Rich Quinn’s Tour of Duty

Rich grew up believing that he had a duty to serve his country.

Rich watched World War II movies on TV. He knew that John Wayne had done us proud and that the peace we engineered was as much a victory as the war we had won.

Despite Dwight Eisenhower’s warning about a ‘military industrial complex’ the U.S. waded into a ‘limited’ civil conflict. it ended up sending almost three million Americans to Vietnam.

That televised war bitterly contradicted our image of ourselves.

Just years earlier The Peace Corps had been created to spread American ideals around the world. That mission, Rich Quinn realized, would allow him to serve honorably without drawing a weapon.

He trained for ten weeks at Columbia University before shipping out to coastal West Africa.

Not everything made sense in Ghana. Volunteers weren’t sent to posts based on their skills but on the alphabetical order of their names. The town where Rich was assigned didn’t need an English teacher so he was hijacked to teach French — the good people of Bechem forgave his shortcomings because the presence of an American was prestigious.

There was no running water. The latrines were foul. Rich contracted amoebic dysentery, dengue fever and a festering skin disease that landed him into the hospital in Kumasi. “If it weren’t for penicillin I wouldn’t have made it back home,” he laughs.

Peace Corps volunteers were free to leave at any time. Many were shipped home because they couldn’t hack Africa. “This is a mistake,” Rich remembers thinking after his first year. But he stayed in Ghana and met his commitment.

Corps members believed that by serving a two-year tour they would be exempt from the military draft but that policy had didn’t appear anywhere in writing. Just after Rich returned home, the Selective Service initiated a lottery.

His birthday drew a draft number of 19 out of 365. He had served his country honorably but there was now a likelihood he would be called back for a second tour, this time in the military.

Every day for three years Rich went to the mailbox expecting to find the induction notice that never came.


First Trump Team Indictments

…just hours ago.

Last year’s Republican convention worked itself into a frenzy chanting “…lock her up…lock her up.”

That chant has come back to haunt the Trump campaign team.

WASHINGTON DC — The first insiders to be indicted under the Mueller investigation are former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump campaign official Rick Gates.

Twelve counts include conspiracy against the U.S., conspiracy to launder money, being unregistered agents of foreign principals, false statements, failures to report foreign bank and financial accounts.

It goes without saying that both defendants are protected under the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments.

We live in a remarkable country. Even people who campaign to have their political opponents locked up without a trail, even people like that, are presumed innocent until proven guilty.


First The Media. Then The Guns.

The president may decide the Second Amendment is just so much political correctness

[Note to self: File this post in the “C’mon, No-Fucking-Way-But-Who-Knows?” folder]

If you’re worried about the right to ‘keep and bear arms’ secured by the Second Amendment, keep an eye on the amendment that comes before it.

Donald Trump has boasted of admiring dictators who imprison journalists for exercising the Freedom of the Press — namely Putin, Assad and Kim.

As president, he has threatened the broadcast license of NBC because he doesn’t like its reporting. He’s branded the mainstream media as ‘the enemy of the American people.’

His campaign for the next election has started. What happens if candidate Trump loses both the popular and the Electoral College vote in 2020 and repeats his 2016 lie that he lost because of millions of illegal voters?

He may try to overturn the election and prosecute journalists. He may decide the Second Amendment is just so much political correctness and that only ‘patriots’ loyal to him can be allowed to bear arms.


Rachel Krumholz, Printers’s Devil

This kid, a kid you’ve never met before, shows up at the coffee shop. She takes the stool next to you and wants to know what you’re doing. She’s genuinely interested.

You’re struck by her curiosity.

“I’ve always been a writer,” she tells you. That explains things a bit.

At one point she imagined a future as a makeup artist but that was before she walked into Room S105 where her high school’s newspaper is produced.

She immediately wanted in.

“Democracy can’t function when there are untold stories.” the young printer’s devil explains.

She’s currently writing about her school which is a mix of urban and suburban, poverty and wealth, a jumble of religions and languages. Her question is why students cluster in a self-imposed segregation.

Last year she caught the attention of the powers-that-be when writing about sexual assault — they hoped she would tone it down. Her stats were challenged by a few students who tore up their copies in protest.

“I don’t mind being controversial.” she admits.

She wrote about a district-wide dress code that got tangled up in race and gender; and about teenage use of marijuana for medical purposes (with and without a prescription).

On one of her early assignments someone grabbed the wrong photo of a classmate attending a testy, essentially whites-only country music festival. It was a painful mistake. “We can’t pat ourselves on the back.”

The sixteen-year-old who recently got a driver’s license, juggles advanced-placement work plus soccer and the newspaper. She allows herself a minor meltdown now and then and sorely misses having time to read for pleasure.

If you’re one of those people who disagree with the cost, or the very idea of public education, you should have a cup of the house blend with a kid like Rachel Krumholz.

Rachel is your tax dollars at work.

It’s too early to tell but it’s possible that cutting through fake news and alternate facts will be Rachel’s way to provide a return on our investment.


Patriotism, Protests and the Flag

POTUS at his
most ignorant.
When President Trump condemns peaceful protests during the National Anthem as disrespectful to our men and women in uniform, he is at his most ignorant (and most dangerous).

It’s not Old Glory or the Pledge of Allegiance or fireworks on the Fourth of July that members of the Armed Forces take an oath to defend.

They solemnly swear to defend the Constitution itself.

They are sworn to risk their lives so that all Americans — NFL players, owners, coaches and trainers; and members of the Armed Forces themselves — can petition for equal protection under the law.

Maybe this president can be forgiven for not appreciating the fundamental mission of our Armed Forces. Thanks to his deferments, he never got close enough to the military to hear its oath being administered.

U.S. Armed Forces Oath Of Enlistment:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) Read more…


I Shot A Man in Reno

There’s a guy at our neighborhood coffee shop… who writes a blog. He’s been at it for years.

He keeps a notebook where he details the genius and the idiocy of humans like you and me. The things we do fascinate him no end.

Blogging is like putting a message in a bottle and tossing it in the ocean. There’s not telling who will find it.

One audience the man keeps in mind is his grandchildren’s children. He imagines they’ll be given school assignments to write about relatives who lived back in simpler times like ours.

He imagines them desperately rummaging through the family cloud the night before a project is due (procrastination is an inherited trait) and lifting entire passages from his posts (plagiarism is too).

As a writer he worries whether particular ideas or catchphrases will make sense to future readers. What was Y2K? There once were 50 states? When in doubt he turns to the baristas on duty.

He asks Hollie what she associates with the phrase:

“…a man in Reno.”

Hollie draws a blank. Minutes later he adds a clue:

”…I SHOT a man in Reno.”

Horror flashes across Hollie’s face.

”On no!” she cries.

At which point the dirty-chi, the medium-drip, and the soy-cappuccino in the window turn and chime in with the precision of backup artists in Nashville:


Hollie laughs in that infectious way she does.

The blogger makes a note to embed audio into his post. He fantasizes that his great-great greats will score points by playing ‘The Folsom Prison Blues’ during their show-and-tells, some hundred or so years from now.


Crystal Ball

The older crowd at
our neighborhood coffee shop…
uses Harold Schlegel’s crystal ball to look at the past. The younger afternoon crew is more interested in seeing the future.

The accuracy for the two modes are an amazing 97.052% and 98.308% respectively.

There are risks involved of course. No one is quite the same after even a brief encounter — $179.95/minute — with the past or the future. It seems our neural synapses aren’t so different from those of our Neolithic ancestors after all.

Harold will explain the dangers of his app before you ever touch his silicate sphere, and his legal team will insist that you sign a waiver. Don’t be deterred.

The one thing my colleague’s groundbreaking process fails to do, at least as of this writing, is to make sense the present and the colorless, odorless truths floating over our heads.


Taking A Knee

When you think
of the Patriots
you think of
New England.

But there are patriots who play for other NFL franchises as well. Last Sunday in Cleveland is an example.

These are the athletes who choose to take a knee during the playing of the National Anthem, risking the careers they’ve worked to build. Putting your hand over your heart looks lame in comparison.

We kneel before the Almighty as a show of reverence. We kneel before kings when we are knighted. Our grandfathers knelt while proposing marriage to our grandmothers.

No one is harmed, nothing is damaged, no laws are violated. This is what the First Amendment looks like when it’s done right.

Some people believe it’s unpatriotic for players to speak out about problems in our criminal justice system. They choose not to see what video after video shows us.

Professional athletes are role models both on and off the field. They stand tall when they kneel silently, respectfully, and petition for the equal protection of the law.



They kept the bedroom ready in case of one of their three sons would need to return home.

They could stay as long or as briefly as they wanted, no questions asked.

The couple knew the boys would leave in due time just as they had when they married.

The last son to leave was the first to return. He had made beginner’s mistakes in a business startup, out-of-state banks were calling at all hours.

His mother replaced the metal, barracks-style beds with more comfortable ones. His father cleared a space in the basement where his son would freelance until an offer came along.

At that time an event was unfolding that would mesmerize the world.

We all stopped and watched as the Apollo XI Moon Mission launched from Cape Kennedy. We didn’t breathe until Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon four days later.

How do the events on the Sea of Tranquility connect with those in a modest living room 252,700 miles away?

The boy’s father hadn’t been well for years and decided not to stay up for the moonwalk. If ever a moment was meant to be shared, it was this one. What could it have been but cosmic fate that plopped the young man down next to his mother in front of the TV that evening?

Sharing that unfolding drama along with cigarettes and ice cream and his mother’s lady fingers, was the last memory he would have of her as the still vibrant woman who had raised him. They had a big night.

Other moonwalks followed but the long-married couple didn’t pay much attention. Another son had come home to claim the bedroom and brought children who visited on weekends and vacations.

Explorers like Aldrin, Conrad, Bean, Shepard and Mitchell couldn’t begin to compete with the gravitational pull those kids exerted on their grandparents.