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

Friday, June 23, 2017

I'm Not a President, I Just Play One on TV

What is wrong with this guy?

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 mindset, modest and humble though they've may be to adapt to the role model we're used to seeing in the White House.

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 recurring.

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 that the United States will return to its philosophy of governance of the people, by the people and for the people once more.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Diff-Ability is empowering, but safety still rules!

While most of us have heard the phrase that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, the abstract meaning can sometimes be overlooked. It's the sort of thing that can happen despite having the best intentions of protecting yourself from a sports injury, for example.

Case in point: While out on a mountain bike ride about a week ago, I went through my usual safety checklist. My helmet, my shoes and a glove to protect my right hand were all on, and away I went. This time, though, all my usual precautions weren't quite enough. With the drier weather came more cyclists and once-firmly packed trails became sandy.

Being new to riding a mountain bike once again and with only one arm at that, I concentrate more on my steering than ever. But the slick tires with a higher inflation pressure felt downright slippery, and that can equal danger. It's time again for tires with some tread and without as much pressure. Presto! I've got a safe ride once again.

Details like these I consider "rookie mistakes," because I'm so used to road cycling from my pre-accident days. My learning curve on a mountain bike is still steep. Plus, even though I haven't forgotten how to ride a bike, riding with only one hand (and off-road, no less!) is something brand-new to me. I literally am learning how to ride a bike again.

It's all part of being diff-abled, and I accept and understand it. It's a great way to turn those rookie mistakes into a habit of thinking about things in a safer context.

So, while people I meet on the trail often stop to cheer me on as I pass by, I'm nonetheless reminded that being diff-abled is great - but there's no need to add to the challenges I've already got!

So, everybody, happy trails! And, as I like to say tongue-in-cheek, Keep the rubber side down!

Friday, June 2, 2017

What happened to your arm, mister?

It's fairly common knowledge that disabilities take many forms, seen and unseen. But, since I can't snap my fingers and undo my disability, it's become sort of a hobby to have a little fun with it.

It's my disability, I reason, so I can make light of it. Nobody else can, however, not without the express written consent of the National Football League. See?

The first thing I think that identifies me as disabled is Sophie, my service dog. In fact, people notice her. That's right, Her.

The fact that she's a service dog usually comes second and, if I'm noticed at all, it's often as a distant third. Even then, it's only to ask “Can I pet your service dog?”

I've been known to tell such people “Oh, ha ha ha, she's not my service dog, I'm just watching her for a friend who's visiting Oklahoma for the next six months.”

Playing second fiddle to my dog is something I've grown used to and quite proud of, too, even though I make sport of pretending otherwise.

And Sophie's a smart one to be sure. Her toys are marked “genius level” right on the package, for crying out loud. I almost feel like a half-wit standing in line, waiting to buy one, mostly because I know she's smarter than I.

She must be. Even with my fingers and my power tools I don't think I could ever remove the treats I put in there. Sometimes, in a fit of frustration at being unable to thwart her genius-ness I really cram things in there. She just seems to relish her abilities even more.

My only fallback is to remind myself that I still have the upper hand in making her complicit with some of my hare-brained schemes. It’s a bit like the movie Rain Man. Guess which part I play.

My constant trying to outsmart a dog kinda makes it sound like life's just one, big Looney Toons cartoon, right? Well, if I'm lucky, it will be. And lately, I've been pretty lucky, and I have the new season to thank for it.

It's June here in Colorado and Sophie and I live in an especially Colorado-y place. We're in the foothills with a campground and reservoir right across the street. No kidding, it's a wet dog's dream!

Sophie believes that the campers, many of them with dogs, are there for her own, personal amusement. There's also a revolving door of ducks and geese, most of which are leading parades of recently hatched mini-me’s, struggling to keep up, through the water.

These little ones grow up fast to bathtub-toy size and beyond. If they didn't, locals tell me, there are plenty of fish that'd love to eat ‘em.

Other little ones have appeared, too. Bunnies, deer, mice, feral cats and even some humans have little ones running around, the latter easy to identify with one finger buried deeply up its nose.

Interesting, isn't it, how nature programs offspring to learn everything they need to know about life from their parents? Indeed, it is.

So, with all the activity around here, there's no shortage of places to go and people to meet, especially when I walk Sophie down to the reservoir for her morning dip.

It's the time when campers, usually stiff from tossing and turning all night because, well, they slept in a camper, come stumbling outside to find something to do. That's when the fun really starts.

For those who are able to look beyond Sophie and notice me, you'll see I'm an amputee, and I'm usually in pain, too. That's because I sleep every night in a camper. I'm just kidding, of course, I don't feel the pain as much anymore.

At the lake, my shorthand for “The Reservoir,” Sophie struts along beside me in her red Medical Alert Service Dog vest. Seeing this, people somehow assume her job is to compensate for my missing arm.

But her real job is to alert me to any seizures I might have. But, like the backup to Green Bay Packers QB Brett Favre, who almost never missed a down-ever, Sophie's got an easy gig.

For starters, I only have seizures when I sleep. But since that could change anytime, I'd want her to know what to do. So we practice, and practice some more.

Our practice routine is legendary. So she has the dream job; of always being there, just in case. And if she's bored, that's fine by me, because it means I'm A-OK.

But what about her helping me as an amputee? If you think about it, and most people don't, in what possible way could a dog help a grown man who happens to be missing an arm?

Make me breakfast, maybe? Well, if I'd be willing to eat some slobbery hunk of duck jerky from a genius toy then I'd be set. But waiting for lunch is by far the best option.

With the possible exception of scaring off would-be muggers, something Sophie's done her share of, especially in Mexico, I can't think of one thing.

How, on one hand she scares off bad hombres yet, on the other hand (or the same hand twice, like me) she attracts kids and sweet old ladies I'll never know.

Those very kids and sweet old ladies, however, I never tease when it comes to Sophie. She wouldn't hurt anyone in a million years unless they were out to hurt us first, something she sniffs out immediately.

Anyway, as an amputee, I find kids just stare at me, often speechless and with a bewildered expression. Their eyes say it all: Just what the hell could've happened to that guy's arm?

For once, I get the attention instead of Sophie, so I let ‘em off easy.

Sometimes kids do ask me about it and, that's okay, of course. I admit, though, if they seem snotty I'll drop my rule and say the first, usually idiotic thing that comes to mind:

“Where's my arm? I thought you had it,” or “it fell off and sank when I was out in a boat and I think a fish ate it,” that sort of thing.

Kids’ll buy pretty much anything you tell them, I've learned, so long as you can keep a straight face. I've also learned to laugh or smile at them before leaving so they don't wake up in the midst of a screaming nightmare.

“Mommy (or Daddy)! There was this giant fish and it had that man's arm sticking out of its mouth…” I hope that never happens, even to the snotty ones.

In general, kids don't ask what happened to my arm. Most often, it's drunk or just uncouth adults. So, I tell them “the dog bit it off and ate it after I accidentally stepped on her tail, then was rude about it.”

Sometimes I throw in “...and she loves the taste of human flesh that's been marinated in bourbon for x-amount of years,” and I guess their age.

Since I've never encountered any children who are both drunk and uncouth, I've never had to consider what I'd do then. It'd probably be the same thing, since kids shouldn't be boozing anyway. Scare ‘em straight, before it's too late, I say.

There's a particularly annoying version of that same question, always from weirdly stoic men, never women:
“Where did you serve?”

It makes it seem like, except in combat, I couldn't possibly have lost my arm any other way.

That question, and the stupid way it was usually asked sticks in my head all the way home from wherever it took place.

As if replaying it aloud and with a dipshitty tone, I say to no one in particular something like:

“How’ja looz y’arm, huh?”
“Yup, musta bin a gernade, yuk yuk yuk.” Or “coulda bin smallarms far, yuk yuk yuk.”

When it comes down to it, I do a pretty convincing dipshit imitation. Must be all that exposure and lotsa practice, yuk yuk yuk.

Somehow it wouldn't surprise me to learn that Sophie has thought about biting off my arm. It's to her credit she hasn't (yet).

All kidding aside, there's much more to look forward to in the coming months. So don't forget to wear sunscreen and, as always, to come back and find out what's been happening while you were away!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

It's Like Riding a Bike, Only Different

Wow-today was one of my first rides with my most recent, and carefully timed cycling upgrades; SPD compatible shoes.

This careful timing is not just a function of economics. No, I don't currently have the expendable income to upgrade to the latest and greatest bike stuff I grew used to having in my old cycling life.

Nah. I'm just entering my new cycling life and, for the first time since my big crash nearly five years ago, the routine is going to stick. There's no turning back, I'm in the saddle once again!

It feels so good to say that, I could never explain it. It's the same feeling I get on the bike once more, and it's no different than ever.

Which leads me to the real reason I've created a self-imposed timing; it's meant to keep me out of trouble.

Put simply, I know how I think when I'm totally immersed in my focus on the trail, navigating through all the stuff thrown at me and not concentrating on heart rate or muscle power.

The rush from that has gotten the best of me before, and it'll take a supreme effort at times to control it again.

Yes, it's great to be getting into the sport again, and adrenaline feels as good as I remember, but better because I am a survivor. It didn't require anything more than really, really wanting to ride again that's making it happen.

Which means then, that I really, really want it. But what I also want is to return tomorrow to build on what I've done today. And being smart about it is the key.

I've had a hierarchy of upgrades since I began riding several weeks ago, all designed to keep me from getting crazy in a rush of adrenaline and biting off more than I could chew. A one-way ticket to the ainful town of Endocity.

Mountain biking is serious business, and the trail is not a forgiving place. Rocks and stumps don't give if you hit them-but your body will. Cactus is prickly, branches will scratch and tree branches will surprise you in unimaginably insidious ways.

As a one-armed rider, even the least technical of trail sections demand I maintain my grip on the bar. Not until I reach a flat and/or straight section can I free my hand to grab a drink or swat away the bug I'd felt climbing up my neck for the past ten minutes.

But I wouldn't change a thing about it, for the alternative now - hiking or just plain sitting around, killing time - is unthinkable.

For the first time, winding along, feeling the warm wind in my face and the snug smoothness of my cycling shorts once again, I heard myself let out a whoop I'd forgotten once existed inside me everyday.

It just felt so good, like my world felt right again, the way things were meant to be. By my definition, this side of cycling is an esoteric experience that must be achieved to be fully understood.

I look forward to exploring that feeling again tomorrow with, as always, the rubber side down. It's mind cleansing and soul stirring stuff, and it makes me stronger, inside and out.

Also well worthy of mention is the community of cyclists out there on the trails.

Having been a roadie for so long, I'd forgotten the camaraderie that exists among off-road cyclists. Even if it's through sharing the trail, the give and take of stopping for someone climbing a singletrack stretch toward me, just as they'd stop for me, the positivity exists.

Other cyclists will take a few minutes to share their knowledge with me of an untried trail, so I'll know what I can expect as my bike control and technical skills improve.

Hikers and horses, too; we all coexist out there in our mutual enjoyment of the outdoors.

In my experience, I can't recall ever seeing a one-armed cyclist, though I know they've surely been there. Lately, however, I see at least one such rider every time I ride (hee-hee!).

I've grown used to being a novelty out there, and many people have offered encouraging and welcoming words that never fail to fire me up. “Dude, you're a stud” someone told me today, and it makes me laugh. Maybe it's because he was riding the trail with his little girl, who looked to be around twelve or so.

I'm gracious in return, for I've forgotten just how damn strong some riders out there are. While I'm happy to inspire others as a differently-abled, one armed cyclist, it's those powerhouses that inspire me to build back my own strength.

The road is where my best cycling remains to be found, but only on a mountain bike can I develop the strength and bike handling skills that will make me a safer rider no matter where I am.

No trainer or stationary bike can claim as much, and the road itself is no place to break back into the groove of cycling again. It can be a very unforgiving place that could result in a situation from which you won't walk away. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt and I ain't going back there again!

That said, I’m happy to report that, when I'm out there, I don't feel fear. It's a function of having spent most of my youth and all of my adult life on a bike. Just two wheels and muscle power is all that matters; once I have that, I can take it from there. I'm a confident yet smart rider who gets the rhythm of traffic and the road in general.

Something that's been beyond my control however, runs far deeper. I've often felt a profound sadness about the very real possibility I might never ride again.

Maybe I couldn't overcome my fears or my physical pain or I'd find myself facing some other demon I'd yet to meet. The idea ate away at me inside like some all-consuming, insatiable tapeworm.

What's more, just knowing my old comrades were out there together, training without me, or seeing a lone rider out with nothing but time and many miles yet to ride always brings back the memories.

But it's not meant to be-I'm free of the demons, free to ride once more. Now, I can bring those old memories to life once again, and things will be the same as ever - only different.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Spring Cleaning

This morning, after hearing a particularly meaningful testament on the importance of tithing in our lives, I considered what I have to give. 

“Nothing,” I thought. “There's nothing I have that I don't need or use.”

Boy, was I mistaken. It took only a moment to realize that, just yesterday, I gave a neighbor something really simple - a length of vinyl-coated, light duty cable dog leash. I found it weeks ago at a campsite along the lake not far from my home.

"Maybe I'll need this someday," I thought, though I might've known better. Sophie, my trusty service dog never runs away, unless she's running with me, so the need I imagined never materialized.

Anyhow, giving something away I'd be unlikely to ever use anyway didn't seem that big of a deal. I didn't think much of it, either, until I considered it's real value to my neighbor.

If you've ever been camping in Colorado in late May, or anytime, for that matter, you're not surprised when a winter storm blows through and makes all those seventy degree days from last week feel like ancient history.

Those are the times when the propane that fuels our furnaces becomes invaluable to us. 

Well, my neighbor had once suffered the loss of a sorely needed propane tank before, as a boy camping with his family.

He remembered shivering all night, and he resolved then and there it'd never happen again.

Although the cable I gave him wasn't meant to prevent anything from being taken, I could tell when he thanked me that the peace of mind it brought him was as much a gift to me as the cable was to him.

It makes me chuckle to think that I had the thought that “one day, I might find a use for that cable myself,” even though it sat, neatly coiled up beneath my camper.

But what I didn't realize at the time was that I did find a use for that cable; I gave it to my neighbor. The metaphor of that one, seemingly simple act was not lost on me; giving is an act from which all parties benefit.

You've heard of buyer’s remorse, right? Well, I've felt like a consistent sufferer of seller's remorse. “Man,” I'd think, “I coulda got way, way more money when I sold that (fill in the blank) if only I'd asked for more.

But there's an insidious, built-in, two-fold mechanism at work in my thinking here.

First, saying that I should have asked for more not only cheapens my memory of having sold something to someone fair and square, but it cheapens the transaction itself.

Instead of making a positive deal with somebody, a sort of dark cloud came over it in my mind, turning it into something that felt somehow tainted.

“I'm so naïve,” I'd think, “how could I let myself get taken like that?” Or, “That guy knew what he was doing all along-I fell for some slick-talkin’, fast-walkin’ crook!”

You might already see where this is leading.

The second aspect of this is easy enough to remember, for it's best known as second-guessing. These thoughts pull a built-in trigger for an onslaught of self-criticism.

Any question I ask myself that begins “How could you have…?” automatically qualifies as one likely to end with some sort of harsh, inwardly pointed judgment.”

But after hearing Dr. Roger’s message this morning, it all became clear -the subject of tithing, that is, not All all!. Tithing needn't be of a financial sort, but can occur in a multitude of ways.

However many things you might give, or moments of your time, or heartfelt, thoughtful words etc., are simple, daily tithings I've been giving all along.

But, then I remember-drawing strength from the things I'm capable of giving everyday is actually the very basis of the contract I've made with my world.

In fulfillment of that contract I give of myself to others, like donating clothes or shoes or food, or recycling anything that still has a purpose, or my time and attention. It's what I do because I can, and I want to.

That, I now realize, is a form of tithing, and an infinitely rewarding one at that.

Just a little something to keep in mind during spring cleaning this year. 

One other thing - while outgrown or unwanted or needed consumer items have their place, I think the tithing Dr. Roger is referring to is actually the financial kind!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Breaking News

Mentally Ill Man-Child With 
Seizure Faking History Steals Toy Truck, Takes Joyride

Man-child, faking seizure

Washington, DC: Mentally ill man-child breaks into Kindercare in search of Department of Education Secretary/Fellow Rich Person Betsy deVos. Man-child loses grip on reality, throws tantrum, drives off believing he's Fred Flintstone.

Man-child fleeing Kindercare

Using his outside voice, man-child yells “Wilmaaa!”, forgets his manners, rudely shouts “Outta my way, very bad dum-dums!” 

Irritated neighbor, speaking on condition of anonymity, says “Nobody can stand that kid. He's been shouting nonsense since moving in four months ago.” 

Amateur video shows man-child hollering “Yer fired, ya nut jobs! Beep beep beeeeeeep!” No children were present, as deVos shut down facility earlier that day.

Man-child sent home with reluctant mommy, Ivanka, to their big white house. Tells him “You're in big trouble.”

Father, Stephen, tells man-child he'll get “good Democratic spanking”. He was sent to bed after only one scoop of ice cream, an hour of TV, and no cake.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Sympathy for the Donald?

Inasmuch as I believe Donald Trump did not want to lose the 2016 election to a woman – he does not want to lose anything to a woman – he also did not have the foresight to see that, as president, he'd have to get off his ass and do something.

After lamenting about how much easier his previous life was before he became president, and stating outright that being president is more difficult than he thought it would be, just to watch Trump’s behavior as merely another person, without any expectation of seeing anything in him beyond that, is to witness a simple, undeniable truth about him.

A critical part of the problem with the world's view of Donald Trump is that those analyzing and reporting on him regard him in a political context.

Perhaps the Goldwater Rule is responsible, at least in part. I'm no sigmund Freud, but my eyes don't deceive me; I know what I see.

American voters in 1964 were encouraged to take a long, hard look at presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. Fact magazine published a campaign ad featuring the polled disapproval of Goldwater’s by 1,189 psychiatrists.

Goldwater lost the election. but won a libel suit against the editor of the magazine that ran the ad. But it also resulted in the so-called Goldwater Rule, in which American Psychological Association members are forever ethically bound to not endorse candidates in this way again. It would be considered both inappropriate and unprofessional.

The lawsuit itself also had a somewhat similar chilling effect on how news could be reported. Unaccredited psychological professionals no longer gave their input, so any reporters making claims about anyone's mental state did so at their own peril.

Since then, barely a peep has come from journalists intent on reporting and keeping their jobs by not bankrupting the publishers that employ them. Anyway, it's a matter best left to late night TV hosts who somehow, in their own way, make stomaching chronically angry personalities like Trump's possible.

However, as a fiercely independent-and unemployed- news junkie/writer I am not bound by the wishes of any publisher for my actions. I am, therefore, both free and more than willing to speak out for what's right.

Regarding Trump, if you look at him as a person, and a troubled person at that, you will see the separation between the guy who is president, and the guy who just wants to play one on TV. The latter is the Real Donald Trump.

Some of what I'm pointing out here I've only seen expressed by two other writers.* One wrote an article entitled something like "Trump: what you see is what you get." The other wrote an eloquent piece with greater detail on this matter entitled “The Madness of King Donald”.

The point of the first article was that there really is no depth, no substance to Donald Trump. All of the inexplicable, idiotic behaviors and the apparently obscene, rude, and pointless views he has ever held are truly all there is to Donald Trump.

The second article, as the title suggests, is that the guy is just plain nuts, and there's a long history of tyrannical rulers who've displayed their craziness first.

No matter how well Donald Trump’s ego deludes him, he’ll never be the first, nor the “greatest ever” goofball to appear in the history books. It's almost like looking back for hundreds of years on Trump's genealogical tree.

Though I'm at a loss to figure out why, not enough emphasis is placed on the extreme insecurity that Donald Trump embodies. Aside from his near-paralyzing sense of fear, which runs a close second, insecurity is the driving force behind everything he does.

Nothing that Donald Trump does is done for any reason except to exercise power solely for his own personal gratification. It simply must make him feel better about himself, however he defines that at any given moment.

For someone who has all the money he will ever need or want, all of the things he could ever need or want, there is really little for him to want beyond outright glorification.

Donald Trump sees himself born into this world as a poor old sod who rose to prominence by virtue of his superior craftiness, shrewdness and wit. He then, rightfully became king. And, by definition, "king" to Donald Trump means having everybody wait on him, literally, hand and foot. It's what he's become used to, it's what he can't live without. Poor old sod.

In his business life, he could get away with it. In the world of politics, he cannot, and that's what he means when he says being president is harder than his previous life.

So why did Trump run for president anyway? It clearly wasn't to make America great again. Simple; he had nothing better to do and the call of infinite presidential glory was irresistible. In so many words, it sounded good.

Today, having won the election months ago and with the realities of the job staring him in the face, he can't help but flinch.

But with each quick look back at his victory last November, preferably coupled with a prideful, self-satisfying but awkward to anyone stuck nearby, gives Donald the confidence booster he so sorely needs.

Now that Trump needn't show the world the charming candidate adorned with a bright red ball cap and bursting with promises, Trump makes no effort to hide his real side. It's visible for all the world to see, and it ain't pretty.

He creates situations whereby he blatantly contradicts others who bear his message. This includes his press spokesman/whipping boy Sean Spicer who doubles as a sponge for Trump’s constant flow of vitriol.

But Trump’s not above putting his second in command, Mike Pence, in the hot seat, either. Chances are, it's just a reminder to Pence that he is, indeed, only second in command.

Given that Trump believes he's his own, best advisor, and that the conclusions he draws are the right ones, even in the face of all evidence to the contrary, his administration is, by design, largely devoid of appointees.

It's no wonder that his wife will not join him in Washington DC. No sane person would go out of their way to be with a man who screams, rages, and displays his ire in public.

I'll leave it up to the imagination to wonder what kind of heavy-handed bastard Trump turns into behind closed doors. Does he suddenly turn into a gentleman and model husband and father-of-the-year finalist? Not likely.

In the absence of those whose two favorite words are "yes, sir", in that order, somebody must be there to take Trump's angry energy. And who is downhill from it all? His wife, Melania, the low profile First Lady.

You remember her: She's (God forbid!) the immigrant who reminded Trump in public to put his hand over his heart as the national anthem was being played. He was likely preoccupied with thoughts of his next round of golf.

Yes, that's the Donald Trump the world now sees and, now that he's king, that's all that matters to him. Now, if only he can figure out how to get someone to do all the work of governing while he remains king.

“Too bad we gave up the English system of government all those years ago,” he thinks, “they really know how to treat royalty there.“

Back in the real world, Trump has lost the collective support of all House Democrats and is working his damnedest to do the same with his fellow Republicans.

But once he does, it won't be his fault, you see. When the fruits of his behavior hit the fan, as it's now doing, his rule will come to an abrupt, albeit bittersweet halt.

Bitter in that the eyes of the world will no longer be fixed on him. Sweet because he'll still have a Secret Service detail at his disposal while he gets back to his real calling; golf.

Inevitably, he'll be asked to look back and remark on his broken and short-lived presidency. In a nutshell, he'll offer up a face-saving tale of victimization, highlighted by leakers and fake news,
which he'll ultimately blame on "the system.”

"The system," of course, is simply some quixotic paradox that exists only in his mind. It's something he is doomed to never find, though his life has been spent in search of it.

One day, despite his many flaws, Donald Trump will be remembered as someone people once really, truly adored. It may also be remembered that most of those people were stubborn and misguided, drawn perhaps to a supposed underdog.

He appealed to many who felt better understood by him more than any politician ever had. Given the political climate, it's reasonable people might bet on a dark horse.

But there's another aspect of Donald Trump for which I believe he'll be remembered, and that is mental illness.

Ever since the culmination of the last year's campaign season, I've recognized it in him. The defensive tone of his words, and the childish, pre-emptive nicknames he constantly used in reference to his competitors.

His use of childhood phrasing at the end of his sentences, e.g. “...and everyone knows it.” His predisposition toward sudden mood swings, and tantrums, as evidenced by reports of his raging at his staff and singling out certain TV celebrities who scorned him.

As many already know, mental illness can strike anyone regardless of financial, social, or physical status. Anyone is vulnerable, including Donald Trump.

Just as he displays symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder, I believe it's up to professionals like psychologists and psychiatrists to finally speak up.

Drop the professional gag rule and make an exception; you're smart people, smart enough to come up with a plausible reason why it's okay to do so in this case.

Consider this:

Now-former FBI director James Comey conscientiously spoke up about reopening Hillary Clinton’s email investigation ten days before last November’s election.

While it likely contributed to her campaign loss, Comey did so knowing he was the only person who could disclose that information. The gravity of his announcement - or decision to not announce - a development of such importance to his country's future he felt would make him, and he alone responsible for the consequences.

He knew the gravity of his decision could lead to many deaths, of innocents and combatants alike. There may well be shakeups in the world order and more.

So APA members, you've got a responsibility to the citizens of the world, the same world you, your family and everyone else shares. Please take the initiative and do something.

Anyway, despite Comey’s best intentions, it turns out that Hillary Clinton, with all her international diplomatic experience, would have been the better person to handle the job of president.

Given Donald Trump’s emotional and mental shortcomings, his administration was doomed from the start. But the subject here transcends politics; it's about mental health.

Donald Trump is a conflict-oriented person, as evidenced by, among other things, his penchant for filing lawsuits at the first sign of resistance from those with whom he's done or is doing business with.

Given his impressive corps of attorneys, it's not surprising so many lawsuits are pending still from his previous exploits in the private sector.

Now that he's involved in politics, however, a new evolution of Trump’s conflict-oriented nature has emerged.

Audaciously flexing his newfound political muscle, he continually offends Congress and, in so doing, all Americans by trivializing those issues set before him.

When he's not dabbling in behaviors that even experienced TV scriptwriters might consider inconceivable behavior for an American president:

Walling off the entire US border? Give top-secret intel directly to Russian diplomats in a closed-door meeting in the Oval Office? Nah. Nobody’d believe that.

He continually embarrasses his colleagues’ and pushes their trust to the limit with contradictory explanations of his exploits. This he downplays by saying that he “likes to improvise,” or that his “thinking has evolved.”

As president, Trump feeds his insatiable insecurity by betraying his subordinates and lording his power over them, yet still craving the loyalty he so desperately wants.

Despite having the upper hand now, he's up against a system he'll never defeat.

Again, that's when his story about unfair treatment and being undermined by some traitor who leaked information, disseminated fake news, etc. etc.

His insecurities will be aggravated and, once in that special state of upset, he'll finally feel content again. Only in his absence will the country be able to repair itself and it's relationship to the rest of the world, as well.

At least, however, the world will have a greater awareness and, hopefully, a better understanding of mental illness and it's profound effects on everyone whose lives are touched by it.

* Now it's four; I've added two more, below:

So Much For The Goldwater Rule:

Here are two related articles worth reading on this subject I have since come across writing this post yesterday.

The first is an op/ed by David Brooks entitled When the World Is Led by a Child.

In it, Brooks addresses Trump's infantile, childish and, at best, sophomoric behaviors in greater detail.

The second is also an opinion piece entitled Shrinks Define Dangers of Trump Presidency, by Hara Estroff Marano. It was posted on Psychology Today's online site on April 20, 2017.

In it, the findings of a panel of mental health experts who met at Yale to discuss the president's mental fitness are presented. Their answers may not surprise you.

Perhaps the best part about this group is their consensus that they've chosen to act out of a sense of responsibility for everyone's best interests, Goldwater Rule be damned.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Something Offbeat And Fun For A Change

This reblog  is a silly change from the goofiness going on in our government these days, and perhaps from my own realities, too. I don’t know about you, but all these political editorials I’ve been making are wearing me down. A respite from it is in order, even if for just a day or two.

I wrote this post about two years after the accident in which I lost my left arm. On the occasion of each anniversary of that accident, I tend to have some weird and not-so-nice memories of the scene. This post was an attempt to distract myself from all that, and it has some real merit, too. After all, the accident left me so physically beat up that, yes, just getting to the bathroom often felt like more than I could handle.

But, like everything else (so far), it’s something I now look back on and laugh. It originally appeared on another of my blogs, which I could only sporadically maintain. It’s still out there, if you care to visit:

Posted: September 15, 2014 in Bathroom Humor

A Tribute To The Simple Things

Lately, I’ve made it a point to acknowledge the spoils of humankind’s most simple discoveries which I’ve enjoyed but left unappreciated all my life. I’m not talking about drive-through banking, or instant coffee makers, or hot and fresh, home delivery pizza either.
While those things have their place, what I’m referring to goes back much, much farther, to the people who really made it all happen.

Perhaps I was placating my conscience a bit as I recently stepped out of a particularly long, hot shower and stated “I love indoor plumbing.”

I’ve said it other times too, such as after stepping out of the bathroom, flush with relief. While life does not revolve around the bathroom, it may well be the only place in which we find ourselves with a little extra time to think about things.

Given the setting, I’m sometimes compelled to think what on earth I would do if I still lived back in the days of the Cowboys and Indians, for whom no luxuries like indoor plumbing existed.
If digging a hole was the only viable option then, my romantic notion of how people lived in the old days was shattered.

But it probably shouldn’t be, considering that tools of the sort dentists used to extract teeth back then are suspiciously similar to those hanging above my workbench. Knowing this, it’s not a stretch for me to imagine that, like me, some of history’s greatest innovators have also done their best thinking in the bathroom. There, creative and uncensored minds are free to entertain thoughts that couldn’t otherwise be safely shared with the public at large.

My thoughts tend to be guided by the seasons, as experiences I’ve had then often bring them to mind. Now, for example, it’s mid-August, and it seems as if “back to school” this and “back to school” that is everywhere. But I like to think of fun things, and thinking of anything related to going back to school, for me, has little to no entertainment value at all.

Fast forward to springtime, however, and the feel of everything begins changing for the better. Yes, poison ivy begins blooming again, and so do dandelions. But the sweet smell of freedom begins to fill the air once again; school is nearly out, and summer break is about to begin.

Granted, it’s been over thirty years since grade school. Even so, each May the anticipation of another marvelous summer vacation still creeps into my mind, for it is then my truly fun, real world education occurred. English? Math? Reading? Boring! Amusement park rides, barbecuing, bicycles, and the like were my idea of homework.

So, whether you are referring to indoor plumbing or roller coasters, you’ll find they all had – and still have– one thing in common. That is, their reliance on the simplest, yet most important discoveries of our earliest ancestors. Pencils and pens and notebook paper instead of hammers, chisels, and cave walls.

But nobody (but me) pays homage to this notion, and why would we?. Such thoughts are overshadowed by the bright glare of fresh, new school clothes and cool sneakers, and school supplies, which are advertised ad nauseum by retailers hungry for sales.
During those frenzied back-to-school spending orgies, for instance, who is likely to remember that written communications originated when early man first scribbled things on walls within the safe confines of some hole in a cave they happened to call home?

Given the nonexistence of D-cell powered flashlights, this could never have been accomplished without the benefit of firelight, something they’d probably learned from the people in the cave next door. Then, early Man eventually learned from others that not only could they keep warm and cook the sinewy raw wild boar they’d grown used to choking down for eons, but that they could actually see it with firelight.

Where, you may be wondering, were women were all this are going on? Well, they were there, but they were called “Man,” too. For some reason, it took a long, long time before that fact pissed them off enough to do something about it, and rightly so.

Anyway, inventing all this stuff didn’t come easy for man, and it didn’t happen overnight. But without it, where would we be? Speechless, in the dark, and eating raw food, I suppose.

That was then; but how about now? What good would clothes be without buttons, zippers, and shoelaces? We’d probably find ourselves standing barefoot, bare chested, and bare-assed with our pants around our ankles.

All of these things – and so much more – we owe to our human ancestors, for whom the invention of the shovel was a major innovation, too, because it sure beat the hell out of digging a latrine barehanded. It ushered in, I suppose, a brand and grand new day, during which man – albeit while squatting over a hole – now had a great deal more time to think about what to do next.

But does any of this show up on billboards or television commercials to remind us of how thankful we should be for the accomplishments of our forefathers and mothers? I doubt it. Consider how primitive we may now think of things as having been at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Then, pull-chain toilets with overhead tanks were the latest and greatest. Or, unlike today’s fancy pants with zippers or even Velcro, new and novel button-fly trousers and suspenders were once all the rage.

So, it seems we’ve come full circle and find ourselves back where we began; in the bathroom. And even though our business in there remains largely the same, we can find dramatic changes in the way we actually do business.

In many public restrooms today, we only need to step away from the toilet after we’re finished before the thing automatically flushes. The sink, hand soap, and paper towel dispenser are likely automated, too.
There is an old adage that claims some of our greatest thinking occurs in the bathroom. If it’s true, I imagine all this extra free time now will make ours a much greater society than ever. In fact, it shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that my inspiration for this blog entry first came to me in the bathroom.

Greatest thinking, huh? Now, if only I can get my desk and my laptop in there, my writing just may become better than ever. Maybe someday, it’ll even be possible for me to automate that, too. It sounds a whole lot better than scratching on cave walls by firelight.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Waking Up From The Nightmare, Addendum

There is one additional aspect of Trump's belligerent attitude toward the world in general that was not found in my original post. I believe it's important enough to be pointed out before he departs for his foreign venture this Friday.

Namely, his predisposition toward making up, and then standing behind his words, which are often pulled out of thin air. He's got an attitude that the world should accept them as truth.

The president's actions are not unlike those of my own father, and probably his father and his father's father, etc. just as they may be, or once have been, with yours.

This awful parenting tradition, passed down and continued with great passion by my own father and witnessed by my indifferent mother, is exacerbated by trump's mere presence. A horrible feeling of being ensnared here, with no apparent escape from the situation has been resurrected from some dark place in my mind, and it once again is strong as ever.

Ironically, I never felt safer from my father when in jail last February for refusing to put a leash on my service dog and holding it with my already occupied only hand.

At around age eleven, the memories once again flooded my thoughts. Forty years after the honeymoon period I enjoyed with my father ended for good, the flashbacks of his abuse were once again triggered in earnest.

Being shut in, not just behind bars but a thick steel door that was closed every evening in a state of what they called “lockdown”, was strangely comforting.

I remember thinking, in the haze the complete and total absence of my medication, that my automatic return to the nightmarish situation, this time as an adult, did not lead to feelings of aloneness and despondency, but safety.

How it could possibly be I don't know. But, in telling them about my experience for lack of anyone else to call, it seemed my parents - yes, both of them - reverted to their old patterns.

It was my mother to whom I spoke first, as I figured it would be. Ultimately, my father refused to speak to me, as if denying me the honor of his attention was something that would strike at the very heart of me.

Never mind that it was he who was behind the regular beatings and confinement to my bedroom for months at a time, with yard work as my only respite, during summer school break.

Yes, I am indeed an evil person. What a laughable idea. But such reminders of this also emanate from the White House, though now it’s all of America that is held captive.

The only hope we have, indeed, is despite the uncertainty of the date, we're all in this together, not suffering alone. No matter what his hardheaded “base of support” believes, impeachable offenses have already been committed, and the president will one day have to answer to them.

Unlike the inescapable predicament of my youth, my father could mistreat me with impunity as my mother looked on. Then, both of them would contend that the conflict they conspired to create was actually my fault. This in mind, I realize they must be among Trump's defiant supporters. How could they not be?

Consider this: At the time of my release from the jail, not once did my mother ask what on earth could happened to result in such a terrible thing.

Rather, convinced without evidence of any wrongdoing, my mother, suddenly feigned being upset and blurted out “You just called to upset me”. Then she said, with conviction that “I could tell in the hospital when the nurses handed you to me by the look in your eyes that you are evil”.

Realizing in my adult mind how terribly sick that sounded, I simply responded “No, I simply called to say goodbye”. It was a much nicer response than she - or my other family members who've become sycophantic clones of my parents - deserved.

Why I was so restrained, perhaps even nice about it, I'll never know. Maybe it was some relic of the dynamic that once existed in my subordinate relationship with them. Through our country's notorious leader, the memories returned.

Nonetheless, that old, familiar interaction with my mother had a strange benefit. As I ended the call, I was struck by the feeling that I'd somehow survived something so horribly wrong yet managed to come out alive on the other end.

In short, the cards dealt me in the birth lottery were stacked against me from the very beginning. Statistically speaking, I never stood a chance; I should have become just another childhood suicide.

Not that I didn't consider it, but I believe I was afraid even to try it. So strong was my fear that I believed they could punish me, even in death.

The fact that I still have such unsupportable yet very real feelings of despondency when I visualize the angry image that belies such irrational thinking and subsequent behaviors the so-called “leader of the free world “ I is a trigger for me.

Therefore, if I feel this way, others must, too.  While I wish I could comfort us with some uplifting words, as I search the recesses of my mind I'm unable to find any.

The only thing I can offer you is that you are not alone, and that we are all in this together. It's together, then, that we will one day prevail.

With luck, the world will become more adept at recognizing and tolerating those who are mentally ill.

Until then, may we all soon find Peace and Kindness in our hearts and in our world.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Would you treat me differently? National Mental Health Awareness Month

Because May is Mental Health Awareness Month, it's fitting that the subject be addressed in this blog.

According to a 2015 report from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “Our best estimate of the number of adults with any diagnosable mental disorder within the past year is nearly 1 in 5, or roughly 43 million Americans.”1.

Equally important, the study goes on to say that “Although most of these conditions are not disabling, nearly 10 million American adults (1 in 25) have serious functional impairment due to a mental illness, such as a psychotic or serious mood or anxiety disorder.”2.

The entire study is a brief and engaging read in itself. In the spirit of Mental Health Awareness Month, I encourage you to read it. It's likely that whether you're diagnosed with a mental illness or not, you may better understand many of your coworkers, friends, and loved ones and they you.

Now that you know some of the numbers regarding mental illness, I'm compelled to ask: Would you think differently of me if I had a mental illness?

Well, the mere fact I'm compelled to ask you is a giveaway in that those afflicted with my particular disorder-Borderline Personality Disorder, or BPD-are occasionally prone to impetuous and often unexpected behavior.

Remind you of anyone you know? Chances are, it does, and I'm not referring to a willful teenager, or a toddler working his way through the Terrible Twos, either.

Not to be condescending, but as an adult dealing with BPD, the analogy is a good one. Episodes must sometimes look to others as they feel to me-defiant outbursts often about nothing in particular, to no one in particular.

Though many who are diagnosed as mentally ill aren’t readily obvious to others nor functionally impaired by it, others are, albeit in varying degrees. Given that none of us wear neon signs on our foreheads flashing “BPD” or “Doctor” or “Valedictorian”, or whatever happens to identify us at a given moment, this applies to interactions between everyone.

Consider also that all three designations can easily apply to the same person; a doctor who was once a valedictorian may also be dealing with BPD.

Although I don't readily disclose my BPD to strangers, it's been my experience that most folks don't have the faintest idea what it is anyway.

The same is true of all mental illnesses and, therein lies the need for this article, and especially the need to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month.

So, whether or not we can readily identify each other as mentally ill, we all can access those resources that can lead us to a better understanding of each other.

For me, online forums addressing PTSD and BPD are places where I can vicariously hear and be heard by others dealing with similar challenges.

In fact, beyond brain injury and amputee social groups I enjoy in person, I've also come to know many of my online counterparts quite well. It's a big part of what makes our community so strong, and what gives us strength to carry on through our weakest moments.

Maybe it's because we've learned that discussing mental illness is a very touchy thing, and that we may have met with considerable guilt or shame about it long before a diagnosis could have happened.

Regardless, approaching the intimate subject of mental illness requires fortitude, something that can take time to build.

I've seen firsthand forum newcomers initially make a somewhat reserved, tentative introduction to a group then, eventually becoming fixtures on the site. I have been among them.

Today, my online participation is not as involved as it once was. I tend to check in weekly instead of daily. But it's not for lack of interest.

Rather, from my online interactions, I've gained the guts to step outside my door and partake more with my human counterparts. My online community, I know, will always be there, just as my human counterparts will.

In fact, much of the confidence I have in writing this article stems from the power I've drawn from the combination of the two. And that's where you come in.

So, when it comes to embracing the subject of mental illness and learning to live with it, all of us must learn to lead the way.

From the look of things in America now, one of us already is, and that's a good thing. Few people beyond the president have such visibility, and who better to be an ambassador on the subject of mental illness.

It shows how a person can rise to a point of prominence despite their affliction. Like so many health conditions, mental illness pays no heed to income status or social standing. And, while a mental illness can seem dormant for so long, even hidden for awhile, realty eventually asserts itself and the fact of the matter must be addressed.

When it comes to mental health, then, all of us enjoy a uniqueness. And that, like Mental Health Awareness Month, is something all of us can celebrate.

1., 2. Insel,Thomas, May 15, 2015. Post by Former NIMH Director Thomas Insel: Mental Health Awareness Month: By the Numbers.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Super Seizure Boy

Years ago, at the Bolder Boulder, I witnessed something remarkable. As a non-runner, I was there to support someone for whom, like thousands of others, the event had become an annual rite of spring.

Some took the event seriously, running to improve last year’s time, or just to have a strong finish. Others ran in costume, a gorilla here and an angel there, making the event more fun and visually exciting for we spectators.

Most, however were among those I could identify best. They began the race feeling strong, putting one foot confidently in front of the other in an energetic rhythm.

Slowly but surely though, each step became less confident and more deliberate. Eventually, the slogging set in, the slow and painful albeit still-positive struggle toward that elusive finish line.

Looking back on a few of my own motivated years when I ran in age-group triathlon events, I recognized slogging as the place where running becomes more mental than physical.

Suddenly, among this seemingly endless sea of humanity trudging by, a little boy appeared. He ran next to his mom, and they both kept a pretty sprightly pace. Clearly, they were truly happy to be there.

By my estimate, the boy was about eleven or twelve, about the same age when I had my first serious knock-down, drag-out seizure.

What first caught my eye about this boy though was the blue t-shirt and yellow cape he wore. On his t-shirt were the handwritten words “Super Seizure Boy”. On his improvised cape, a shielded “S” was sketched, a la Superman’s, with a Sharpie marker.

Unlike the throng around them, the boy and his mom weren't slogging at all, but still running energetically. Just the image of it makes me smile now, as I write this.

My mind was flooded with several thoughts at once: This little guy obviously has some wonderful support in his life, and any stigma about having seizures simply didn't exist for him.

Further, the boy also seemed empowered to run stronger, as was his mom. They were a happy and justifiably proud unit, one that seizures might affect, but never overcome. The Bolder Boulder was merely a reflection of what and how they did everything; together.

It was the exact culture I wish I'd had when I was his age, instead of the opposite, shaming response and ever present need to hide the fact behind closed doors.

The sight of this boy, though, didn't elicit any feelings of envy from me, but of exuberance. Through the crowd lining the sidewalk, I kept up with them as long as possible, cheering them on as I went.

So did many others who realized we were witnessing something special.

Afterward, I reflected on my happiness to know that another person - just a kid - was not condemned to a lonely existence within his family. Rather, he was the embodiment of support, and it reflected well on his mother running next to him.

Super Seizure Boy was not pushed aside, even vilified by his disability, but empowered. He literally took in stride an event which caused so many grownups around him such physical suffering. That day, he empowered us with a lesson in determination and resilience.

Now, years later, I imagine the boy as he might be in high school: A model of confidence and tolerance toward everyone no matter their ability - or disability. That's something which our world today can never have too much.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Take Your Fast Car Donald, And Keep On Drivin'

President Trump, who recently bemoaned his inability to just jump into a car and drive somewhere opted to spend last Saturday night not at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner where he'd be the guest of honor, but at a rally honoring him and his presidential accomplishments. If he'd been there, it would likely have made for a very short and unappetizing event anyway.

Trump's thin skin would never allow for such tomfoolery, even though he'd been a regular fixture at the Correspondent's Dinner, so long as he wasn't the one being roasted.

But, alas, in keeping with that silly old First Amendment, I will put in my two cents and roast him in absentia here.

While Trump believes that any time spent not deifying him is wasted time, I was mildly surprised to learn of his unhappiness at being chauffeured around everywhere like a celebrity.

How is it possible he ever traveled any other way? Behind tinted windows where (gasp!) no one can see him, pushing buttons and turning a big steering wheel thingy?

Nah. I'd be just as likely to believe he flew his own helicopter and his own airliners, too. Given that he's at an age when a man's memory, like his urethra, can sometimes fail him, maybe he's just confusing a car with a golf ball. He can drive them one of those, but only be out in the open for the world to admire with one of them. And it's likely one time he can answer "Yes, I do" when one of his threesome asks "Have you got any balls?"

Regardless,Trump's trademark conflict in thought - his real brand - brought to mind the opening lines of Tracy Chapman's 1988 hit song Fast Car:

“You got a fast car, I want a ticket to anywhere, maybe we'll make a deal, maybe together we can get somewhere…”

Yeah, maybe we'll get somewhere, but not likely together. It would take a fast car, indeed, to get away from the priceless deals Trump has made, though with whom, few people know, for not many Americans are fluent in Russian, too. Still, like moths to a flame, his constituents blindly adore him, despite the special agony only singed wings can bring. And if those human admirers/moths become too pesky, he can always take off the red hat and swat them, thereby Making America Great Again.

So where, exactly, would this misogynist, who mocks a disabled reporter and uses his presidential status for blatant personal gain and violent sexual gratification drive a fancy, fast car on a night when he's otherwise scheduled to be roasted by a fourth estate he's vilified since day one?

Perhaps a hotbed of support, or just a lukewarm bed with a pee stain if a hotbed's not available would do fine, and there's one such place where the people are still sound asleep, dreaming of a Great America. Pennsylvania! It's well within driving distance of DC, no less, so he'll be able to make it home in time to pat himself on the back watching Fox and Friends and to scream at the notoriously unfunny and filthy Stephen Colbert on the Late Show.

Only in a town like Harrisburg, PA could Trump find a rural farm expo center near a red city that, prior to his campaign victory he described as a rotten, hollowed out place which, now that he's president, is an economically successful town, as full of beautiful people as Syria is of beautiful babies.

So what if it's the kind of venue that aging rock stars and fading country music crooners play in the twilight of their careers, gasping and struggling for memories of past glory days, when they once topped the charts and played for adoring, sold-out crowds.

This was a sold-out crowd, all right, but the only sellout they could expect to see was in their own mirrors at home, and strutting around with an air of (bullcrap) righteous indignation on the stage.

Mr. Trump, you're living in a world where no one takes you seriously because you've never given us reason to think otherwise. It's the world where you gained the office of president of the United States just as you described Hillary - crookedly. With all due respect to Hillary Clinton, it takes one to know one. Lock him up! Lock him up! Though you can hardly believe it, things don't happen just because your sycophants in your former fiefdom do as you say, not as you do.

It's a world where you have to be reminded to put his hand over his heart during the national anthem by an immigrant- your wife- and, most important, a world where it's obvious to everyone who cares to see it that you only wanted to be president because you couldn't bear losing to a woman. How could you, given that her crotch would then be out of reach?

But president Trump is no headliner. Not Metallica, Rolling Stones, or Rush except in his own, distorted mind. Here, his constituents are seen as he panders to them and basks in his own, imagined glory. His self-proclaimed “record crowd” is plainly visible here. Well, maybe it's the first time an event has ever been held here, so even two people would constitute a "record crowd".

Another "Greatest Ever" Trump turnout. Really?

Though it'd be tough to prove, I'll go out on a limb and bet that many of these people were among the dozens-I mean thousands-lining the sidewalks on the “record crowd” of his Inauguration Day. It's the day that history will likely remember as the high point of Trump's presidency, for it's been all downhill ever since.

And, like those old, fading music stars headlining venues like the one near Harrisburg, Trump was playing his old hit parade, songs that'll forever be popular among this crowd. Old favorites, like “Lock her up!” and “It's Just Fake News, Fake News, Oh Yeah!” and, my favorite, “We're Gonna Build A Wall Tonight.”

Though you can't really see them in the photo, people were dancing in the aisles as they fondly recalled the good old days of Fall 2016, when they gleefully wallowed in the delusional promises made to them by their onstage hero. This, beneath twin banners loudly proclaiming: "Promises Made, Promises Kept".

Kind of makes me wonder what those promises actually were. Maybe something like "I promise you, Ivanka, you'll get your West Wing office and Chinese patents, and conflict of interest immunity. You can even stay up past bedtime and watch cable news with your daddy, if you want.”

Yes, promises kept, all right.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Making America Great Again, Indeed

Last November’s election results left me feeling a dramatically new low point in my relationship with the country in which I'd been born and lived in all my life.

I wasn't raised in a home that inspired ambitions of one day becoming president. Still, having visited DC twice by the eighth grade, I developed a certain deference toward the American system of government.

In many ways, the government has always been a presence in my life, more of a feeling than a face. Aside from American currency and highly publicized scandals like Watergate, not much else made it through.

In college, I began to get a broader sense of my place in the world just by being an American and having an opinion I was willing to share.

Concepts such as cultural hegemony, detente, diplomacy and more between our northern and southern neighbors and our international neighbors too suddenly took on a life of their own.

For better or worse, I quickly learned, I was a part of it all, whether I wanted to be or not. Over the years, my interest faded in and out with the ebb and flow of the tides of the defining moments of my life.

Head injuries stemming from risky athletic behaviors gone awry at an age when invincibility and immortality ruled my thoughts are the most notable of these.

As you might guess, these didn't lend themselves well to clear cerebral processing of current events and only now, decades later, have I regained a semblance of clear thought and self-articulation.

Today, as a disabled adult for other reasons, I've got a vested interest in what's going on in American politics. This time, however, my perspectives are those of an older man looking back, rather than an impetuous young man looking ahead.

Somehow, I thought my life's experience led me to a somewhat accurate understanding of what motivated the thoughts and deeds of My Fellow Americans. Then came last November.

Any sense of propriety or deference to succeeding generations of Americans seemed to fly right out the window in some impulsive act of electoral irresponsibility.

The sheer transparency of candidate Trump, clearly a mentally ill narcissist who had nothing but disparaging rhetoric for everyone save the man in the mirror didn't stand a chance, I thought.

Everyone can see it, too; how could they not? After all, these were the same progressive Americans that just elected, then re-elected the first black president to a productive administration by any recent measure.

But for all of his ten million dollar counter lawsuits for the smallest transgression of a perceived foe, and misogynistic vulgarities that fall under the “it's just locker room talk, get over it ladies” variety, and refusal to disclose tax returns and Russian ties, and empty campaign promises etc, etc, etc, the new chief executive is, in unintended ways, making America Great Again.

Candidate Trump's primary motivation, I believe, was to simply not lose to a woman, a token, weaker being trying to slip into the White House on the coat tails of yet another token being. The only thing worse would be a power hungry Mexican, like that Curiel judge-guy who screwed me over in my Trump University case, or that poor, Kovaleski reporter-guy who had that stupid shaking problem. Just wanted big league attention, that guy, believe me.

Clearly, many Americans, at least in November bought his reprehensible line of insubstantial crap, wrapped in red, white and blue. But, today, between rounds of golf at Trump-branded resorts, reality has asserted itself. Trump's only presidential legacy is likely to be summed up in a single, pat phrase: "I'm not a president, but I played one on TV."

Despite all this, Trump maintains a misguided, yet fiercely loyal base that simply is too hardheaded to admit having erred. If the numerous polls and consistently low approval ratings are accurate, most Americans have realized what a mistake has been made.

Except for the most self-deluded among Trump's stubborn constituents, their joining any other political effort is irrelevant; withdrawing their support will be enough. Narcissism is the one thing Trump does not have a monopoly on, though he sure seems to be working on changing that.

And therein lies the basis for how Trump is making America great again. Those in leadership positions in both the legislative and judicial branches are setting a standard in reminding all Americans through their actions that it is the Constitution, by design, that wins the day, any day over any short sighted, would-be autocrat who somehow managed to get himself at the helm of the US government.

They're showing the world they'll not be coerced by a transparent, two-billion-bit septuagenarian egoist.

They're showing that a president who defines multitasking as eating cake, grabbing women's genitals, mocking the disabled, and playing with his own golf balls while sending missiles off to someplace he's really not sure of is an embarrassment to the world and, therefore is rightly due some humiliation of his own. As Jimmy Kimmel said on his late night show, "There's a fifty-fifty percent chance that he'll bomb South Korea." Well, you know, all those gentlemen over there - and their countries - look alike.

On a sober note, the current American president has only established himself on the world stage as making himself-and all Americans by association-one of the Big Three terrorist aggressors, right up there with Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. He's an embarrassment to all Americans and, understandably a laughingstock in many Chinese newspapers.

No matter how Trump’s defenders can clumsily spin it to the contrary, the real elected American leaders, the most seasoned of whom have been there long before the days Trump was merely a reality TV personality basking in his own televised glow, won't buy the Prime Time hype. They don't heed the siren call of cable news gabfests or TV ratings above all else.

Trump’s ad-hoc, on-the-fly, flip-flopping, throw-it-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks style of governance was merely puffery that made for good campaign TV coverage.

Though it served it's purpose of suckering the votes of the forgotten, salt-of-the-earth Americans of the underrepresented and underserved rural communities, the campaign platform does not “pass the proverbial “stink test.” It just plain stinks.

To paraphrase a recent press article, Trump signs executive orders in the absence of actually knowing how to be president, so he merely "plays president".

Clearly, however, he doesn't play president as well as he plays golf. Sadder still is his greater desire to practice his chip shots from the rough more than his limited presidential competencies.

Even the patience of those who've said “Give him a chance,” and “The learning curve for being president is steep” is wearing thin, for it's an embarrassment to all Americans to be associated with such outright and unabashed incompetence.

From the denial of Trump’s travel ban to the defeat of repeal and replace Obamacare to the impending struggle his self-serving tax plan is sure to face to the shooting down of the border wall to the denial of his plan to rescind funding of California et al sanctuary cities and to the dramatic infighting within his incestuous Cabinet, I am really beginning to enjoy watching this real-time reality show blow up like so many tomahawk missiles in the president's face. It couldn't happen to a better bigot. And, as Americans, it's proof to the world that we recognize what's going on in the White House and are doing what we can to curb it's effects.

Not only were monuments to fallen Confederate soldiers taken down in Louisiana last weekend, just one state away from Trump’s racially intolerant Attorney General Session’s home state of Alabama, Trump found congressmen from both Republican nor Democratic border states unsupportive of the construction of his ill-conceived border wall. A "boondoggle" is how it's regularly referred to in the press. FAKE NEWS! I don't think so.

Tonight, as the sun sets, I can almost hear the dashed hopes in the icy cold hearts of white supremacists sinking as well.

It's the shape of things to come, I believe, and it gives me the distinct feeling that, yes, America is being made great yet again. Bravo, Mr. Trump; it's the one truly presidential accomplishment you've made yet.

It's not too late to quit while you're ahead, you know. Mr. Pence would be more than happy to take over now that the novelty has worn off for you.

Besides, just think of all the golf that's waiting to be played with the endless list of threesomes just dying to hear you tell your delusions of grandeur about how you once were King of the World. Well, sorta.

Who'd have ever thought the United States would be run by someone named Ivanka?

Arizona Sands Nightmare, Reprise

I created this blog as a safe place for sharing knowledge and viewpoints related to all things Disability in a spirit of fairness and kindness. Such a places have proven difficult to find at times, so it brings me comfort to know it always exists here.

Because it is my hope that the encounter I am presenting here today generates increasingly more like-minded visitors, I am also hoping at least some will find a home of sorts here and become regular visitors.

After all, one needn't be "disabled" in order to find common ground here for, no matter anyone's physical state, we are all differently-abled.

That said, I've done my best to present my experiences from Havasu and Flagstaff, Arizona in early February, 2017 as factually and completely as possible, and without malice or judgment.

Rather, I come from a place where I regard the law as being, like the mindset of an officer at any given moment, open to a wide range of interpretations. In my limited experience, this interpretation, for better or worse, is typically decided on the spot by their best judgment.

When that best judgment cannot adequately size up a situation, mistakes will be made. It's where experience and the wisdom that comes with it counts most. Not every situation is as cut-and-dry as running a red light with a straightforward, by-the-book resolution.

Further, since no black and white court transcript can convey the sum total of all that occurred in Arizona last February, the humanity behind this account is conspicuously absent.

Curiously, this court case is, as usual, based upon a subjective determination of an encounter between two people as interpreted by only one of them-the one with the badge, the gun, and the uniform.

However, the most relevant aspect of it all is missing. Namely, the human side. It contains the real substance of these events, i.e. What really happened between these two people, and what were they thinking at the time?

No one has asked me and, as far as I know, the other person has never been asked either. It's as if it doesn't matter and, I don't believe it does to anyone else.

Keeping in mind that my perceived legal infraction is not having run a stop sign, I think more consideration of the circumstances is deserved. I can speak of what I was thinking when all this occurred and, in the absence of input from the aggressor here, I'll use my best judgment.

It's a task I'm well suited for, and one I am confident I can accurately present.

Please Note: I dedicate this account to all those who, like me, are service animal handlers, subject to the whims of an often ill-informed public on a daily basis. You all will always have my unrelenting support, and a special place in my heart.

What Really Happened in Arizona, February, 2017
The Complete Account

I'm a man in my early 50s who has only recently begun work on a lifetime of complex-PTSD (cPTSD) related trials and tribulations.

Facing the finalization of a divorce and the fourth anniversary of an accident in which I lost my left arm, I set out in a motorhome to make some sense of things. At my side, as always, sat Sophie, my eight-year-old Belgian Malinois service dog.

Together, we traveled from the Pacific Northwest last summer and fall down through the American Southwest and into Mexico for the winter.

We admired the beauty of the volcanic peaks along I-5 North through Portland, Seattle, Bellingham and beyond.

In the fall of 2016, we traversed the Arizona desert into Mexico, where we spent the winter.

There, we commingled with a fun mixture of American and Canadian snowbirds. While we all missed our summer hometowns, we nonetheless made the most of the time.

Sophie, as usual was a well-received fixture at many gatherings and a welcome ice breaker for me. I'm not really shy but, as I said, I'm in the midst of a lot of introspective inner healing work that's not really conducive to socializing. Sophie's influence provides me a healthy excuse to break away from all that when things get too heavy.

In fact, throughout our travels, I'd been doing a great deal of research on my cPTSD symptoms and its aftereffects in the hope of gaining some understanding of the value of my life up to that point.

My research indicated it's not an uncommon question in the minds of many PTSD survivors; I am among them.

For me, the open and unpopulated expanses of US public lands were the best place I'd found to allow my mind to safely open up and be vulnerable to questions I'd been afraid to ask myself anywhere else before.

It was a highly emotional time to be sure, with me studying my own story while also contributing heavily to online forums, e.g., to offer feedback to others. It was a very healthy routine for me.

After a stint throughout January camped on a Mexican beach with other snowbirds, I returned to the States with Sophie and began making my way home.

We were returning in February in order for me to attend some annual medical appointments in my home state of Colorado.

In Arizona, however, Sophie and I had to make a detour through Havasu, where we visited a veterinarian; I believed Sophie needed some help, e.g. an antibiotic, that I couldn't provide.

Havasu wasn't my choice of locations, but vets aren't easy to come by in the desert, so we had little choice.

After learning Sophie was okay, we headed north of town onto some public land. Aptly named Craggy Wash, it was the location of some dispersed campsites. There, I continued my inner healing.

A few days later, I felt good about my perceived progress, and also enjoyed some pleasant hikes along the rocky hillside trails there with Sophie.

Within the first day there, I'd noticed some sketchy-looking campers but past experience taught me to steer clear of them and camp elsewhere.

There's so much room for everyone and, besides, only a really desperate person or people would venture into anyplace where Sophie might be on guard.

Sophie, in fact, came from an Arizona breeder where I understood many of her litter mates went off into police and military duty.

As it went, on the evening of Friday, February 10th -about two months ago now- I wanted to reward Sophie for her patience all day long while I'd been immersed in yet more inner healing work.

Though I didn't expect we'd see anyone else, I clipped Sophie's service dog ID badge to my shorts, grabbed a t-shirt and water bottle and headed out.

Our goal was a trailhead with a hillside trail we'd seen on a previous hike. It was located just past a campsite where an older, 60-something couple were camped.

Sophie and I hadn't stayed often at such campgrounds, opting instead for the open lands. It's why Havasu wasn't a good choice for us.

Still, Sophie and I had met these campers before, and they were very friendly. Their actual role there was to be the "campground hosts" who'd document the arrival and departure of campers.

In actuality, they seemed to be babysitters who had the unenviable job of monitoring the comings and goings of people there.

As I mentioned, there were some sketchy people there and, had I not been with Sophie I wouldn't have stayed.

Plus, I learned much earlier that some people actually did live pretty permanently on public land and, if not made to move every two weeks as mandated by the rules governing public land usage, such people might stay indefinitely.

Upon arriving at the hosts' campsite, I could see they had two visitors, a guy dressed as a park ranger and a young female adult.

We had no reason to believe there'd be any trouble with them, as we'd met the hosts before. Plus, Sophie has always been welcomed by park rangers and law enforcement officials in general, and she seemed to have an affinity for them. I jokingly chalk it up to her pedigree and it's probably true.

As we approached, I held out Sophie's ID and, for the sake of those who hadn't yet met Sophie, I announced her role as my service dog.

But this park ranger was unlike any Sophie and I had ever met, a very brusque person who simply had bad energy; he came across from the start as a not very nice person.

After all that's happened with this young man, those are still the best and only words I choose to describe him.

When he quickly ran up to face me and issue his edict that Sophie needed to be on a leash or else, I knew there'd be trouble. So did Sophie, and she came to sit by my side.

My head was still swimming with thoughts of what I'd been working through all afternoon, and it was on walks like this one I'd take with Sophie where I'd wind down from such days.

His request clearly made no sense, and I didn't hesitate to tell him I'd a right to not have Sophie on a leash provided doing so would create a danger for me due to my physical disability. Climbing a rocky trail while holding a leash, shirt, and water bottle in my only hand, I believe, qualified as such a dangerous situation.

In effect, this ranger was literally ordering me to do something dangerous.
He was half my age if a day, and armed to the teeth with a handgun and a belt full of other supplies.

He also had a youthful belligerence to match and, in his misguided view, because he was the one wearing the badge and uniform and carrying the gun, I could tell by his tone that my rights, or those of anyone who had stood before him at that moment, were secondary, if that, to his need to aggressively voice his authority.

So there I stood, most likely twice his age, with one shriveled half-arm and the other arm sorely overworked. I don't look-and I'm not-in good physical condition.

Given the presence of the campground hosts and the young girl who was apparently a love interest of this young man, it seemed he felt a need to save face. An obvious element of insecurity was clearly at work here, and I was an easy mark for him to display his aggression.

So, while I'd only intended to go for a walk with my service dog, there was instead going to be trouble; he'd make sure of it.

Sophie rubbed up against me and pushed me away from this guy, her cue to me that I should get out of there because she sensed danger.

That same cue had spared me at least one other such potentially violent situation, and this was clearly another.

By now, I was unable to see a badge or a gun or anything except in front of me, only an angry person who wanted to hurt me, staring back at me.

I'd seen that same angry and irrational look many times before in my father's face, forty years earlier. I'd also relived those old experiences many times earlier that day through a psychological technique called Progressive Desensitization.

Heeding Sophie's cue and an age-old fight-or-flight defense mechanism, I turned and ran toward the only sanctuary I knew, my motorhome, about 50 yards away.

I didn't get far enough, fast enough though, as the kid got into his SUV and chased me.

The sound of the tires crunching the rocks behind me, plus the smell of the rubber tires and the flashing lights all took me back to yet another trauma-related experience, my bicycle accident, four years earlier.

The kid got out and tackled me; my legs became rubber and I went limp.

Though I didn't feel a thing, I recall the young man having trouble getting handcuffs on me since I only had one hand. He later claimed that, because my body twisted as he tried to wrestle me down to the ground, I was resisting him. In reality, I was off balance and in a constant state of falling down. It was just an excuse he used to brutalize me. Sophie's instincts were right, as usual; I was being assaulted by a thug wearing a uniform.

In retrospect, why restraining me in any way was necessary makes as much sense as insisting I use my only, already occupied hand to hold a leash while climbing a rocky trail where there were no other people who might be present to perceive Sophie as a danger.

If he was having trouble handcuffing me, and I was unable to stand while he held my arm, how could he conceive of me holding a leash? In trying to restrain me, he was really proving the irrational nature of his request. This is a place where any reasonable person would, in exercising good judgment, understand the irrational nature of his order.

But I wasn't dealing with a reasonable person here, just a young and inexperienced kid who was probably also scared to be seen as such, so he tried to hide it through his brutality. Again, I was an excellent mark for him to do just that. I recall getting dragged through the rocky sand and, though my legs were already cut quite severely and already bleeding, I didn't feel a thing.

The blood thinner I take added to the fearful scene, and I doubt my mind responded to the sight of my own blood again under such circumstances in any way but to block it out entirely.

Reliving a scene so closely related to my accident years earlier, and only moments after reliving horrific physical abuse from decades earlier was surreal, to say the least.

The next memory I have is of this young man sitting on my back as Sophie approached me.

I have a lifelong history of intractable seizures, and she is trained to come to my aid if I should be down on the ground; it's something we practiced daily in Mexico, as I knew it could make the difference in my safety.

As she approached, the young man took a little canister from his belt-presumably one of his toys-and proceeded to pepper spray Sophie in both eyes.

"What are you doing?" I asked, coughing and in disbelief. Again, I don't recall feeling any pain then, just a thought in the back of my mind that told me that this should be hurting, it just isn't for some reason.

It was the exact same thought I had lying broken on the street in August, 2012; the pavement then was so hot, I knew, but after my collision with the SUV I was in shock and just couldn't feel it.

Then he was dragging me through the rocky sand again, and left me to lay next to the truck he'd used to chase me. My face was right up against the tire.

That's about the moment I had a weird feeling in my back, as if some kind of pain was fighting to get through my shock to hurt me.

"What are you doing?" I asked him once again, in complete confusion. He gave no answer, though I knew he was responsible. Who else could it be?

A few moments later and I realized he'd deployed yet another of the toys from his belt; he was tasering me, standing right above me as I lay face down, defenseless.

Though I didn't realize it then-I was in survival mode- the degree of cruelty perpetrated on both my service dog and I-despite doing all the right things and even calmly speaking up for my rights, and certainly not resisting anything afterwards-was criminal.

All this, because he couldn't - or wouldn't-concede that putting a leash on Sophie was a distinctly dangerous idea.

Hurting Sophie and I as he was demonstrates the sort of thing a sick person who is bent on hurting another person would do if he could be certain to do so with impunity.

That's why I say that, still, the most accurate description for this young man is that he's a very not nice person. Cruel would be okay, too.

Ultimately, after the kid struggled to figure out where to attach my right hand he found the only suitable place to hook me was the brush guard on the front bumper.

I don't know how long I sat there, staring at the bottom of the car, watching the emergency lights flicker and listening to this kid revel in telling everyone everyone in earshot how he'd dragged me here and sprayed my dog and how my body convulsed as he tasered me, "just like in that movie," he repeatedly said.

It was like being in a grade school lunchroom, listening to little boys talk about their hero from a recent action movie, only one of them was in his twenties and carrying a gun, and excitedly kept describing  himself as the hero.

Call it another survival mechanism, but I remember making mental notes of the scene and thinking of how I'd write about them later, as I'm doing now.

Perhaps I knew then that going over it in my mind while still on-scene would make going back over it later, as I'm doing now, somehow less traumatic.

As I mentioned, writing about my cPTSD is my primary way of dealing with it, always has been.

Keeping in mind that my only goal here was to only take Sophie for a walk and wind down a bit. There's something so wrong with what was happening  there that I hadn't the presence of mind to figure out what it was.

It was the exact same situation as the abuse I received as a kid, lying down, broken, with no idea why it was happening or how to escape it.

This time, however, I knew better. Even though I couldn't put my finger on it, I knew I'd done nothing wrong and that, in reality, I was the one who had been wronged.

The campground hosts, I later learned, did their best to clean the pepper spray chemicals from Sophie's eyes.

Chained to the front of the truck, all of this was out of sight and earshot.

Beyond, a couple of nerdy, skinny guys in uniform, apparently sheriff's deputies, showed up. They brought to mind, like the kid who just beat up Sophie and I, kids who'd been beaten up and pushed around all their lives and sought to get even by pushing others around simply because they could.

The young park ranger/thug who'd just beaten up Sophie and I earned both my distrust and also the nickname Billy the Kid. He had confiscated Sophie's Service Dog ID from me. He then proceeded to approach me where I sat three or four times to "inform me" that Sophie is not a service dog, and then to accuse me of having an ID for the sole purpose of taking her places with me.

As I said, this young kid's behavior transcends belligerence and overlaps into cruelty.

Although I answered his question affirmatively the first couple times he asked, I just looked at him thereafter.

He was trying to goad me into some sort of aggressive reaction in front of his uniformed buddies so he could prove to them how "dangerous" I was.

Perhaps they had pointed out to him that what he'd done to a disabled man in front of the few witnesses of the event might have made Billy the Kid guilty of a crime here.

Afterward, Billy was a lot less outspoken about what - and how - he'd hurt Sophie and I. It reflected poorly on them all.

After all this, I don't believe any of them have a conscience, just a need to cover their own asses, just in case. Not exemplary or brave behavior from those entrusted with the label of public servant.

Later, I've no idea how long, I remembered -how could I forget?- Sophie running over to me while I was still chained to the truck.

Billy the kid wanted to make Sophie out to be some kind of attack animal, bent on killing him. He wouldn't have to admit to pepper spraying a defenseless, unsuspecting service animal.

Sophie, of course, was scared too, but Billy the kid could never have counted on the affinity she has for cops. So, I guess, they "let" her live.

None of those cops who showed up that evening-because a one-armed old guy didn't have a leash on his dog-were very nice people.

Finally, after proclaiming that he "didn't care if I froze my ass off," he drove me literally ninety miles an hour to Flagstaff, four hours away. I could clearly see the speedometer from where I sat.

He'd turn on the lights and siren anytime someone else was visible up ahead, watching them pull over as he sped on by. He was having a great time playing policeman, and was a danger to everyone he came near.

It appeared that, somehow, because I spoke up for myself about being a disabled amputee and having a right to not have to hold a leash on my service dog, I'm somehow responsible for triggering this young man's reprehensible behavior.

It would be a week before I'd see Sophie again, and just as long until I knew she was okay. That's how long I was in jail, having been charged with assault.
Yes, in keeping with the completely backwards nature of this entire episode, he charged me.

Once we arrived in Flagstaff, Billy next turned his attention to whispering threats to me through gritted teeth. He wanted me to know that Sophie was going to be euthanized, that my RV would be towed away and destroyed and that I'd spend "all sorts of extra time in jail."

Keep in mind this person is still roaming the public lands, wearing a badge and carrying a gun, with a head filled with dangerous overconfidence and an exaggerated idea of the limited albeit important purpose he must fulfill as a park ranger.

What Billy didn't know as he tried his best to intimidate me is something I suppose I'd never have thought of as a silver lining to all my father's abuse. Namely, it's the fact that Billy is a rank beginner when it comes to such tactics.

Having just beaten up Sophie and I, not unlike my own dad once pushed me around, the fact that the kid was a coward was clear.

But I was only afraid back when I was a kid, and in the rare nightmares I still have today. Here, though, I knew I'd done nothing wrong. So listening to Billy try to intimidate me was quite awkward; I was in a situation I never thought I'd find myself in again and, since it was already happening anyhow, it was worth it to know I was above it.

Billy just came across as an angry kid who resents his job because he's not Border Patrol, or State Trooper, or something more glamorous than a BLM ranger who mostly deals with senior-aged campground hosts. Only he, however, can come to terms with that. Pushing innocents around, like Sophie and I, won't change a thing for him.

Further, there are certain weapons a person can have at his disposal that can't be clipped to a belt like Billy wore, and Billy has no idea what they may be. Wisdom and experience that comes from studying the styles of older men, like a mentor, would benefit him immensely.

Maybe someday he'll actually be able to come across as a badass when he feels the need to, but he'll have to direct such energies toward someone who hasn't seen the likes of sheer nastiness and brutality that I have.

I'm not a criminal, and I don't have a criminal mindset, whatever that means, exactly. But I've been on the receiving end of criminal behavior, first as an abused kid, and now as an adult, abused by a kid.

Again, the words best used to describe Billy the kid are "a not very nice person."

The Big Miscommunication Occurs- A Grave Misunderstanding:

Among the things that took place while I was in their county jail was a meeting with the public defender. During our initial meeting we talked about what happened.

By this time, all I knew was that something really wrong was happening. And there was no one to trust, for everyone I met along the way simply assumed I'd done something wrong and, by association, was lying in every way about everything.

I was really out of my element, and more interested in how I'd react to being in jail than anything. It was like being in a life-sized sociology experiment, and I was both guinea pig and experiment administrator.

Most important, however, for the first time in many years I had none of my medication, nor would I receive any for the duration of my stay. It had, I'm sure, a profound effect on my ability to process information and to understand even the most basic things that were happening.

When it came for my first time to speak in court, I deferred to the public defender to do so. I had no clarity of thought and my Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) symptom of dissociation was taking place.

I had nothing of nutritional value to eat, and was severely dehydrated. It was in this state that I did everything, including meeting with the public defender. After gaining his assurance we were speaking privately, I told him how I'd been assaulted by this kid and that I had a flashback to some previous traumas throughout this whole episode.

I described the situation as best I could, under the premise that I couldn't hold a clear and deep thought. He summed it up for me, I think in an attempt to spare me from having to rehash the details. He reiterated my details about this kid irrationally and wrongly insisting I put a leash on Sophie, because of the legal right I had to not do so, as well as the obvious dangers involved in hiking a rocky trail off-balance.

Given that I sat right in front of him and he could see I am an amputee, I thought he'd get it. But, as I realized many weeks afterward, he didn't. Nor did he understand the importance and purpose Sophie has in my life, and the training that was behind it all.

Though I didn't know it, he was coming from some other place, with some other source of information, some details corrupting his understanding of what happened. In short, though he didn't outwardly show it, he was listening to me with the belief I was guilty, too.

He ended his brief summary-and I agreed with him, that after the kid tackled me and I fell to the ground, "...things went downhill from there."

With wounded legs still raw and yet to scab over, and an upper body that felt as broken as it had when I was healing from my bicycle accident, I totally agreed.

But what he meant by "things going downhill" was his watered-down way of referring to me having committed the assault.

To me, “things going downhill” meant that was when the kid really started to beat me up. Something I probably would have caught-or at least clarified-had I not been in shock and had my medication.

In the mind of the public defender, I was already guilty and the only question was how to prove me not guilty. Also, in the report the public defender drew his information from, Sophie was some kind of menacing, vicious threat that needed to be neutralized.

How much more wrong could any of this be, I now wonder. It's obvious the case should have been thrown out, and the kid reprimanded, at least, for his criminal behavior. But I had no grasp of the situation, which never would have occurred had I not been traveling alone; again, I was a perfect mark for a dangerously sick person.

It's all a part of living with BPD, which allows little room for others. As Dr. Judith Herman states in her book Trauma and Recovery, "those with BPD are condemned to live a lonely life."

Again, this occurred solely because I'd not had my service dog on a leash for my own safety.

As I say, the so-called justice system is geared toward keeping inmates in jail, or somewhere within their custody, i.e. via some form of parole. Recidivism is the order of the day.

They call mine "Supervised Release," which is to last for a year. But the restitution they've saddled me with is meant to financially break me so that I must stay near them as long as I haven't paid in full. Clever, eh?

Not really; it's not rocket science, just a more civil form of being a thug, as they made a point of telling me that if I didn't do what they said a whole squad of federal marshals would arrive in swat gear at my door.

They would, I presume, take enjoyment in pepper spraying Sophie and tasering me once again. It's a violent and irrational world they live in, one I remember growing up around.

One thing is certain; I am as incapable of understanding it now as I was then.

Anyway, when I was in jail, I felt truly safe there. It was the clearest connection I had with my childhood, and the memories of the many times I was grounded for some picayune "infraction" that my old man used to call "being on probation."

So why did I feel safe? Simple; nobody could hurt me there, only my emotions could be hurt, if I were weaker. But I had the strength of knowing I'd survived such treatment before, and would have no trouble surviving it again. Having lived much of my life in survival mode, jail provided a situation I was well suited to handle. The mere thought of it frightened me.

However, I didn't know if Sophie was safe until the fourth or fifth day in jail, when I was slipped an official looking document- a photocopy- that said in so many words that Sophie was scheduled to be euthanized "or given up for adoption" if I didn't pick her up by a certain date.

Coincidentally enough, the date came before the date I'd be out of jail should I choose to have a jury trial and be found not guilty. Also, my RV - with my medication still in it, I hoped- would have been on public land beyond the two week limit and likely would be towed.

Those weren't risks I was willing to take, particularly regarding my absence of medication. The hope was, I'm sure, that I'd have some kind of violent episode in jail so they could justify keeping me there longer, and possibility sending me to some kind of institution.

For these jailers as well, I was a perfect mark. Again, none of these things would have happened if I weren't traveling alone. Clearly, having BPD is a crime.

To reiterate, all this because I didn't/I couldn't safely have my dog on a leash and spoke up on my own behalf about it.

I was put in a position to plead guilty and probably see Sophie, or risk losing Sophie in order to be found not guilty.
And I should never have been there in the first place.

What they didn't know, and still don't know, was that I have nothing to lose in pleading guilty. Life without Sophie would be meaningless to me, so the concept of guilt meant little.

I'd already survived being beat up by Billy, and the wounds on my legs were still healing. All the old injuries from my bike crash that Billy had aggravated by sitting on me were gone.

Nobody in jail was going to hurt me except maybe one or two of the guards - just more not very nice people-and nobody was going to attack me if I dropped the soap, either. They all had girlfriends anyway and, by the look of it, they were having a great time in there. Still makes me laugh!

Card games, playing football with rolls of toilet paper, etc., took my mind off my PTSD.

The first few nights I could not sleep in there, nor could I drink water. My eyes were so bloodshot that I figure the guards thought I was either going cold turkey from some pretty heavy drugs or crying myself to sleep. It didn't matter, for everyone I've run into since then treats you as if everything you say is a lie.

But I kept in mind what my ex-wife told me about how messed up people who work in prisons are, and have to be. She grew up in Cañon City, Colorado and attended school with some guards’ kids, so she has some insight into the idea.

Not to take anything away from those who may well need to be chained up to make the rest of us safer, I think any human who makes his/her livelihood about chaining up others falls into a special category that isn't quite all right.

If some things I overheard among staffers there are a true reflection of their behavior, I think the public in general would be safer if some of them were behind bars next those who already are.

Anyway, if I remember correctly it was 28 degrees and snowing when I was released, wearing the shorts, t-shirt and sandals I had when I went in.

For no apparent reason other than to inconvenience me, they confiscated my driver's license and, for good measure I suppose, Sophie's service dog ID. Who knows what trouble a danger to society like me could cause with those items.

If it weren't for the need to make sure Sophie was okay, none of it would have mattered.

Keep in mind, though that I received none of my medication in jail. The whole so-called justice system is meant to encourage recidivism and, if possible, death to all who enter jail.
I'm not kidding.

I've since read accounts of others who've had a significant other in jail where, for example, a woman had a heart attack and died because she'd been denied her medication.

If I hadn't personally experienced this myself, I'm not sure I'd think twice about reading it, or if I'd bother reading it at all. But now, however, I know this to be very real.

Beyond its obvious dangers, it's a very disparaging thing to be denied your medication by strangers who are indifferent at best, and most likely simply uninterested.

The truth is, though they appeared few in number, the only people who were really, truly awful were those who, like Billy, wore a badge and a uniform.

They are the only ones who threatened me and tried to scare me, etc.
Or they were just so downright vulgar they came across, to me at least, as embarrassingly reprehensible.

But I was so struck by how young they all were that one of them trying to intimidate or threaten me was a lot like someone's smart-alecky nephew acting up.

Perhaps a jailhouse is exactly the sort of place someone like that ends up spending their working lives. Someone's got to do it, I suppose, and if the job fits, then why not?

Anyway, once I got out I first went to Kingman where I was told Sophie was being held.

When I arrived at the animal control office first thing in the morning she was sitting outside. At first, she didn't know it was me approaching.

Then, when she looked at me closer, she immediately looked like she knew me, but not quite from where.

Then, I couldn't keep a straight face, and as soon as I began to laugh she started talking. I think she was asking me where the hell I'd been.

The real truth is, though, that I was really glad that, because dogs live in the moment and, given my memory problems, so do I.

It makes it easier for us then, to forget about what's just happened and move on until we get to someplace where we can work through it.

Just not Havasu.

Once I had the RV again, I got my medication and some good food. Jail food sucked, mostly sugary crap that, at best, tasted like dorm food, except without the hangover.

Then I went back to Flagstaff to visit the parole people. They were nice enough, and said "Call us when you get to Colorado..."

I felt dirty just being in Arizona anymore, as if plastered with a viscous layer of green, napalm-y stench.

I wanted to go home, back to Colorado right away, where I could feel clean again. The fastest route out of Arizona was to take the long way, through California, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming.

Then I called the people in Flagstaff and they gave me the number of their cohorts in Denver.

The Denver people called me back right away and said (they didn't ask) "What are you doing here? You weren't supposed to leave Arizona."

I didn't have the heart to tell them that, not only did I leave Arizona but I've been through four additional states, too.

We've since met and, though they told me they usually work with felons, not those who commit lowly misdemeanors, they wondered out loud why they had to see me at all.

So, I guess I learned my lesson; always be sure to have your dog on a leash, even if it kills you, and for god's sake, don't dare speak up for yourself or your rights. This isn't a democracy, you know.

If I ever go back to Mexico, I'll likely never return. I'll just wait for my Canadian friends, and Sophie and I can grow old together in peace, then die on the beach.

Sounds kind of cold for me to see it said in writing like this but, given the hail thundering outside my windshield on this chilly April afternoon, a warm Mexican beach sounds perfect.

These events have been horribly nightmarish to rehash, particularly the scenes of violence and the corrupted view held by the public defender.

It's much like revisiting the experiences from my youth. But this entire account needs to be told if I am to justify its having happened at all. It's been healing for me to have done so.

And after this hail stops, I am going to go for a hike with Sophie, hopefully unhindered, and wind down in peace.

Thank you for reading this. Please share your thoughts, if you like.