Lost In The Woods

The forest is home to animals that want to eat you.

Wolves are especially dangerous because they dress like grandmothers and say things to throw you off guard. Grizzlies are just as bad. They see you and they start polishing the silverware.

A few Octobers ago a Cub Scout troop descended on a campground just over the state line. The small wooded acreage brought in a little cash for farmers who worked at the GM plant until it closed.

Tents were pitched. A lady named Peggy grilled burgers and dogs. A bonfire was lit. The night had turned cold and various critters rustled around the tents causing some kids to climb into their parents’ sleeping bags — the older scouts wouldn’t have to know.

The air was pure oxygen the next morning. After a warm breakfast a party set out to explore the environs. Everybody wanted to strike camp early because of the NFL game that afternoon so one of the fathers stayed behind to police the grounds.

When the hikers got back, his son wasn’t with them. No one seemed concerned about the missing boy — except his father of course.

The man squared his shoulders, squinted into the sun and ventured out alone.

He followed the trail that rolled to the right. Nothing. A child shorter than the undergrowth would be difficult to spot. He came to the loop where the paths intersected. Again, nothing.

He was well-aware that a nine-year-old carried away by the Chippewa would be initiated as a brave and end up on the warpath against the Great Chief in Washington, meaning that he would never be eligible for Federal Student Financial Assistance.

He tried to think what Liam Neeson would do.

Tick, tick, tick.

Then on a rise worn bare by the wind, something yellow darted between the trees. The man ran to a clearing where he finally got a visual lock on his boy.

Hiding any trace of panic he approached and asked his son how he was doing.

“Can we get shakes on the way home?” the kid answered. Then he mentioned how much he liked being alone in the woods. He said it was awesome.

The dangers were imagined that Sunday morning, but the fears were real. This was just the latest installment on the price of being a father. The man drove home knowing his account was current, its balance was paid in full.


Net Neutrality

Dear Friends, this is not a usual ‘Out Among Human’ post.

The Commissioner of the FCC is determined to kill Net Neutrality.

Ajit Pai would allow Internet service providers to create “fast lanes” for certain websites, charge fees for bundles of sites the same way cable companies do for broadcast content, and adopt price structures that’ll trap you in economy class.

Enormously profitable corporations would be allowed to hijack and control the Internet.

Below is a web link that will place your phone call to your three congress members’ offices. It provides and dials the number and even suggests a brief script to help you explain your support for Net Neutrality.

I made my three calls during office hours and immediately talked with a staff member. It took less than three minutes.

Here’s the link: https://advocacy.mozilla.org/en-US/net-neutrality/

It’s our Internet, not theirs. Please share.

Thanks, Pat


Donald Trump Jr. and Elephants

…the ‘poster boys’ strike again

A horse’s ass with an elephant’s tail.The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under Donald Trump recently suggested the way to prevent the slaughter of African elephants would be to allow wealthy Americans to do exactly that — to slaughter African elephants.

Americans would pay fees for the privilege of hunting, butchering and bringing home body parts of the endangered species. USFWS says the proceeds would be used to stop terrorists from trafficking in the same animals.

A final decision has not yet been made. But if the goal is the survival of the African elephant, it’s hard to see how a round fired by a vacationing trophy hunter is less lethal and less final than any other.


The Doctor And His Shakespeare

This post is about a person I respect very much.
He has faced a serious illness with strength and imagination.

The man shown in the photograph has dedicated his life to… the healing arts. He’s an internist specializing in cardiovascular medicine.

He’s a personable man but if you ask him about himself he’ll volunteer as little as possible. His focus has always been on his patients.

Then he got sick.

The people he had attended over the years couldn’t help but be concerned.

Without going onto great detail, he explained that he was suffering from a disease of the mouth and that his jaws would be locked shut for a period of time. His patients watched a large man grow small.

His team began referring his appointments to other practitioners. His absence stretched longer than expected.

That was some years ago. These days the doctor speaks with a certain difficulty, his jaws still a bit clenched.

People find miraculous ways to face tragedy. Although the works of William Shakespeare are steeped in murder, larceny, insanity and despair, the doctor has always delighted in how accurately the playwright diagnoses what makes us tick.

Last year he put together a cut-and-paste, photocopied invitation to the reading of a stage script he wrote in homage to ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ The performance was delivered by professionals with a wit the Bard would have applauded. The doctor was radiant.

During a recent appointment I told him I’d like to make a few notes about him and the sixteenth-century poet. He insisted that no one would want to read about him.

“You didn’t make an appointment to talk about me,” he added.

But here’s a man who had walked through fire, and I was hoping he would share a few pointers with the rest of us mortals who one day may find slings and arrows coming our way.

The coming flu season should give me an excuse to try him again.


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…