting us both in a position of danger. Whether I knew it or not, they ended up being times when Sophie either needed to bail us out or suffer pain, too.

I apologize profusely to her for the danger I created for us and for the hell I’ve put her through as a result. Though I can’t be sure if she remembers these things, I certainly do, and the pain of it hurts each time it crosses my mind. I can never tell her I’m sorry too many times.

Then again, I can never tell her I love her too many times, either. Over and over I tell her, I massage her paw and play with her ears and kiss the top of her head. Sometimes I just look at her face and tell her how beautiful she is.

I marvel at her natural beauty, how she always looks stunningly gorgeous, and how nature can create such a beautiful being, inside and out. I constantly ask her this question, half expecting her to answer me. “Well,” I imagine she’d say, then finish her explanation.

But I never forget to tell her how downright smart she is, and how grateful I am for her ability to communicate with me. I tell her it’s so unfortunate that we humans often refer to our animal counterparts as ”dumb friends."

But an inability to speak as humans do isn’t an accurate indicator of an ability to communicate. Sophie has a vast range of communicative skills, including a verbal vocabulary unequaled by any other dog I’ve met.

In fact, she’s so adept at communicating this way, both in terms of actual sound as well as tone that I often understand what she needs right away.

At other times, she uses body language to indicate a specific need. Usually licking my hand means she needs something, though tonight was special in that grooming my hand and arm is also a gesture of love from her.

Of all her nonverbal messages, her licking my hand out of love for me is my favorite. I consider it the highest compliment she can pay me and I hope she feels the same way when I tell her how much I love her.

See what I mean? I could go on and on and on with specifics about how much I love Sophie, and I am glad I have begun doing so here. There will be much more to come in the future.

Until then, I will consider myself the luckiest person alive just to get to be with her, even as she lies snoring like a freight train in the bedroom..!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

MADA-Mutually Assured Destruction Again

"Let's not be hasty-nuclear weapons may destroy a hostile regime, but they will also most assuredly destroy their oil reserves as well. I vote two thumbs down."
- US Secretary of State Rexxon "Rex" Tillerson, from his book The Art of the Steal.

"Attention, Earthlings, now that you all know me, I command you to worship and fear me..."
- US President Donald "never worked a day in my life, bet you can't say that" Trump, from the sequel to his original bestselling book, written by someone else, of course, This Old Fart's Unreal.

Where's my red hat? I've a new platform for the 2018 elections. It's a new twist on an old theme and is inspired by Republicans who have grown weary of the two-party system of American politics. Those wily Republicans are introducing a third party, which they call "Republicans."

That's right, the 2018 elections will consist of Democrats, Republicans and Republicans. Initially the brainchild of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who pitched his idea on an updated version of the 2016 red ball cap with the words Mutually Assured Destruction Again.

It was a terrific, money-saving incentive for the Republicans and, though the idea didn't discriminate against minorities or women it carried the day anyhow. Their campaign rallying cry is "Lock him up!" chanted by thousands of Republican supporters clogging the many campaign rallies nationwide.

The other Republican Party consists of only one person, the current sitting president, Donald Trump. Campaigning as the Know-Nothing Party, he literally knows nothing and is proud of it. He has ditched the red ball cap in favor of a handmade sign he carries with one hand, an image of Russian president Vlad "The Impaler" Putin. Scribbled beneath are the words "Wish You Were Here."

In his other hand, Trump holds a flickering votive candle. His rallying cry is still "Lock her up!" and he occasionally has outbursts of old campaign speeches. "Biggest crowd in history!" he's been heard shouting, and "30,000 missing emails, could be the Chinese, or who knows," and "Get 'im outta here!" even though nobody is actually there.

When asked about his discontinued use of the trademark red ball cap he replied "Those damn hats are for LGBTQs, Republicans, Democrats and everyone else I hate, even those I've not yet met..."

Whew! That's plenty of nonsense for me for one night.

So, just as Donald Trump approaches his legislative responsibilities, I'll come back some other time to finish writing this nonsense-unless, of course, I can get someone to do it for me. Then I'll complain about the job that person did and replace them with somebody else to complain about. Well, a president's work is never done. "McConnell, where are you?"

A nuclear cloud-fueled smoke-and-mirrors show. "Look, Kids! Anything but my tax returns..."

This look back at a description I wrote four months ago of the first four months of the Trump administration empasizes something Americans were just getting an idea of: the seriousness of the culpability of the president and all his men in their deceptive Russian collusion in their bid for the 2016 presidential election.

Now, the world is beginning to realize that the threat of nuclear catastrophe has always been Trump's fallback, in-case-of-emergency-push-red-button diversion from his criminal past. This governing philosophy by the golfer-in-chief apparently is "If I can't win the game, nobody else wins, either."

In only four months’ time, the US has seen the rise of a blindly self-serving autocrat. Some, who rely upon his mere presence to pursue their own interests, kowtow to this man’s whims and placate him with patronizing words.

Despite the seemingly endless ego-stroking on display in DC, all involved compromise whatever sense of decorum they have to achieve their agendas.

The president himself, along with his entourage of sycophants are normalizing a wildly distorted definition of decency, honesty and good faith.

Further, these revised concepts are not subtly introduced, but hammered in like a red-hot rivet and left to cool. If ever our mindset is to be freed of this new mentality, it'd take a considerable paradigm shift for each of us. That, and very likely a blowtorch, too,

Since these norms of honesty and forthrightness are being stretched to a barely recognizable version of their intended meaning, our culture is slowly but surely assimilating them as our “new” normal.

But this is where, as a culture, we're conceding our generally accepted Great American mindset to adapt to the one that's conspicuously absent in the White House today.

The pensive and level-headed diplomat we're used to seeing at press conferences is nowhere to be found.

Instead, we're finding ourselves duped by a master whose only real skill is heavy handedly duping others to do his bidding.

And, my, how accomplished he is, making his administration look productive by signing a multitude of executive orders.

These, however, are merely photo-ops designed for broadcast or publication by reporters in the corporate-controlled media outlets he vilifies as “scum” and mere peddlers of Fake News.

In the face of all evidence to the contrary, the president and his minions, despite their rhetoric espouse a critically flawed agenda that can only end in disaster.

We citizens, who’ll be left to pick up the pieces, will find ourselves united in the sharing of a common trauma, which we'll only survive with the support of each other.

How could we have let this happen?, we'll ask ourselves. More important, we'll (hopefully) wonder how to keep it from happening again.

As a nation, we will emerge scarred and with a tarnished international reputation. But, like the Whitewater, Watergate and Clinton scandals (and many more), we will emerge.

It won't be much, but it'll be all we’ll have to work with at first. Along with the strength that the confidence to overcome brings will, hopefully, come wisdom.

Only then will all Americans be able to take a collective, deep breath and get back to the business of life once again.

This experience has been a horrific violation of our national trust, and it may leave a residue of governmental distrust for the next generation.

But the absence of this autocrat-and the nightmarish energy he carries-will one day be behind us. Not until then will the United States be able to return to its philosophy of governance of the people, by the people and for the people once more.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

My, How The Mile High Club Has Fallen

Recycled Airplane Homes – My, How The Mile High Club Has Fallen

This evening as I indulged the online news junkie in me, I viewed a one minute PSA on the subject of “ups cycling” jetliners, making them into livable homes.

The message was sponsored, appropriately enough by the Coors Brewing Co., whose products are typically sold in 12 or 16 ounce cans.

If you can imagine such a can having the ability to think like a motivated person, they might dream of one day becoming the largest, most celebrated tin cans of all. Those that are bestowed with the gift of flight and the ability to travel anywhere-jet aircraft.

The PSA stated that three jetliners are retired every day. It almost gave the impression that these planes are shipped off to some distant place where they’ll take up space forever. But we know damn well they are torn apart and solid for scrap.

But there it was, an overhead shot of one of these planes sitting in the woods, looking for all the world like a crash scene, the kind that claims a “tragic loss of many souls…”

Even the wings were jagged, as if shorn off by treetops and lying hundreds of feet away, engines dangling and still smoldering in the canopy of branches above.

While I love aircraft, seeing one of these retired jetliners situated in a forest, sans wings and outfitted as a working residence, felt downright spooky. But, if I’m to believe this message was no joke, what I was seeing was somebody’s house.

Though this comparison may be way off, I have to say that living in an airplane that looks as if it’s crashed in the forest has about the same appeal to me as eating a barbecued burger made of roadkill. The concept seems sound on paper, but in practice it is gruesome and morbid.

How is it possible, I wonder, to sleep soundly at night in one of these old airframes?

Sleep disruptions would likely be peppered with imagined turbulence that suddenly wakes you in a cold sweat. Or perhaps there’d be mentally draining dreams of eternal flight delays that’ll have turned Terminal A into a purgatory of the damned sitting for hours in uncomfy chairs.

I have trouble believing that passion-filled dreams of the sort that leave you refreshed and maybe even with a sly smile in the morning are anything but a rarity.

And despite my sizable imagination, I think dreams of desperately horny lovers wrestling in the tiny confines of an aircraft lavatory as they join The Mile High Club are to be celebrated for their occasional symbolism “Maybe this means I’ll get laid soon,” I’ll think.

Speaking of, the only viable, positive association any family may have with raising a family in a retired aircraft is to be able to say “Now that you’re old enough, I can tell you Johnny or Janey,” motioning to the tiny WC, “this is just like the one where you were conceived, somewhere over Tulsa, I think. Your father and I used to call it “Cockpit 13.”

Other than this, which is admittedly a stretch, where’s the charm?

Jet aircraft have bathrooms so cramped that crossing your legs and holding it until you arrive seems plausible even if you’re only halfway to Hawaii. And memories of in-flight meals that bring their actual origins and ingredients strongly into question are valid deterrents to anyone’s fond recollections of airplane travels.

How about comfy aircraft chairs with lots of legroom and folding seat trays? Or handy overhead compartments for your carry-ons? How about all the in-flight magazines you could ever read or barf bags you could ever fill conveniently located in the “’seat-back’ in front of you?”

Maybe it’s the sing-song way the flight attendant says “Ladies and gentlemen, we are now beginning our descent into Denver International Airport…” or the questionably slurred speeches from the cockpit.

Or maybe you’re drawn by the PFD-personal flotation device-the use of which is visually demonstrated by the flight attendant prior to takeoff followed by the comforting closing line “…in the event of a water landing.”

Or perhaps it’s sudden screech of a peevish toddler in the seat behind you, which, if I interpret airplane cabin terminology correctly places you in the “seat-front,” aka the geographic opposite of the place where “in-flight mags and folded barf bags” are kept.

Just be glad that same toddler (and it’s quite possibly half-inebriated parent) isn’t seated next to you in “same-seat-right or same-seat-left.”

The only thing worse than hearing the parent’s comforting voice saying to the child “Shh, honey, we’ll be there soon,” and then, to the flight attendant, “I think I will have another rum and soda after all” would be hearing no parent at all.

Of course, you could enjoy the same peace and quiet if you like, too, without coughing up a few bucks or trading your lucidity for some Z’s just by taking the airline up on it’s thoughtful and free earplugs.

In case you are wondering, no, I did not write this aboard an international flight or any other flight for that matter. But of this you can be sure: This article will never find its way onto the pages of any in-flight magazine.

If anything, I’d imagine the rail travel industry having some use for it, though I imagine their seats have -front, -back, -left and -right designations, too. Not to mention peevish toddlers and drunken parents. There are, you know, the sort of things no glossy brochure would dare reveal to any would-be customer.

So, aside from all of these “perks,” what’s the market really like for recycled airplane-homes, and who’d want one anyway?

Simple: Someone with no imagination who has never flown before. Or someone who’s always wanted to start a business aboard one, like a daycare, a brothel or a dental office, to name just a few.

Or maybe an events center for lightweights whose better judgment and/or religious beliefs allow for fun but not too much fun. Say, Mormon bachelor parties.

It’d have the feel of a potentially raunchy, one-last-crack at the singles scene but, instead of strippers and tittie bars there’s Monopoly, Yahtzee, Dominoes and Kool-Aid.

The wildest part of the experience is that the groom picks the flavor without the groom’s knowledge. The plane never flies to Vegas and, except maybe for Going Straight to Jail without Passing Go and collecting $200, nobody gets hurt. Or laid.

On the other end of the spectrum, maybe Chuck E. Cheese or Applebee’s or TGIFriday’s would franchise the idea. It’d come complete with aircraft-inspired food and drink specials: The 747 Margarita, for example, or L-1011 Widebody Wings.

So forget about recycling aircraft info private homes. Commercial aviation has come up with much worse ideas-just ask the guy who thought up the idea for Trump Airlines.

And maybe, just maybe when the cost of Jet Fuel A gets to be too great the flight industry will remain aloft with a fleet of aircraft that no longer flies.

As a vintage video of a jet aircraft flies off into the sunset, the tag line will read “Fly the Friendly Fries of Ubetcha Ground Airlines…”

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Seeing the Goods For The Trees

It was in the mid-80s today, nothing like the mid-90s we had last week. Still, it takes only one day like today to realize how good we had it before it got hot like last week which, I suppose, many said was “killing us…”

How soon we forget the heat, though. Put two or more days like this together and we’ll soon think fall is on its way. Chances are, a few months later we’ll be “freezing to death.”

Still, that “killer” heat of only a few days ago seems like a distant memory now. But true memories go much farther back. Some, long forgotten from my early youth, were among these this afternoon.

While watching a movie about a young artist seeking mentorship from an old and accomplished, classically-trained Russian painter, a distant memory flickered back to life for me. This memory, in fact, inspires me even today, despite its somewhat subordinate status among all the others.

Art is art, I reasoned, and inspiration is inspiration, no matter the medium. I believe any good artist, any good person, can recognize and appreciate inspiration from wherever it comes.

Even so, the movie’s “Formula,” as I learned to call it in college film class, was of a simple variety. The  accomplished old man, the Russian painter, his lifetime of experience behind him is looking his mortality in the eye. He’s anything but seeking a protégé.

The younger man deifies him nonetheless and, though he’s from a different generation,  he shares the old man’s values towards art, etc., etc,.

Eventually, they realize their shared love for the act of painting wins out, the end.

This particular film, a so-called B Movie whose name I do not remember and is irrelevant anyway, is set in a large, old farmhouse in rural Pennsylvania. This is where my ancient memory surfaces.

Having grown up in suburban Pennsylvania in the 1970s, I saw a world that was very different than the suburban world it is now.

Though it’s been decades since I’ve been to my hometown, I needn’t see it as it is today to know this.

As a kid, I considered people who are of my age now to be “old-timers” and, like a kid, largely disregarded their perspectives. Then, I was too busy making my own perspectives, soaking up the world around me, to consider anyone else’s.

To be sure, however, I was likelier to disregard old-timers than anyone because I knew they could not relate to me. I could just feel it. As the saying goes “If I have to explain, you probably wouldn’t get it anyway,” and this aptly summed it up.

Today, I cannot be surprised if young people look upon me as I once looked upon older people then. Their world is, as I once claimed my own to be, a very different world. And I am not asking anybody for an explanation of that world, for not only would I not “get it anyway,” but I’m also unlikely to care; I had my crack at life and, for better or worse, it’s behind me now.

I may be too old to understand the younger generation as it is today. But I do know something to be true they do not, or probably have not yet contemplated.

Simply stated, each generation changes their world to fit their understanding of it, just as the generation that follows will do with their world. Likewise, the previous generation had changed their perceptions to fit their world and it’s from that point of view that they’ll make their decisions as adults.

From grandparents to parents to kids to grandkids, etc. this cycle continues. Throughout time immemorial, this cycle hasn’t been just a generational prerogative, but a generational imperative.

The social mechanisms by which we reflect upon our pasts evolve, just as cave drawings eventually became today’s digital video, and horse drawn buggy’s have become electric cars.

The physical landscapes that become icons of our lives slowly change too and,  barring catastrophic natural events like earthquakes and fires and floods, some of these settings will survive from one generation to the next.

Those tiny, rural towns I remember from the Pennsylvania of my youth are among these. Though I’m sure their numbers are dwindling, as evolution would have it anyway, they’ll always find life among my memories. Take this one, for example:

It was perhaps around age 9 or 10 that I remember traveling in the back of a Volkswagen Beetle to a small town called California, Pennsylvania.

Up front were my parents, while I shared the back seat with my cocker spaniel. Like good air circulation, space in that car was at a premium.

Given my young age and the size of my pet, it mattered little. It was one of the few advantages I had-that any kid has. For, beyond that, we almost always find ourselves at the whim of our environment.

Even though the day I found myself in that car may have been cool, the sun shining in the window, and the car’s lack of a/c made it feel mercilessly hot back there anyway.

Factor in my nine year old inability to understand time and distance and, to a kid like me, a trip like that might feel hotter than hell and lasting forever.

Chances are, mom and dad knew the trip was only an hour long max and the fresh country air filled cool, and were probably unable to understand my discomfort. One of the many advantages of being “the adult,” which I quickly learned to grumble about in later years.

As I’ve said, the mantra of the younger generation could well be “if I had to explain, you probably wouldn’t understand,” and this couldn’t have been more true to me then.

Once in that little town, located not far from the steel mills yet with a pastoral setting that made it feel like a universe away, small-town America prevailed.

Located on an austere, wide river, one would never guess the town oversaw a virtual waterborne highway for much of the natural resources barged along to the steel mills located a mere mile or so downriver.        

The aptly-named town of California, Pennsylvania might as well have been the state of California 3000 miles away to the west, for it was a world unto itself.

The streets were wide and made of poured cement, not paved asphalt. The yards as well were larger, with room for sidewalks instead of being extensions of grassy front yards that ended where they met the street, as in my neighborhood.

Perhaps most important for something I’ve still never – and hope I will never lose an eye for. That is, old and majestic trees, probably a hundred years old or more, and clear blue skies that revealed views of billowing clouds unhindered by smog.

One thing that’s for certain, though, is that when you’re only 3 feet tall, you can feel the heat radiating up from the sidewalk far more than adults.

I remember the car being parked a few blocks outside of the main part of town. Compared to my suburban frame of reference, the term “main part of town” was something of an overstatement.

Still, parked only a couple of blocks outside of town, the walk in seemed to take forever. Things I would relish now, like quaint storefronts and eateries, maybe even a winery or brewpub, of course, held no interest for me the, and still doesn’t, really.

What did matter however, was the store that sold ice cream. Though I don’t recall if it was when we arrived into town or when we were leaving that we visited the ice cream store.

But I do remember, however, eating it as fast as I could, before it could melt. As a rule, I ate ice cream as quickly as possible anyway, even without siblings with whom to compete. But that day’s heat made my haste that much more essential.

Ever since, I have always gravitated toward small towns and, in particular, ice cream, fudge brownie, taffy shops and the like. Even though I no longer consume such foods. it’s the quaintness of such places that leads me to seek them out.

Though this memory is but a tiny part of what’s shaped me into the person I am today, it will always stand as an essential memory of my days back then. That, in itself, is reason enough for me to seek out such places now, and I do.

Just like the magnificent trees and the blue skies I found as a kid in rural Pennsylvania, I still seek out those things wherever I go.

To me, such things are not only the essence of my youth, but the essence of what still keeps me young.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Embracing It-Moving Forward from the Past

Embracing It

In his book Excuses Begone, Dr. Wayne Dyer addresses the concept that past excuses to avoid reaching your potential as a human being number into the zillions (my term). However, these can be generalized as having one of two origins. In essence, he boils it down to Nature versus Nurture.

This document isn’t meant to be a summary of this book that focuses on overcoming the very human habit of creating excuses that limit us. Rather, this is just a collection of some notes on the subject that stood out as I listened to the Audible presentation.

As an amputee, for example, I could use my inability to both hold a book and smoothly turn pages as an excuse to not read, or to rarely do so. But Audible and Kindle Books provide a wonderful solution to an otherwise daunting problem.

The same could be said for the act of writing itself; a pen and paper have proven too unwieldy for me to use as I once did, while still a member of the two-armed fraternity of people.

But I have the great good fortune to live in a world where voice recognition is both widely available and highly accurate. Even if I still had both arms, I’m inclined to believe I’d use VR anyway; it’s easier for me to organize and navigate all the separate documents I’ve got going at once.

That’s no mean feat for someone who is dealing with an extensive history of traumatic brain injury (TBI). But enough about me-let’s get back into my notes on this book.

First, one overarching excuse people make for not fully realizing their productive self identifies their limitations as being genetic. No kidding.

Sometimes, people believe they have a gene that wires them to think a certain way. To them, this must be true. Why else would their parents, and their parents parents, etc. have always thought that way? They believe their self-limiting thinking is inherited and, given all the evidence that supports this, the idea seems solid enough.

The other rationale Dyer believes people have for their thinking holding them back and keeping them from reaching their full potential is because they say they’ve always thought that way. Therefore, it can never change.

To Dr. Wayne, the solution for this is an easy one. He simply says that such thinking “is just a thought, and a thought can be changed.” Sounds overly simple, but I know this to be true firsthand, as I’ll explain below.

I don’t know about your limiting thought patterns but I can confidently say that my self-limiting thinking is not born of the first excuse – it’s not hereditary.

Rather, it’s rooted in the second excuse, though in a most interesting way.

The mindset my parents had, which became mine as well, was rooted in fear, guilt and shame. It’s a mindset they have to this day. And it’s also what I consider the biggest obstacle to our having a positive dialogue to this day. Or any dialogue, for that matter as I don’t find their thinking to be so much self-limiting as downright crippling.

While I knew the mindset I grew up with was incongruent with my own beliefs, I had to adopt them to for lack of any other suitable thought processes to guide me.

Upon college graduation and my subsequent release into the world as an adult, I find myself lacking an identity. More on this below, also.

Dr. Wayne begins Chapter 3 with a brief description of the thought processes he had regarding smoking in his younger years. It was a habit he wanted to give up and he listed an extensive – and quite impressive, at that – list of reasons for doing so.

His reasons for wanting to quit were considerable, but so was the list of ways he was tied to the habit, which overwhelmed him at first.

Yellow teeth, stinky fingers, messy ash cleanup, the cost of lighter fluid or lighters, the chronic cough it gave him and the knowledge that he was exhaling toxic air after each puff were all good reasons to quit.

But how to avoid this habit in the face of all of these learned behaviors was the question.

After contemplating this perplexing scenario for a while, the answer dawned on him: just quit smoking!

It took me back to my own smoking habit during college. My habit began suddenly at some point, during my sophomore year I believe, and lasted until the beginning of my junior year.

It always coincided with attending classes on weekdays, and drinking and smoking with friends on weekend nights. Somehow it seemed appropriate to smoke as we vented our collective spleens about the state of things in our world.

Perhaps we fancied ourselves modern day poets, documenting our experiences in a slurry of iambic pentameter. I cannot recall, and something tells me it’s better that way. It’s a past time that’s best left in the past.

Still, I do remember often expressing my thoughts then with a sarcastic tone that struggled to also have a backhanded, funny element. In those days, the glass was always half-empty, not half-full.

Being angry at our perceived lot in life, such as we saw it then may have come naturally, but it wasn’t conducive to following the healthy path that could lead us to our authentic destiny.

Though I wouldn’t have guessed it then, some of my old buddies from those days would never emerge from the safety of that cocoon to spread the beautiful wings that lay just beneath that tough-guy façade.

It was, I think, what they’d consider the highlight of their lives. The sarcastic world they spoke of did, in fact become their reality. Their thoughts never changed, so neither did they.

Our state of affairs at that time seemed funny to us, but in an apprehensive way, like so much nervous laughter. We thought we had all the answers even though we knew we didn’t, but we had our whole lives ahead of us and figured we might as well take a deep breath before we had to embrace the future.

Anyway, at the end of that school year, I transferred to another campus to complete my studies. Just as quickly as it began, my smoking habit ceased. It simply didn’t serve me anymore and, because my world and the people in it changed, I changed to fit in.

As a social chameleon, uncomfortable with the idea of making waves and being the center of attention, I adopted whatever status quo seemed appropriate at the time.

This in mind, my thinking leads me to believe that I am well-suited to identifying and overcoming my own past negative and self defeating habits.

It seems that embracing my past instead of coming from that old familiar place of guilt and shame about it will allow me to begin living life knowing that, just as I quit smoking, I can also confidently quit my old behavioral habits.

Here’s a thought I had while listening to that same chapter:

While considering what Dr. Dyer thinks of as memes, or the thoughts we learned by mimicking those around us, I realize that growing up I did not share those memes that existed in my family.

I was not the overbearing son of a gun that my father still is today, not was I the fear driven creature that my mother still is today.

However, because the memes I surrounded myself with in college weren’t compatible with my thinking either, I clung to the only ones I knew: those from childhood.

As an adult, I found myself in a world where I had no authentic traits to call my own, and I did not know where to begin finding them. That stage of my life where I tried on new social clothing, so to speak, I realized, must continue.

A mentor was what I needed, but was too unaware to be aware of it. By then, I’d already had a few good ones, though I failed to recognize their potential importance to my life.

A high school teacher, for example, was just a guy I thought I got along with well. In the absence of a positive father, I merely fed off good vibes from fatherly figures wherever I found them.

But I know better now.

The social chameleon in me tried on many outfits: a drinker and smoker, a frat brother and social recluse, then later a triathlete, a hockey player and extreme skier, a mountain biker and competitive road bicyclist, racing other men in my age group, not to mention a father, husband, and more.

In my thirties, I think it was, I realized that all of those above activities, without exception, were all based on individual merit. Except for hockey and road bicycle racing, none were team sports

In short, the well-oiled social chameleon in me hid the fact that I had a powerfully introverted side I’d always been in touch with but failed to recognize for a long time.

I wasn’t a team player, but that was (and still is) okay. My true self had gravitated toward my real nature right under my nose and continued developing without my even realizing it!

Still, I didn’t have an identity to speak of, and I looked upon my developing authentic self as a novelty. I didn’t recognize it for the true revelation it is. So the struggle continued.

Though my efforts were worthwhile, ultimately I found they never would serve me. I was convinced of it, even if I had to nearly kill myself in the process.

That nearly happened, too. I had a bicycle accident with a car one evening while on a tough road bicycle training ride, alone, of course. But even that wasn’t enough to open my eyes to the real me that I know is in there.

I’d been without an identity for so long I was simply scared to settle down and adopt one. I had to create an identity from scratch. Still do.

I made more mistakes than I’d enjoyed successes and, as a 51-year-old man, I still really have no authentic identity. That’s what I’m still struggling with now.

I am a writer, and a good one at that. But I feel I remain in a world surrounded by people with behaviors I am convinced will never serve me. With the exception of times like now, when I can freely articulate my feelings on this subject, I feel lost. It’s why I’m so fulfilled by writing for this blog.

End of this day’s book notes 📝

Some additional thoughts, inspired by listening to this book today:

After college, when I was married, and then a father for four years, I was still in search of an authentic identity.

Even though I was a college graduate, a father, a husband, a son in law, with those and so many other socially defined titles, I remained tied to my childhood identity, i.e. somebody’s son.

In effect, this was a concession of all my responsibilities and decision-making to people whose mindset was not congruent with my own.

But such was my desire to have an identity that I willingly handed back the keys to my life to toxic people from whom kindness was rare.

Eventually, I divorced and, though it seems counterintuitive, I returned to the home I grew up in to temporarily live once again.

This last fact, my inability to break my bond with my abusive parents and toxic family setting despite having every means to do so is probably a function of the abusive environment it had been for me.

But this doesn’t mean I didn’t have some extraordinary thoughts in so doing.

For example, having been a paperboy in my neighborhood for years, I had a mental image of the homes as they were then.

Prior to that, I delivered newspapers in the neighborhood adjacent to my own, to which I rode my bicycle six days a week in all weather to do my work.

That made two separate neighborhoods with which I have a mental image, plus all the places in between my home and the other neighborhood I delivered papers in.

The reason these particular years are important to me is straightforward: I spent a great deal of my time as a kid confined it home, grounded by my parents for having scored poorly at school.

I understand now that the abuse that went on in my childhood home was something my parents were afraid it would get out the word of it would get out, and they finally have to answer to it.

Therefore, my poor academic performance was something they could count on because, to me, school was the sanctuary, I’ve safe place where I could spend time during the day without fear of retribution by my parents.

Maybe I was just an overly sensitive kid, but I was unable to separate the intense emotions I associated with my abusive home and my school responsibilities.

I believe I thought that, even if there was held to pay – and they’re always was Dash I’d avoid any additional pressure from external sources , Even in school.

But that’s where the paper routes came in. Even though I was grounded in the daytime. Delivering the morning paper was the only time I was allowed out of the house.

During the school year, I was back in time to eat breakfast and go to school. I never had to see my father, whose work schedule I knew well. I could time my comings and goings to coincide with his absences so I could avoid seeing him.

 The same was true during summer vacation from school. But, since I didn’t have to make it home to get ready for school, I would linger as I did my paper route.

Often, I would stop at a favorite quiet place the top the hill where I could imagine the world stretching out before me.

In reality, it was really just a convenience store parking lot and major street intersection in my hometown. I was there early every morning, watching the people below me begin their day.

My day had already started and, in a rare way, I felt ahead of the world. I had just done something productive for others who wouldn’t conceive of me as the loser I often felt like at home.
No bad grades, no screaming or crying or terror or anything bad mattered then. It was one of those wonderful times when I knew – I could just feel – that my life as it was then would not last forever.

My imagination then was every bit as active as it is now. Those quiet, early-morning moments were something I treasured greatly and still do. They live on in the early morning dog walks I have with the love of my life, Sophie, a nine-year-old Belgian shepherd.

I had a best friend up the street, one who was always there on those occasions when I was free to leave the house to go have fun. He had a morning paper route as well, so our schedules always coincided.
We often walked to the nearby mall, where a video arcade was located. We spent much of our change from tips we earned delivering papers there, but also got to know our way around all of the stores.

So from our neighborhood to the mall, we knew every street in shortcut like the back of our hands. And there were plenty of them.

That was a stage of my life that seemed as if it could go on forever. But I don’t mean that in a bad way. The violence at home was something I had excepted as normal by then and was blissfully ignorant of anything different.

One thing that never changed about that, however, was that no matter how good things may have been on occasion, everything was outweighed by those nightmarish times when my father was angry and my mother wouldn’t stop him.

At any rate, once I return home as an adult after all the real-world adult responsibilities have overwhelmed me and let me to do so, I was in for a major surprise.

In the eight or so years I’ve been gone from the home I grew up in, many things had changed. My detailed knowledge of the whole place meant that I was hyper aware of every little change that had occurred there in my absence.

Because I was so emotionally tied to the place – a fact I’m only now beginning to recognize - each change, no matter how small was a loss that needed to be grieved.

My memory is very state dependent so, as soon as I returned to the area, I remembered exactly how things looked exactly as they were years earlier.

Houses were painted differently, some sporting new additions or paved driveways instead of gravel, or shrubs and trees were none had existed before.

The grocery store down the street that I had worked at stocking shelves at night as an undergraduate, was closed and in its place stood a franchised pet supply store.

I couldn’t believe what had happened to the home I once had. Now, of course, I realize that the neighborhood had been changing gradually all along, but because I was there to see it and to live it, I hadn’t noticed.

The biggest change, the one that inspired me to write this segment was of a path that led into the woods between my neighborhood and the mall where my friend and I visited many times. It was located, appropriately enough, where Iroquois Street dead-ended.

Many of us have a mental image of the location that inspired Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Dark and tunnel-like, and wide enough to wait to ride a horse through.

Depending upon how you looked at it, the trailhead could look like a nightmarish abyss or welcoming arms, open wide and waiting for a hug. It was always for me, it was always the latter and night or day, I was never afraid to go in there.

Many times we’d traveled through there, anticipating a new high score on a video game or indulging in some carefree browsing at some of our favorite stores: The record shop, the hobby shop where we gawked at model trains and rockets, slot cars, and other plastic and balsa wood models.

Eventually, girls became our favorite thing to gawk at, though we had limited success in getting their attention. We were in that awkward stage, our voices changing and right in the middle of that growth spurt that would likely indicate our adult stature.

My friend remained blessed with his baby face while I struggled with the most visible and insidious scourge any libidinous teenager might have-acne.

Something I didn’t realize then what is that many of my female contemporaries did not have the luxury of living as close to the mall as we did. Therefore, going there was a pretty big deal.

That said, the choice between looking at make up, hair stylists and clothes and shoes was an easy one for them; we never stood a chance!        

Something we could do that no teenage girl we were aware of good match was our consumption of mall food. Anything from ice cream to burgers and fries to baked pretzels to popcorn, frozen cokes, chewing gum (we always had some on hand), and so much more I ate with impunity.

It was one of the few pros about having acne – I never had to worry about getting pimples from eating junk food! I never put on weight either, given my morning bicycle rides throughout my paper route.

But that path through the woods was there for it all, the figurative river that ran through it. No matter what, it held a nonjudgmental, unconditional even Divine energy to it.

The darkness of that trail at night was nothing compared to the uncertainty I might find waiting when I walked through the front door when I got home.

This shortcut through the woods was like that, even spooky sometimes. But because I saw it all year round, in fall when the leaves changed then fell, in winter under snow and then in the spring when it came back to life again I didn’t fear it.

In fact, that sleepy hollow was a welcoming place for me, a sanctuary. Interestingly, it was a big trail that could only have been made over time by many people walking through there. But I don’t recall seeing anybody else except my friend.

Though I never gave it much thought then, there must have been quite a lot of foot traffic along that trail before we became regulars on it.

But the trail always stood alone and, since my friend and I knew everyone in the neighborhood, we were unaware of anyone else who may have traveled that wooded trail, ever. If anybody would know such things, it’d be us.

Since the trail was such a fixture in my life at the time when I was pondering my high school years and beyond, I took it’s presence for granted. Especially given my view of it as a sanctuary, even though I didn’t think of it as such then.

It was among the most significant places in my life, and someplace I’d love to experience one more time. It was the feeling I had when I return to the neighborhood as an adult.

So imagine my surprise when, not even ten years later, I returned to that very spot, expecting to see that natural wonder that have meant so much to me.

Instead, The trail that I had meant so much to me have been reclaimed by nature. There was no trace of it whatsoever; where the asphalt ended, the woods began, end of story.

As it turns out, the natural wonder I’d thought of as “my shortcut” became defunct upon the opening of a light rail station that led to the mall from downtown Pittsburgh.

A set of twin boys who lived on that street that we merely considered nuisances back in our heyday had graduated high school by the time I returned and were off doing their own thing.

For the first time there I felt a strange sense of apprehension, a mild feeling of danger, perhaps. It was as if someone was looking over my shoulder, watching me, and there was.

It was my angels coming to visit me, to comfort me and to let me know that, even though an old path had naturally closed, new ones were destined to open. My job, then, was to open my eyes and open my mind and find them.

In the end, I went back to my old neighborhood seeking a sense of stability from the old days, dysfunctional though they were.

Stability was there, all right, I just didn’t recognize it then. All the changes I found proved quite a distracting shock to me. Now, however, I can appreciate it for it’s true significance.

That trail through the woods is definitely one place whose loss I have grieved. And, though I’ll never visit that place again, I will be following my joy on a new trail to another, happier place.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

One More Red Nightmare (á la King Crimson)

As we all know, the American President takes an oath to uphold the US Constitution and to act in the best interests of all Americans when being sworn into office. Assuming the president has actually read and retained what’s in the Constitution, of course.

US Senators and House Representatives swear their loyalty upon taking the oath of office as well. This they each do for a reason, the merits of which are never more pertinent than they are now.

For those recently unable but are now willing to be brought up to date in only a few minutes I recommend this recent article by the New York Times, found online at:

It contains excerpts from a White House interview with the current president. It’s lengthy but it needn’t be read in its entirety. In fact, a few paragraphs may be all most people can stomach.

No matter how far you make it through the article, you will find enough evidence as to the president’s state of mind, and his general inability to hold a thought long enough for it to travel from his brain to his mouth.

This is nothing new of course, and I am not attempting humor in saying so. My words have all been said before by others elsewhere.

Those conflicting, confusing and often contradictory statements the president makes, sometimes from one sentence to the next are well documented. The president’s only real consistency is his inconsistency.

No place is this more evident than in this Times article. Other than the conspicuous absence of all but one of his presidential aides, what’s special here is the line of questioning on a broad number of special sensitive subjects.

The questions are uninterrupted and Trump’s responses are uninhibited. Subjects include Russia, personal finances, the 2016 election, zero Senate productivity, take your pick.

Reporters have him alone, and are dead to rights in their shrewd, sometimes sly choice of questions. None, really, involve policy for we know he’s a dud in that department.

They ask questions for which we’d all like – and deserve- to have answered. Trump’s about as transparent in his fibbing as a guilty grade school boy, albeit one with access to the launch codes.

Few straight answers are given, but that’s all part of who Trump is-crooked!

If you already have an idea as to what you might expect then congratulations! You are one step ahead of the game.    

With those oaths taken by elected officials to serve the American interests and uphold the Constitution in mind, I’ve made some observations here I hope are accurate.

I am hoping, for instance, that the apparent gridlock in the Senate on healthcare reform is not just bipartisan posturing. It’s widely known that the current state of healthcare in America is stable enough to last into the foreseeable future.

All senators, I’m sure, are well aware of this. The lack of a repeal-and-replace bill is not catastrophic, except perhaps to hard-line Republicans hungry for a win, all else be damned.

Similarly, I firmly believe Hillary Clinton was well aware of the daunting if not unscrupulously acquired resources of her opponent in the 2016 election.

I also believe she knew that, wrong though it was, she could become a martyr to the system. In her political life, she’d faced worse, but this could prove to be pretty damn close.

Still, giving up her place in history as the first female American president to a selfish codger in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s would be particularly hard.

His chronic misogyny and debasing of women would only be salt in her wounds, for she already knew one American president like him. Things with that one didn’t turn out very well for her, either.

So, all that said, I wonder if it’s possible – how far fetched would it be – to think that both GOP and democratic representatives and senators would put their party’s interests aside in order to address our problematic president?

How? By fighting the good fight as they currently are doing. Stonewalling the president despite their own agendas in order to deprive Trump of any real legislative victories.

The delusions of grandeur Trump indulges in about his being the Best, Greatest, Most This or That President ever are clear to everyone but Trump.

It’s clear that, despite all evidence to the contrary, up is down, dark is light, on is off and so on. The reality is finally asserting itself to those who truly do govern this nation: Trump’s gotta go.

He’s not even capable of being a figurehead, quietly sitting in the Oval Office and posing for photo ops when necessary while the sausage grinders do their thing unencumbered by a normal human being.

That’s one hell of a reality check, and it goes far beyond saying “Oh, well, that’s who we’ve elected,” or more accurately “Be careful what you wish for, America, even if you don’t think it could happen to us.”

I don’t believe it’s that far-fetched to think that the American republic – our homeland itself – is at stake here. The president is both inappropriately friendly yet equally secretive with Russia.

The man’s singular ambition – wealth – is clear enough for the rest of us to see, as is his blindness to anything else. If there’s nothing in it for him, it’s pointless.

What’s more, like excellent healthcare coverage or anything else for that matter, all the money in the world means nothing if  you’ve been on the receiving end of a nuclear-tipped ICBM.

But Trump would be too busy counting his millions to even see it coming.

Think of it this way: If we Americans continue to find ourselves betrayed by a president who myopically pursues wealth above all – while Congress stands by, saying nothing – our entire nation could become a mere footnote in the history books of one of the greatest authoritarian regimes ever-Putin’s.

Because the president’s will is so Tiffany-twisted around everything the Russian leader says, America has gone from a global superpower to a laughing stock in only six months’ time. There’s no sign that will change, either.

Party lines and personal agendas aside, our elected representatives, by virtue of their ability to stonewall currently unwarranted legislation will prevent enabling – not empowering –  the president. They can single-handedly cease feeding the delusions spilling out of the White House with even the tiniest morsel of real-life success.

If Congress is to remain true to the oath they took upon entering office, then they’ve a responsibility to put a stop to Trump’s bumbling before we reach the tipping point whereby we, America, concedes our leadership roles, one by one in the eyes of the world.

A tactic as simple as stonewalling may well be enough. Knowing the president’s infantile thought processes, I see him as likely to just pout, whine, throw a tantrum or two, and then just give up and walk away out of frustration.

Fox and Friends could be on soon back in the White House presidential bedroom and what could be better than retiring in front of a TV, watching people who both worship him and agree with every conspiracy theory imaginable after a long day of President-ing. It’s not easy being the king.

Back in the real world, Trump’s having to make the choice between remaining president and divulging his tax returns was a simple one; the latter is not an option.

Amid shouts of “Crooked Hillary is responsible,” and “Obama left me with a mess,” Trump will up and quit (more about that in a second).

With Trump gone, all that will remain is to clean up the few appointees he’s made, all of whom have substantial conflicts of interest with their respective departments.

Anyone with Russian ties, including the vice president should not be considered as a viable replacement. This trickles downhill from the vice president to the attorney general to family members, up to but not including the new FBI director, Christopher Wray.

In my mind, the politically neutral Wray can be trusted and should rightly assume the presidency until a suitable replacement can be confirmed by Congress.

It will be a history making event to be sure, but just about everything regarding this administration has been an unprecedented fiasco. What, besides our planet and our freedoms do we have to lose?

The silver lining in all this lies in the fact that our democracy will prevail and the systems of checks and balances created 240 years ago, but only recently tested to the limit, will have succeeded as it was designed to by the Constitution’s original framers.

That knowledge alone will bring all Americans together, with an unprecedented level of confidence not seen in at least six months.

Now, Trump’s downfall is imminent. Americans will finally decide enough is enough and pressure our elected officials to make it happen. We’ll let them know it’s okay to delay actual legislative work until this very threat to our democracy is, as Senator Bernie Sanders put it “exposed for the fraud he is.”

But Trump will have to save face and somehow spin the entire situation in his favor. Here’s what I believe Trump thinks will happen:

Trump may believe that being president is just like everything else that’s been handed to him on a silver platter.

Since he didn’t actually win the presidency he won’t feel any sense of true ownership of the idea unless, of course, it serves him somehow. Each passing day is proof of this.

When Trump’s had enough: That’s all folks!, Lights out!, c’est la vie!, easy come, easy go!, etc., he’ll think it’s over, just because he says so.

He’ll instinctively turn his back and walk away from the presidency because he thinks it’s become too “unfair” or “wrong” or “fake/phony.”

Going back to golfing and the Old Boys locker room to brag about beating Crooked Hillary in 2016 will-and has always been-his fallback. It will, I’m afraid, be the only real evidence of foresight he’ll have shown as president.

I don’t believe the American people, many of whom he’s slighted and all of whom he’s betrayed, will allow Trump to escape unscathed. Many will not see him as an ex-president.

Rather, he will have been exactly what he’s always been – a fraud, one who happened to have found a way to become elected president through illicit means.

Trump, I think, will be exposed, as will his sycophantic army of self important buffoons, tax returns and all.

The story will be covered only in general terms by the great papers, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Denver Post, etc. that broke the story in the first place. Anything further would be beneath the dignity of these publications to print.

Instead, the lurid details would be reserved for publications with which Trump is best known and most comfortable.

Like the revelations of his campaign advisers’ illicit meetings with Russian interests, sensationalist details will leak out drip by precious drip.

But Trump will not bitch about “leakers” this time, for his face will make the front page for as long as the Enquirer can milk it, and then some.

He’ll eat up the attention like the beautiful Syrian Missile Cake he enjoyed while sending 59 Tomahawks to Syria without interrupting dessert at a Trump-branded property.

And he’ll get to say ad nauseum “Buy Ivanka’s fashion clothing!” without having to rely on Kellyanne Conway to say it instead.

And speaking of, perhaps she and Steve Bannon will make a love connection and, as Bruce Springsteen puts it “…disappear down Flamingo Lane.”

The exposés will make screaming headlines on the cover of the National Inquirer throughout supermarkets all across America.

They will provide unprecedented sales figures, of the sort Trump himself lives for. There will be no fact checkers to second-guess his outlandish claims and, in fact, such wild statements will be encouraged by the editorial staff.

Meanwhile, gleeful tabloid publishers newly awash in unprecedented sums of cash will redefine the term “hand over fist” in ways they’d only dreamed of.

All those previous covers of the National Enquirer blaring headlines about Donald and Marla that were so 80’s will seem bland by comparison.

Perhaps these front page headlines will become the latest framed curiosities adorning the walls of his country clubs.

Only then will Donald Trump, the greatest legend in his own mind ever, believe me, will be left to fade away into obscurity, where he belongs.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Blog Stew - with Real Avocados 🥑 🥑 July 18, 2017

Evidently, the desperation in Senator Mitch McConnell’s anxiety-ridden mind these days is contagious. Getting something, anything down is something Ol’ Mitch is unlikely to ever get. But I'm no Mitch McConnell. Since I don't need a House majority to do anything, I've made a unilateral Executive Decision to write something, anything down here. Still, a little explanation for my recent absence from this page is in order. After all, eleven days is a long time for a creative mind like mine to be lurking in God-knows-where.

It’s not for lack of interest or because I don’t feel like writing anymore or because I’m out playing golf, any of which are typical reasons Donald Trump uses when he plays hooky.

Rather, I’m in the midst of two other projects now and this blog, to which I love contributing, has temporarily taken a backseat.

For now, I’m best described sometimes as "sharp as a bowling ball," or pretty much as articulate and diplomatic as the president himself. "Look. I’m here, you’re here and neither of us have any idea what I am about to say.  All you know is that you are in for something great, I can tell you that. Believe me."

Which does, in fact, sound just like something the president would say. But he’s an easy target and, as something of a news junkie lately I’d hate to riddle any of my writing with satirical and morbid-but-often-true cathartic cheap shots directed at our poor excuse of a president, I can tell you that. Believe me.

But I will anyway. It’s a great way to blow off some steam from the harsh reality of American politics, aka “outright vitriol” and warm up my writing for the writing I’ll do later.

And, speaking of warming up, it was 105 degrees in my thirty foot mobile command center, which I’ve dubbed The Leisure Seeker, after a fun novel about aging by the same name.

So stick around, won’t you? This could be a fun way for you to kill a little time when you quite likely should be doing something else, like your laundry or vacuuming or even doing some writing of your own.

This last one is how I came to enjoy The Leisure Seeker in the first placeAfter all, I reasoned, just reading work I like is a sufficient warmup for my own writing if I focus enough on each and every word.

But I’ve never been a very good liar, not nearly good enough to one day become president (ouch!), so I’ll be honest and say that I enjoy reading for its own sake. Hopefully, that’s the very reason you are here right now. If so, I want you to know I appreciate your time and invite you to stay ‘til the end.

Speaking of lousy liars, the president’s son revealed one major genetic difference with his elder namesake, Donald, Sr. when displaying a weak succession of stories, each one worse than the previous story about an illicit meeting he and his father’s campaign advisers had in June, 2016.

It seems the meeting was with Russkies who came bearing gifts for his dad. Actually, they claimed to be bearing dirt, the kind that, if a little water were added, would turn into mud they could readily sling at the Clinton campaign.

But Don Jr’s not the Teflon Don his father is, and his guilty expression conjured up images of a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

Except this “kid” is a 39 year old father of two who met with officials from a government hostile to the US in an attempt to collude with them to ensure the outcome of his father's presidential campaign.

There probably wasn’t a cookie jar anywhere in sight, and I highly doubt cookies or milk were served at this meeting, either. But it brings me to an esoteric point I'll try to explain. Don't worry, I'm not going to get all serious on you.

For some reason, I feel as if I’ve been bestowed with the gift of seeing how people may have acted as kids just by looking into their eyes as they talk.

It’s a big part of what makes me a news junkie, I think, for watching people recount their version of things-anything-offers a glimpse into their human side.

Perhaps it’s because I am seeking to become more aware of my own humanity and watching others offers me a baseline of comparison. Okay, so I did get all serious on you, but like Don Jr. said of his controversial meeting, it was only for a minute and it didn't make any sense. But I'm back now.

My observations are nothing if not fun, and given the heaviness of the news headlines lately a little fun is worth it’s weight. Like my mental image of Don Jr.’s face as he fibbed toon camera he ultra-sympathetic Sean Hannity of Fox News.

The Trumps make no secret of their heavy dependence upon Fox TV News which, I believe, they liken to a sort of invisible shield, picking up where their legal counsel leaves off, defending their wanton wrongdoing and placating their notoriously fragile egos.

But I’ve noticed that if I put aside the gravity, the true and utter seriousness of the infractions with which Don Jr's clearly complicit, I can see something else.

Don Jr’s nodding head symbolized not his certainty that he wasn’t lying, but his uncertainty as to what his lying might mean this time.

For once, his father wasn’t there to protect him from himself, and he had no weight of his own to throw around to get him out of his predicament. He was only compounding his guilt, as he found himself standing on completely unknown ground.

In the absence of anything else, Don Jr fell back on the default setting he’d learned while growing up. It was time for the Break Only In Event Of Emergency solution which simply meant to keep denying everything.

I don’t mean this to sound quite so serious any more than I’d imply this is a circumstance worthy of levity. In fact, it’s the sheer seriousness of it all that chiseled away Don Jr’s confident façade, complete with $2000 suit, silk tie, etc. until I could see nothing left but a scared little boy.

His hand was caught in the cookie jar, all right, and though little boys might fear a spanking, this scared little boy had no idea what he was in for this time.

In the sudden absence of a man nearing middle age I saw a nervous schoolboy, standing as if at the head of the class, palms sweaty and paper in hand.

Flash back thirty years and there the boy stands, nervously reading: “What I would do if I were elected president, by Donald J Trump, Jr.”

Quite an image, to be sure and, if I recall correctly it was Don Jr who, on the eve his father clinched the nomination exhorted about how much of a rush politics brought.

I also recall thinking that his take on things then was a lot like what I’d expect from someone who’d just tried skydiving or a zip line through the jungle and survived to tell the tale. The novelty this poor little rich boy felt would wear off and it’d be on to the next exciting adventure for him.

Not so far his more predictable father, and I say this with tongue in cheek, of course; there is nothing predictable about the senior Trump.

As we all are painfully aware, Mr. Trump should’ve stuck to doing what he does best, pretending to be a truck driver.

An adroit and skillful statesman never has been and never will be Trump hallmarks; such traits are not compatible with anyone who relies as heavily on bullying as Trump does.

The current Republican inability to pass sweeping healthcare reform, which is a nightmare in the making for me and over 20+ million other Americans is a laughable yet telling statement on Trump’s inability to lead the country.

Though the bill is dead in the water now, many of us still might have reason to fear for the future of our healthcare.

But with Trump somehow conspicuously out of the White House, no American would have to also face the indignity of being represented by the emotional and intellectual equivalent of a pouty third grader who has to go to bed early because it’s a school night.

But trump’s wannabe oligarch ambitions have required some creative subterfuge on the part of disobedient subjects who insist on contradicting his highness’ whims.

Like so many unruly schoolchildren, contrary leaders all across the country are dusting off their grade school “Oops-I-forgot-my-homework” CYA  game. A few cases in point:

Pull out of the Paris Climate Accord? “Go ahead, smart guy,” an army of state governors and major city mayors think, we’ll circumvent the White House by contacting the other sovereign nations still in the accord and pledge to uphold it anyway.

This may reflect poorly on these lower level political leaders but not nearly as much as it does on Trump which, of course, means everything to him. Something tells me that, if he’s able to pull his head out of the sand trap on one of his golf courses Trump will have us back in the Paris Accord in no time.

How about Trump’s esteemed Ban on Muslims? Or his tiresome yet persistent attempts to roll back Obama-era ecological protections, financial caveats and social legislation? Or pursue any self-interest he sees fit no matter what much it flies in the face of common sense?

Then, as if by way of explanation Trump, who proclaimed himself the anti-establishment candidate now, as president merely tweets “that’s politics!”

But Trump sure has provided plenty of grist for the late night humor mills. His  chronic insecurity has led to a strange propensity for creating demeaning nicknames for everyone who earns his disfavor. That’s a lot of nicknames.

As fate would have it, there are a lot of comedy writers who are willing to match him stride for stride in that department. Because he’s made it clear that nothing’s sacred to him, he’s become fair game himself.

So has his family (the Russian ones, too), his non-family advisers (both of them), his few cabinet members (quality not quantity) and, my favorite, his legal team. Well, those who are willing to risk being disbarred and engage in anonymous, late-night email battles laced with profanity and ending, finally, with the word? “Bro.” On a school night, no less.

Perhaps all those wily comedy writers are every bit as insecure as Trump is. However, as he’s so fond of saying “I’m president and you’re not.”
That makes him, not the comedy writers the visible one.

The comics themselves sometimes find they’re on the front line, trapped somewhere between giving the people what we want-like his head on a platter-and his eggshell-fragile ego.

Not all comics, like Kathy Griffin who was recently seen holding a likeness of Trump’s bloodied, severed head are as easily intimidated and destroyed with the stroke of your executive pen, the same one he is still holding as he sits at his desk, waiting for a healthcare bill that will never come.

Thanks to Donald Trump St, however, I’m finding some women quite attractive I’d never have guessed I would before. For example, I’ve become a card-carrying, lifelong member of the Kathy Griffin Fan Club.

Now, she’s no “Low IQ Mika” as you might say but, after some thought I’ve decided I would donate every penny of my meager income to help her resume her career if she’d only agree to love me forever. All because I can’t stand Donald Trump.

Or Rachel Maddow, who is absolutely spellbinding with her witty articulation of Trump’s latest foibles. Even though it’s said that the camera makes a person look taller, something tells me I’ve still got at least a foot on her.

But, unlike me, she’s still got both her arms, so I figure that evens things out. Do you think she’d agree? Well, to quote former FBI Director Jim Comey “Lordy, I sure hope so…”

Anyway, the reason I said I wouldn’t likely ever be attracted to these women ever before is because, had it not been for our current, illustrious chief executive I’d never had occasion to watch their shows or hear of their work. Goodie for me, and maybe lucky for them, I guess.

In closing, I’d simply like to say that, though I’m not desperate to create content for this or any blog, I’ve felt a little remiss for not posting sooner.

However, it’s been so dang hot- 105 degrees today- and it promises to continue as such that indoor cooking, save for this blog stew is not permitted.

This blog, then, will not have regularly scheduled postings, but impromptu entries as weather permits.

Thank you for joining me-have a wonderful night!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

An old familiar feeling rears its ugly head.

Today was a watershed day, a day when I took a new old mindset, one I've had for nearly five years now, and replaced it with a new, new mindset.

In a word, I'm talking about pain.

And when it comes to pain, I usually need look no further than my mountain bike. Let me be direct: I am not a mountain biker. In fact, I can't stand mountain biking.

Today I hit the ground-the asphalt, that is, with a force unlike any I've had since my accident with a car back in 2012.

Of course, back then I was knocked senseless for a long, long time. It wasn't like that today. Worst part? It was completely avoidable; I had a puncture in my front tire that slowly but surely softened it up.

When I came off the trail at ride’s end, I thought I'd ask a fellow who was stretching out before his trail run. I saw no one else was there to do it, and he seemed nice enough to take a moment for me.

As I passed him, I sharply turned to go back, but guess what? The front tire gave way. I looked down at it just in time to see it crinkle up at the sidewall and wash out.

Bang! Just like that, I fell flat on my stomach and chest, with my left shoulder taking much of the brunt of the impact.

During that fall to the ground, I'd had that nanosecond to realize that a sudden impact with the ground was inevitable, and that it was going to hurt. Just how much it would hurt was TBD. But I wasn't worried; I'd know in a moment or so.

Sure enough, when I hit the pavement it did hurt. Imagine that! At first, I just lay there. What the hell else could I do except to prepare to assess the damage.

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I remembered a nagging thought that sometimes got into my head: When a human body hits the ground it's the body that gives, not the ground.

So much for thinking happy thoughts. Then I realized two additional things: First, someone had witnessed the crash and, if I didn't move soon he might understandably think I am dead.

Second, I remembered that I'm on a blood thinner and that I'd better have a look at my legs right quick. My knees and shins were most certainly scraped up, and were actually already scraped from another (equally avoidable) crash two days prior.

Nothing like scraping scabbed-over skin, I always say. Expecting the worst, I looked with trepidation at my legs. The fact that I could stand was a good thing I thought, for it meant they were at least still attached.

Somehow I expected more blood, given the violence of the crash. But to the young man who was warming up for his trail run I was a hospital case. “Want me to call 911?” he asked.

“Sonofabitch” was all I said in response, “all I wanted was a goddamn picture or two…” as if that explained everything.

Then I regained my composure somewhat and said “I apologize for being so vulgar...but this fucking hurts!”, then we both laughed and he knew I was okay.

“I'm on a blood thinner,” I said, “and any cut looks worse than it really is.” Then I mentioned how much of a drag sleeping that night was going to be. I'd have sticky wounds covered with triple-a ointment that would adhere to the sheets, likely to break open and begin bleeding again.

But that actually didn't matter, as my shoulder-which had been surprisingly pain free all day as I iced it suddenly took on an evil life of it's own.

The pain was so great that I knew immediately I wasn't going to sleep a wink that night. That realization came early, too, about 12:30 a.m.

Throughout the night I heard myself uttering sounds I'd never heard come out of me or any living thing before. I tried to limit the number of times I glanced at the clock, for I know nothing elongates time more than clock-watching.

The pain transcended “acute”. It was what I could only call profound pain, the kind that made me wonder in my painful yet sleepy haze if it wouldn't have been better to have met my maker all those years ago, in my major crash.

Mercifully, the morning finally came. I heard my next door neighbor leave for work and knew I'd have plenty of room to pull my RV out and head to the hospital.

The x-rays showed nothing was broken, that all the moving parts were fine. The pain I was experiencing was simply nerve pain unlike any I'd ever felt.

I left with a muscle relaxer from the pharmacy-the best seventy-seven cents I've ever spent-and went back to the RV and promptly fell asleep. Slowly but surely, the pain subsided, and I never felt better.

Still, I will always hate mountain biking, with good reason. Case in point.

I can't wait for my next ride. It's just too bad it has to be on my mountain bike again.