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

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Imagine A Game of Life With Only Winners

To What Do We Owe This Dishonor?

Perhaps this sounds heretical, but it’s all relative. And, the irony is that what I’m about to say is protected by the First Amendment!

Truth is, I don’t love my country or, more accurately, I don’t love just my country. I love them all, and everything in between.

I love their physical landmarks and their people who are sincere, kind and loving.

The earthly places where I can’t imagine living, like the blazing Mojave Desert, freezing Siberia in January and the gurgling (and stinky!) key features of Yellowstone National Park.

But ask any dung beetle, banished Russian or junior grade National Park Service Ranger and we might all be surprised at the fondness in their hearts for the place they call home. I know what I’m talking about here.

Having been raised in 1970’s southwestern Pennsylvania steel country, at one time or another every year it felt like bone-chilling Siberia, or hot (albeit humid) desert there. And it had a year-round effluvium that would assure any self-respecting dung beetle of its chosen form of refuge for life.

In the larger picture, I don’t consider our planet solely in terms of my country or yours, even if you don’t feel the same way. But it’s a fact that, like it or not, for better or worse, we’re all linked, married, if you will, for the greater good of each of us rides on each of us.

Though it’s too much for any single person to contemplate achieving alone, together it’s doable. And that social fabric that is required for humanity to make all things possible exists within, you guessed it, the network of countries we’ve created, our international handiwork.

I love our planet, its ups and its downs, and rounds and rounds. Brilliant sunsets and startlingly clear night skies and eclipses that occur with clockwork precision and, of course, us. Humans, that is, the ones smart enough to invent the concept of calendars and clocks. The ones who are deferential, observant and wise enough to grant the Universe its due.

Our ability to predict natural phenomena “down here” on Earth like droughts , floods and hurricanes. “Up there” we can foresee meteor showers, determine the composition of our planetary neighbors, their distance and their suitability for human life. Oh, yes, and eclipses.

Today’s human developments,  whether made through electron microscopes or via the Hubble Space Telescope, carry with them the responsibility to preserve, if not our humanity, then at least the Earth.

For the Earth is not ours, we are merely it’s humble stewards. And for all our human inventiveness, from supersonic jet airliners to nuclear power, nothing mankind can develop now can outdo Earth’s might.

Still, I can’t help but feel that, despite our better judgment and unprecedented knowledge, mankind is hesitating at a crossroads through which our chosen direction is in question.

How can this be? What has led us to choose between surviving or thriving. How could continued success in sustaining our humble selves – and not destruction of it all – even be an option?

The answer, to me, is tantamount to a global version of the bratty kid who, upon realizing he has no safe moves left on the chess board upends the entire game board and stomps off. The childish mind behind such an outburst believes “If I can’t win, I’ll make sure nobody wins.” And so it will be, unless we have the fortitude, the sheer guts to stand out against it until we prevail.

This, I believe, is where the individual can be a force for change, and to redirect us all down a path of positivity and possibility. It’s perhaps the most difficult, seemingly futile undertaking we’ll ever face.

But that doesn’t stop many of us from trying, and those are the people with whom I share a true affinity. In an earthly sense, they are my real brothers and sisters, and few events allow everyone to experience this familial bonding like our recent, total lunar eclipse.

So many grand, natural displays of power and magnificence our planet displays, as if for our own enjoyment, that we forget the opportunity to set aside our human magnanimity so that we may all feel humbled by the experience. To remember and hopefully regain some of the lost deference that served our pre-human ancestors so well.

In my mind, an eclipse is among the best opportunities for us to accomplish this. On paper, the concept is understandable, all right. But, in reality, the daytime sky becomes a canvas, patiently crafting an indescribably marvelous scene before our very eyes that none of the greatest masters could replicate.

If a typically blue, sunny sky comprises the primary colors, then a solar eclipse is the unique blending of them.

Looking up to the moon and the sun coming together, we begin painting a picture that’s unique to each of us in our mind’s eye. It’s hard not to feel our humanity as we witness this, an event that struck both wonder and fear into our earliest ancestors.

Though this entire event is a humbling experience, a still grander albeit fleeting image is about to emerge. Suddenly it occurs - the Moon and the Sun and the Earth come together, pulling us into the picture, right here where we stand to create a mind-blowing celestial conspiracy. For a moment, we can remember what it feels like to think of Earth as “ours,” and maybe we’ll take away some accountability for what we do with our all-too-brief time here.

If, after being so privileged to witness this wondrous spectacle, you don’t feel humbled at your place on this planet, in this Universe and among all the indescribably beautiful galaxies lying unimaginably great distances beyond, you may wish to check your pulse.

For, despite the powerful charge I still feel from witnessing our recent eclipse, one that is uniquely mine but, on a human level is neither right nor wrong, greater or lesser than your own.

There is more, much more than human civilization can ever hope to grasp from an eclipse that allows all of us to take at least something away from it, something that somehow and in some way leaves us better for it.

As one witness was heard to say, tears still running down her cheeks “It was the best two minutes of my life.”

They could have been my words, and they could have been yours. For perhaps the first time in my life I spoke those words, I didn’t shout them with utter joy. There was too much significance in what I’d just seen, and what was slowly sliding away that I, all at once, found myself so calm yet so breathless.

The tide was turned, the shoe was on the other foot, and every other cute, human metaphor applied to that scene.

For my part, I found myself a kid once again, yet in a grown man’s body, an innocently enrapt child in a worldly wise, fifty-something mind.

Entering that mind came a memory: Playing with marbles as a kid, I remember looking down to the floor as I flicked them with my thumb, one clicking into another.

Watching the eclipse, I felt myself standing atop one of those same marbles, this time looking up at them. Then, just for a moment, I realized the marbles were playing me! Like Life itself, however, it was a game that ended long before I was ready to quit playing.

But, like the handful of marbles I once so easily set aside and left behind in search of other amusements, so too the moon’s shadow left me in search of others to amuse, and to be amused by.

And that about says it all: I got a visit from a muse, all right. The inner child that once was me made his presence known, then whispered into my ear words I’d longed to hear for decades.

He reassured me that everything I’ve ever said and  everything I’ve ever done, to anyone I’ve ever known and anyone I’ve ever loved, and to those I still hold dear in my heart is okay.

He encouraged me to accept it and to embrace it, for I’d done-and still do-the best I can with what I know. Over the years, he said, your judgment and wisdom has only grown. Remember, you’ll never be perfect, but you can always be better.

Finally feeling closure, my healing can begin, and past can become future joy once again.

A fleeting glimpse into my childhood heart brought me enough of a reminder of the world as I once thought, I once hoped, I’d create for myself all along. All because of that eclipse.

Who would’ve thought I’d see that little boy once again, in a sudden shadow that sped through the afternoon sky on a warm, sunny, late August day?

“Did I really just see what I think I saw?” I wondered out loud to Sophie, my service dog and confidante.

Then the cooling breezes began and, for several minutes, took the edge off the heat of the day. It shook me gently from the spell I’d been under for the past two hours.

Yes, it was real, all right, and I’m ready to move forward in life, confident in the knowledge that, even though I hadn’t provided my inner child, the little boy I’d once been, with the exact life I’d imagined, free of pain and full of joy and wonder, I’d done well by him nonetheless.

My world today is laden with scars, inside and out. In the words of a songwriter, “Scars are souvenirs you never lose, the past is never far.”

Scars don’t have to be reminders of past nasties. My  eclipse experience brought forth reminders that, in my past, I also have joyous and wonderful, humdrum and mundane, and otherwise neutral memories. Those are the memories I don’t ever want to lose.

Such moments are every bit as much a part of my story as any other, and hold their rightful place in my heart ❤️.

All this, and so much more still, inspired solely due to the passing of the moon before the sun on an arbitrary day in August, 2017. And the thoughts keep coming. With luck, I can get them down as fast as they arise, though I’m working at a success rate of about fifty-fifty.

The eclipse occurred days ago and literally lasted for but a second. But figuratively, in my mind where it matters most, it will last forever.

Thank you, Universe for, within your momentary darkness, you’ve helped me find perpetual light. If I didn’t know it before, I’m well aware of it now: I owe everything I am to you.

As I said, eclipses are as indescribably beautiful as they are an exercise in humility. If you haven’t yet, with luck you will find out for yourself.

Share what you learn with someone close, then remember your place in the Universe is an important one. Look out for those who want to kick the game board and send the pieces flying. We’re all in this wonderful world together.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Witnesses Equal Accountability

The power of witnesses in avoiding wrongful conviction

This link exemplifies an experience I’ve come to identify with:

The men involved as plaintiffs in this case had something I did not have the night I encountered a Bureau of Land Management officer alone – witnesses. Suddenly, I was fair game to a thug with a badge.

As a wrongfully accused man given a choice between making an equally wrongful guilty plea or a likely-futile not guilty plea, I chose the former and saved a life: Sophie, my service dog of 8½ years.

In my haste to be reunited with Sophie, from whom I’d been wrongly separated and incarcerated for a week, I gave up all my subsequent legal rights.

The Bureau of Land Management officer who brutalized my service dog, Sophie and I as we walked alone in the desert one week earlier, as well as his county sheriffs cohorts involved were well aware I would do so to save my dog, who is family.

In effect, they held my service dog hostage in exchange for my wrongful guilty plea. They threatened to euthanize her if I didn't "cooperate" with them.

While I gave up many legal rights of appeal, etc. that day in court, and even agreed to restitution for damages I did not create, I did not give up my right to maintain my innocence.

Only someone with a fear of the truth would oppose me in so doing, and try to deny me this privilege.

Given the fabricated accounts made by nefarious officers and intimidated witnesses, I believe the truly guilty parties involved – the law enforcement officers that were present – have such a fear.

And rightly so. What they did was more than wrong, it was criminal. Further, their unconscionable actions are evidence of a culture of abuse of power and lawlessness by those empowered to enforce the law insofar as it applies to public land.

Our Ordeal:

It began in the desert on the night of Friday, February 12th. Sophie and I were alone on public land near Lake Havasu, Arizona.

Heading toward a hilltop trail along a rocky ridge overlooking the area, Sophie and I were beginning an evening hike.

We walked through the empty campground toward the trailhead, located just beyond a trailer occupied by the campground host.

The previous night, I’d shared a friendly conversation with him, and we left there feeling quite welcome. I had no reason to believe Sophie and I would find anything different when I approached him and a uniformed visitor with whom he was talking.

Just to be sure, I stayed with in their line of sight for a few minutes as Sophie sat still by my side. I wanted it to be obvious that Sophie was a trained dog and that her approach would be as a result of my release command to her.

When I felt the time was right, that we had been seen by the people ahead and were able to establish as best we could that we were not the danger, I began to walk toward them.

At a distance of about 15 yards, I tucked my water bottle and T-shirt under my only/right arm, then gave Sophie the Release command. With my hand, I then raised Sophie’s photo ID badge.

It identified her as my seizure dog and, though I know it likely could not be seen clearly, I wanted it to be known that Sophie had a formal association with me; she was not just some dog running loose.

Most important, however, I verbally reinforced the clear visual association I made up the trail moments earlier, as Sophie sat by my side.

I loudly and clearly stated to the stranger that she is my trained service dog and that she is curious, friendly and safe, and certainly not a danger to anyone.

Because Sophie had met and had my consent to approach the man with whom I’ve spoken the night before, I believed my allowing her to approach would not be taken for anything but friendly, or neutral at the very least.

But the stranger with whom our acquaintance was speaking, though in uniform, was different. His immediate display of belligerence quickly made clear he was not a trusty park ranger of the sort Sophie and I met many times before in our travels.

Rather, this person was an intimidating, opportunistic thug with a badge and some weapons and some authority to back it up. He had a decided unwillingness to let a chance to bully someone go unheeded.

As an amputee, I am a visibly disabled man walking a dog without a leash. This officer, representing the Bureau of Land Management, saw in me a prime opportunity toubeavy-handed assert his authority.

Sophie was clearly under my voice control and responding as her typically well-behaved self. But that didn't matter to this young man. He tersely informed me that Sophie was to be on a leash and ordered me to do so immediately.

Knowing that the area was vacant and that holding a leash would have been dangerous given the trail we were about to hike anyway, I chose to speak up for my rights.

So I did my best to paraphrase from memory a certain section of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 regarding service animals, including my Sophie. I'd had to do so before, always with success, because Sophie is an exemplary service dog.

The section of the that federal law to which I referred legally permits any service dog handler to work with their dog without a leash provided the circumstances are safe for both the handler and anyone present.

I really had little choice, for the only dog leash I own is buried somewhere in our camper for lack of need.

It's also a liability, as it's one more thing to carry I'm all but guaranteed to never need. That's the trust I've developed in working with Sophie over the years.

The officer understood but, in an apparent attempt to save face, he insisted he would cite me for what he claimed was my violation of the law.

Given that I was en route to Colorado and leaving the following day, a ticket would require me to show up in an Arizona court to dispute it. In effect, I would have to pay a fine regardless.

Having a disability, however, is not a crime, and I would be remiss in not speaking up for myself, and all people, law enforcement officers in particular, should agree. Even in the face of a bully.

Any citation that required a financial penalty was a sum I’d have to pay as a result of being nothing except disabled, and that's not OK.

In speaking up for myself, the expression on the officers face told me everything I needed to know.

No longer did I see myself speaking with someone who had the best interests of anything or anyone in mind. Rather, I was looking into the eyes of someone whose intention was not to help anybody, but to hurt me physically.

Part of Sophie’s training as my seizure dog is to help me avoid certain negative or dangerous stressors, be they people, places, or things, by steering me in another direction. This is something for which she has a keen sense, and something else our working relationship has honed over the years.

As I felt Sophie's body pushing me away from this officer, I knew I needed to get away from him. At that instant, I turned to run away, toward my camper.

Off-balance, I tripped and fell after just a few strides. The officer fell on top of me, his weight pushing my body to bend in ways it hadn’t for years, prior to my accident.

He dragged me through the rocky sand toward his vehicle. As I lay face down, I looked up to see Sophie approach as she is trained to do in the event I have the seizure. When I’m on the ground, she stands by me until I can gather my wits to take care of myself.

In seeing this, however, the officer deployed his pepper spray directly into both of Sophie’s eyes as I watched helplessly underneath this officers knee.

Immediately, Sophie’s head twisted and turned as if to shake the burning chemicals out of her eyes. That was the last I saw of her for the next hour.

Laying face down next to the officers truck, I could smell the rubber of its tires. Suddenly, I felt myself having a seizure, but it was unlike any I’ve ever had.

Within a moment or two I realized that the officer deployed his Taser into my back as he stood over me.

“What are you doing?” I remember asking him, in a voice that I could not quite recognize, though I know it was my own. By way of response, I only heard the sound of him laughing.

The officer moved me to the front of his truck so he could attach my only, handcuffed wrist to the brush guard. There I sat, in the sand for the next two hours or so.

On two or three occasions, the officer who assaulted us and confiscated the ID tag I’d shown him approached me and stated his disbelief that Sophie is truly a service dog.

I remember him accusingly stating that “You just have this ID card so you can take her into places with you,” and other, similar remarks.

If this officer had any real understanding of a service anal’s purpose he’d know that being accompanied by the dog is exactly the purpose for which a service animal is trained. It further emphasized his ignorance of the laws he's charged with enforcing.

At one point, prior to loading Sophie into a marked Mojave County SUV, Sophie was let go from their restraints, apparently to see if she’d automatically come to me. Which, of course, she did.

It’s then I began to understand that the other officers on the scene realized that Sophie and I hadn't been even a remote danger to the officer who arrested me and hurt Sophie. From all appearances, it wouldn’t be physically possible for me to do so.

Perhaps more telling is Sophie, who has always shared a mutual affinity for law enforcement officers. She's clearly the intellectual and behavioral superior to the BLM officer who assaulted us.

The other officers who showed up to torment and threaten me nonetheless respected her, for only the best and brightest law enforcement officers become K-9 handlers.

They'd seen firsthand what such teams can do and Sophie, as usual, was a good reflection on me. Therefore, they knew a crime had been committed, all right, but a coverup now needed to be made.

With the exception of the campground host who wordlessly stepped around from behind the truck and a sheriff’s officer who stated he’d subdue me “with my fists, if I have to” as I sat, silent and unmoving, everyone else was out of my line of sight.

But he sunddenly seemed to stand down, perhaps realizing for himself that I was not the awful criminal the guilty cop was making me out to be to make himself sound tougher to his cohorts.

I don't claim to be a physical specimen these days-I've long conceded that I'm just a physically subdued, out-of-shape man with one arm unlikely to commit assault on anyone.

In a rare gesture of humaneness that day, the sheriff's officer demonstrated some sympathy for Sophie's pain and situated her comfortably in the back of his marked Chevy Tahoe SUV, and gave her a bowl of water.

From her seat, Sophie could see me and vice versa. I spoke to her continuously and reassured her that she would be all right, that none of what was happening was her fault and that I was sorry for the pain she must be feeling.

I repeatedly told her how much I love her and that I was sorry we’d been separated by people who hurt us, and that I didn’t understand why it was happening, either.

I reminded her how smart and strong and beautiful she is, and much more.

Eventually, without giving me any idea where she was being taken, the county officer left with Sophie. It would be a full week until I saw her again.

This did not stop them-and likely inspired them-to falsify reports from the campground host and others with whom I’d personally been in contact with, e.g. the animal control shelter from which I picked up Sophie that I was “obviously a nut case,” and a poorly behaved man who screamed at the animal control workers.

The few witnesses had been intimidated by the BLM officer and he simply faked reports from others who'd have said no such things. Only such a truly sick person to come between any disabled person and their service animal.

The animal shelter workers where I picked up Sophie had their words falsified in the police report the young man wrote created.

All I recall feeling when I saw Sophie alive and well and I held her body against mine once more was immense gratitude to the Universe and to the people at the shelter who took such good care of her.

The officers falsified their reports in, I believe, a weak albeit effective means by which they covered up their crime.

And this crime for which the BLM officer is guilty is nothing I take personally, for two reasons:

First, he doesn’t know me on any level, so a personal attack by him wouldn’t be possible.

Second, I believe this young man would have, and likely already has, assaulted others on a whim.

In speaking up for my rights as a disabled person, he rationalized his being triggered to behave with such cruelty toward Sophie and I.

The sound of my voice gave him all the reason he needed, and he knew he could act with impunity. All he had to do if it came down to it was claim he felt endangered by Sophie and/or I, and he did.

But, in fact, the only thing that stood between my and Sophie’s safety was his conscience.

It was this officer’s lack of conscience and his poor judgment that became a source of terrible pain for us both, particularly Sophie, whose eyes were burned by his pepper spray.

Only two people have ever not been moved by Sophie’s beautiful presence and approachability to comment positively about her, and each of them caused her terrible pain. This young man is one of them, and it’s proof enough to me that something’s very wrong with his perspective of the world. All the others who see in her such a wonderful dog cannot be wrong.

This officer’s behavior toward me was not personal. Still, if anyone else he is charged with protecting is to ever be safe, his behavior is unacceptable.

He is a trust bandit, someone who knowing and willfully violates others faith. But any law enforcement officer should be at least a stable person anyone should be able to call on for assistance and perhaps even compassion as best he/she can offer.

But in failing to accept Sophie and I for the accepting and peaceable beings we are, that BLM officer who assaulted Sophie and I fails all of us.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Dragged Through The Desert

This morning, as I sat eating breakfast, I looked down at my injuries recent injuries from mountain biking.

I realized that I have many new scars from crashing on my bicycle while riding the nearby trails.

Then I realized that I could attribute the scars that existed prior to getting back on my mountain bike as the result of being dragged through the desert by the psychotic federal officer who assaulted Sophie and I just six months ago.

Those recent scars from my bicycling, of which there are many, I believe I risked getting because I wanted them to overwhelm the painful reminders that the initial scars I received when I and my service dog Sophie were assaulted in the desert by a federal officer.

While I understand that many victims of violent crimes – such as when Sophie and I were assaulted in the desert by a federal officer- particularly the disabled, like me, often lose their sense of self to the degree that suicide becomes an option that’s preferable to living with their inner pain.

Having experienced a childhood living with a father who regularly assaulted me as the federal officer did in the desert, I am a survivor.

Though I’d never choose to experience that same sort of life again, it will take a great deal more than threats from a troubled young man to subordinate me.

I have researched the subject of childhood abuse survivors thoroughly over the years. Among many things other researchers have found in their professionally constructed studies, childhood survivors of abuse, as adults, don’t believe they’ve survived an abusive parent to give in to anyone afterward.

I’m one such person, though I do feel, as anyone would, occasional sadness that I know is attributed to having been attacked, then wrongfully accused of assault as Sophie and I were in the desert in February, 2017.

Why that happened, at all, I don’t know. But I do know that fate is not so cruel as to allow that to occur without good reason.

That said, my only my conclusion is that the assault Sophie and I suffered in the desert at the hands of a sick person in uniform means I’ll have to discover what the significance of that lesson is.

It’s meant to go beyond the concept of being disabled and traveling alone. That said, I know it’s part of that learning experience.

Being disabled and traveling with a service dog in the presence of any opportunistic person, and not just a sick federal officer, nevertheless leaves me open as a mark.

Unfortunately, the attack I experienced in the desert by that sick federal officer extended beyond me to include Sophie as well.

Sophie, like me, is as innocent as can be. Yet, also like me, she was vilified as some sort of attack dog.

But Sophie is universally loved everywhere she goes by everyone she meets. There is nothing intimidating about her demeanor or expression.

It’s actually the other way around; she loves people, and people love her. For me, the hardest part of being her handler is telling people that “she’s working,” and that nobody can touch her as she works. I have to give permission for anyone else to do so first.

Only two people have ever found her to be a threat to them, and both of them-including the federal officer who wrongly assaulted her in the desert-have hurt her terribly.

Giving Sophie’s innocence at being assaulted by that federal officer, and given the pain that he needlessly put her through, I would be remiss if I did not speak up for her, for she cannot do so for herself.

I, however, cannot only speak up for her, but for both of us. We were attacked by someone in a position of authority, then that person, that sick person who violated all concept of conscionable behavior, covered up his actions by colluding with other officers to cover up his crime.

That federal officer who attacked us is the person who belongs behind bars and in the treatment of a capable psychotherapist. He has terrible problems to the point where his actions are criminal.

There is no shame in seeking help professional help for the problems he is dealing with. In fact, it’s the reason I was returning to Fort Collins – to seek help for many some long-standing PTSD issues of my own.

Because of those issues, I am able to often able to see such behaviors in others, as with this federal officer who assaulted us.

In that sense, I am also speaking out on behalf of the federal officer who attacked us. I know that he knows he needs help, and reestablishing a conscience, then learning to act on it should be his first order of business.

But in the macho, face-saving world in which he lives and works, he is unable to, trapped among the his cohorts who would see his need to seek help as a weakness.

In his world, there is no escaping the countervailing forces within him that on one hand tells him he needs help, and on the other makes him fight against that need.

But not until such time that he stops covering up his need for professional psychotherapeutic help will he be able to stop hurting other people, like the assault he committed on Sophie and I.

My words do not have any vindictiveness behind them. I live only with Sophie, and am quite content in so doing for now.

I am not put out in any way by living my life in this form of wrongful reparation to a federal probation officer who must be intrusive in order to properly do her job. I’ve nothing to hide, and never have, though I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t sometimes feel the indignity of the process.

But the federal officer who assaulted us did not know this, and it does not absolve him in any way of his crime, nor does it absolve those other officers who, in aiding the federal officer in his assault on us; they are also complicit of a crime.

Sophie and I were wrongfully assaulted in the desert. Even though my personal life is not affected by this wrongful accusation, for which I plead guilty under the pain of having to choose to do so or risk having my service dog of eight years be euthanized. It was a threat the complicit offers were well aware I’d have to submit to, and it was more than enough to adequately hide their crimes.

I did nothing wrong, and neither did Sophie to deserve the physical and emotional pain this federal officer who assaulted us created.

My conscience, unlikely that of the federal officer who assaulted us, is clear.

As I stated, I came here to Fort Collins for help anyway. The federal officer who assaulted us only added to that list of other post traumatic issues with which I’ve dealt for most of my adult life.

The assault by that federal officer in the desert is simply one post traumatic issue among many others. It’s why I traveled alone in the desert in the first place, to have time to process my long-standing issues.

The federal officer who assaulted us exemplifies the sort of stress many other law enforcement officers feel in the line of duty. They also are unable to step away from the machismo of their world.

This, I believe, is the reason many innocent bystanders are shot and killed by law enforcement officers who have crossed the line from their rightful law enforcement duties into the wrongful world of crime.

Often, as in the case of the federal officer who assaulted Sophie and I, these officers are placed on administrative leave and usually receive the court’s benefit of the doubt and are found not guilty he by the presiding judge.

Knowing this, many officers act with brutality and violence, as with the federal officer who assaulted Sophie and I.

They know they can act with impunity, for they will have the backing of the judge as well as their uniformed cohorts.

Since each of their cohorts may well also be suffering that internal struggle of right versus wrong, they are well aware they might be the one who commits the next crime, as did the federal officer who attacked Sophie and I.

It’s only too easy to cover up their crime, or to seek help in covering up their crime as did the federal officer who attacked us.

At one point, perhaps early in their law enforcement career, they had some semblance of a conscience. This may include the federal officer Who attacked Sophie and I.

But the officer who attacked Sophie and I had long since crossed that line and, I’m certain, assaulted many other innocent people prior to assaulting Sophie and I.

The threats he whispered into my ear through clenched teeth are evidence of this.

In conclusion, the federal officer who attacked Sophie and I needs professional help.

It’s my contention that he should be relieved of his duties, placed on an “administrative leave” in which he can no longer carry any weapons nor be a threat to anyone else.

It would likely be beneficial for him to spend some time in jail in order to realize what his actions result in, as they did for me after he attacked my service dog and I in the desert.

Afterward, the federal officer who attacked us should be examined by a mental health professional to determine if it is safe for him to reenter society in his former line of duty.

Chances are, a week of incarceration will not be enough for him to overcome the countervailing internal struggles with which he is dealing.

For him to return too quickly to the macho, face-saving world in which he once worked will only facilitate his relapse into his former behaviors.

If society is to be safe from such law enforcement officers who are actually thugs with a badge who are well aware they can act criminally, as did the federal officer who assaulted Sophie and I, will never make society a safer place.

In reality, the opposite will occur. Law enforcement officials, or those who undertake the rule of law enforcement among other duties, such as the federal officer who attacked Sophie and I, are a danger to the safety of society.

If they are feeling somehow on edge or negatively affected by their internal struggle between right and wrong and are suddenly triggered, innocent individuals like Sophie and I will never be safe from criminal behaviors of these officers, like the one who assaulted Sophie and I in the desert.

It’s my sincere hope that one day, all people who are struggling with an internal fight between resolving their past or continuing to create harm for others will find peace in their hearts.

Hopefully, they will also one day be strong enough to set a good example for their cohorts and perhaps even inspire them to find help for themselves.

Again, there is no shame in seeking help for yourself. Just the opposite is true; the kind of strength required for an individual to openly state “I need help,” might be the hardest thing they will ever do.

Again, I hope such people will one day find inner peace.



















Friday, August 18, 2017

One Arm is Better Than Three

Two Prehensile Thumbs are Ideal – Three Would Be Overkill

As a one-armed man living in a largely two-armed world, I regularly receive a peculiar brand of unsolicited aid and comfort from strangers. It's a lot like what we typically consider a "common courtesy," but with a twist. That is, it has an element of awkward persistence.

Case in point: The man purposefully entering a building ahead of me opens the door with gusto then, with just the right amount of magnanimity pauses to hold the door open for the person behind him-me.

Rightly expecting someone with both arms, the man stops as if he'd hit a brick wall when it turns out to be me.

 In the two-armed mind,   that is,  f I were more than a few strides behind, the man would let the door close on an

Having once been a part of that two-armed world,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Power of Introversion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 14, 2017

Upcoming Book Release- The Disabled Solo Traveler

In Spring, 2018) I will release my new book and my travels as a disabled man, traveling with only my service dog, Sophie. There are many pitfalls and drawbacks to solo travel for anyone, but those faced by a disabled person may carry more unique complications, and even outright physical and financial dangers that are avoidable with only a little forethought.

Despite the situations I've faced, however, I emphasize that this book is not meant to dissuade you, the would-be traveler, but to enlighten you.

Here I digress into an awful experience of my own:

I have firsthand experience, either personally or anecdotally through fellow travelers willing to share their experiences and broaden the breadth of wisdom from which I can draw when out on the road with Sophie.

That said, the first tip is one I'll give you now: Fellow travelers look out for each other to the extent it makes everyone safer. Knowing you're not alone out there, that someone will offer help if need be can be a great source of comfort.

This, coming from a highly introverted solo traveler who considers being thought of as an Island Unto Himself among the greatest of compliments says a lot.

I feel particularly grateful to those I've helped throughout my travels in all ways, large and small. Likewise, I'm thankful to those who've helped me, for we all have come out wiser for it.

Consider the example Sophie and I set just by arriving at new destinatiois or returning to old, favorite ones together.

Few question the ability of a one-armed guy like me to navigate a 30 foot rig onto a beach or into a narrow campsite, then set up and be ready to get to the real business at hand-enjoying the destination with my best friend. Of course I can, and of course you can, too.

Sophie and I work as a team, and much of what we do is accomplished with hand signals, tone of voice and, most important, sensitivity toward each other's feelings.

This includes our reactions to people.

While I get busy taking care of the essentials, Sophie is free to sniff about and do her thing, establishing a friendly but clear perimeter that only "friendlies" will confidently risk crossing.

Though neither of us are spring chickens any longer, when we work together we're always a greater constructive force than when alone.

I've written this how-to guide for disabled travelers who are planning to go it alone, for there is precious little to be found elsewhere on the subject.

Much of the content I wish I'd had in hand before learning some lessons the hard way or, what's sometimes worse, the long way.

Moreover, the book will also address some of the many concerns of loved ones left behind, unable or unwilling to join the solo traveler.

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

This does not imply you must travel in a state of undue concern about what dangers might be lurking around the next bend or even with a chronic sense of distrust of those around you.

Often, just using your best judgement is sufficient in sizing up any situation. To the extent that you can, be optimistic while still pragmatic, and trust in your judgement. And, by all means, don't hesitate to pat yourself on the back for having the confidence to travel in the first place.

My upcoming narrative will describe ways to avoid sticky situations while en route from Point A to Point B, and how to handle them if they do. My hope is that, in seeing it once before, in print, you are less likely to feel waylaid by them.

I believe sharing my experiences are not only cathartic, but a responsibility as well. I look forward to sharing mine with you.

Richard Moreno and Sophie 🐾, the most loving teammate and travel companion through life I could ever hope to have. Ft. Collins, Colorado, July 2017.


Friday, August 11, 2017

Sophie, my Beautiful Gibraltar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

MADA-Mutually Assured Destruction Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

My, How The Mile High Club Has Fallen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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